Changing the nature of contribution in sports broadcast with Globecast
As sports rights go up in price, broadcasters are increasingly desperate to find ways of monitising content across increasing numbers of channels. The challenge is in managing that growth in content now generated from events, as well as keeping the quality of that content not only high, but even bigger and better. We talk to Liz McParland, commercial director for contribution and global coordination at Globecast, about how this company is helping broadcasters.
How do you define ‘contribution’?
Speaking specifically from a sports point of view, contribution concerns the acquisition and delivery of live signals from events or venues for the relevant rights holders. It varies tremendously in terms of the services we are asked to supply, sometimes requiring extensive end-to-end design solutions, as we cover a huge section of major international sporting events, including motor racing series like the FIA World Endurance Championship, to streaming solutions for more niche or specialised sports like karate and even camel racing.
What are the challenges of today’s standards of contribution, streaming to live-to-VOD, cellular bonding solutions to remote production?
Sports broadcasting is, as is we all know, a very vibrant, growing sector. Rights costs continue to rise and broadcasters are trying to maximise their ROI in a highly competitive marketplace as they are faced with new entrants beginning to significantly change the landscape. Facebook is partnering with Fox Sports to stream Champions League games in the US, as well as MLS matches, MLB games and WSL events. BT Sport showed UEFA Champions League final live on YouTube in the UK, as well making it available in VR, and Amazon is paying $50 million for NFL rights to stream 10 Thursday night games on Amazon. It has also acquired ATP tour rights.
A core challenge that rights holders are facing today is in maximising the monetisation of those rights. In the case of major sports events, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of feeds that we are asked to supply from a venue, across varying resolutions and codecs. This requires a high level of expertise to achieve in terms of suitable connectivity and the related redundancy systems. We are not only talking about video and audio, but also associated metadata.
This dovetails with one of the key trends that we have seen over recent years, and this is of course a still-growing trend; the ever-increasing need for more content from each event that we cover to satisfy the expanded range of platforms and devices that viewers use to access content.
The growth in the amount of content that has to be acquired and delivered to feed all these platforms, such as linear TV in multiple formats and resolutions, VoD packages, real time creation of highlights for social media, additional OTT services, is a key challenge, coupled with the importance of keeping up the high quality coverage that sports fans demand, all of which is financially tough.
The comprehensive packaging of content is, in particular, where we’re helping broadcasters, working with them to maximise their investment via cross-platform distribution. In addition to this, sport is a particular driver for innovative, high quality coverage and it’s where we’re seeing most interest in 4K, HDR and VR, though it’s still early days for some of these.
What does Globecast do in sport broadcast contribution?
We work across the chain, from the contribution venue to backhaul, to multilateral delivery for broadcasters and rights holders. This can include fully equipped broadcast positions, SNGs, flyaways and OB vans, as well as onsite technical management, remote production, teleports, MCR and planning services. It can also involve IBC technical supervision, multilateral transmissions, commentary facilities and any specific requirements for international broadcasters.
But there’s more to it today. As mentioned, the sheer volume of content, and the obvious variations in ideal length, resolutions, compression levels, format and so on, has grown exponentially.
This is a huge challenge for content owners and it’s where we offer significantly enhanced value. We provide services from production and contribution, across transmission, media management and on through playout and distribution. From creating the live feeds, creating a variety of content packages, through to the supply to networks and platforms of all types around the world, we are a one-stop supplier and technical partner with a world class suite of services. It’s about monetising sports rights across as many platforms, and therefore viewers, as possible. That’s why we have been developing our Digital Media Hub ecosystem.
This is a suite of modular yet integrated virtualised services for live sports production. By aggregating multiple technologies into a single ecosystem, our Digital Media Hub allows live feeds to be repurposed to create multiple content forms. We can deliver linear channels, live streaming, and with our Livespotter services, the fast turnaround of highlights for social media, as well as edited, file-based content for any OTT requirements. We can also create short or long-form file-based content that can be used by rights holders for promotion between events to keep audiences engaged; or to form the basis of highlights packages for OTT services perhaps. We are enabling rights holders to create a 360 degree viewing experience around sports events.
How is contribution changing as the technologies available to manufacturers, solution providers and viewers mean more content is possible, and desired, more of the time?
I wish I knew exactly where the market is going! Everyone involved in sports broadcasting wants to know. Without wishing to sound flippant, there’s a lot of content and we’re making it go everywhere! One clear issue is where sports rights are going; the problem is how you protect the traditional rights holder model, while also supplying content across all the other outlets mentioned, which is vital now. It’s all about maintaining the high quality of sport delivery with emerging technologies, while driving new efficiencies; simplifying workflows and maximising bandwidth usage.