Live from Sportel: Infront commits to Vizrt Eclipse; Deployment expected for 2016 football season

It isn’t very often that technology deals are announced at Sportel, as it is primarily a deal-making show for rights distribution. But today’s announcement that Infront Sports & Media will deploy the Vizrt Eclipse virtual graphics overlay system in 2016/2017 shows how technology developments are set to revolutionize the business side of the sports industry.

The deal calls for Infront, which works with 170 rights holders and hundreds of sponsors and media companies, to deploy Viz Eclipse as part of its sports services portfolio.

Viz Eclipse advertising replacementEclipse was introduced at IBC last month and is a virtual replacement technology that allows field-side advertising boards to be virtually overlaid with unobtrusive and region-specific advertising into television feeds of sports events, substituting traditional perimeter advertising. Most innovatively, the solution does not require any physical camera or board installations onsite, and works both on static or LED boards.

Matteo Perale, Infront Sports and Media, Director, says Infront has been looking intensely at the digital overlay technologies in the marketplace but that Vizrt Eclipse can be a game changer.

“We’re extremely excited to find something we think is the future,” he says. “Our mandate is to bring innovation to the industry and this fits that mandate.”

The use of the Eclipse technology will open the door to additional revenue generation. For example, the messaging shown on the LED scoreboards that are around a football pitch can have the advertising messages on those boards inserted virtually via an Eclipse system in an OB truck or control room at a broadcast centre. Most importantly, the inserted ad can be personalized to the region it is being delivered to, a move that allows for either different advertisers to be served to different markets or a single advertiser to offer different sponsor messages for different markets.

“Audio could have a message on the boards in the stadium that is for the dealer in town and then they can offer different messages in each country,” says Perale.

Taking it to next level would be within offering additional localized commercials within a country so that nearly all viewers will see a message that is for their dealer in town. Such a system could be especially useful on OTT and Web-streaming services where the content distributor has a wealth of information with respect to the viewer’s interests, purchasing power, and habits.

Vizrt EVP Sports Stephan Würmlin Stadler, says that getting the most out of the system would require a team to look after the technology and control playout. The Viz Arena system, for example, could be coupled with Eclipse to make it easy to generate eight different signals for one match with eight different graphics.

“You can also enrich the signal with live data or hash tags that can allow the fans to interact with the game,” he adds.

Soccer isn’t the only sport that will benefit from the use of Eclipse. Hockey has similar billboards located around the playing surface that can benefit from virtual graphics insertion. And winter sports coverage (another Infront specialty) is also well positioned to make use of the technology.

“Our job now is to see how we can make the most out of this technology,” says Perale. “We’re confident when we stand here that we have a solution that is true because Vizrt is established. This is game changing for sports advertising.”

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