Remote production gives lifeline to sports broadcasters

By Julian Fernandez-Campon, chief technology officer, Tedial

For this article, I’ve been asked to write a review of how sport has evolved technologically in 2020. If I’d sat down to write this at the beginning of November 2019, I could never have imagined how 2020 would have played out, or the fast turnaround of the technological drive that circumstances have dictated.

At the time of writing, most of Europe either has strict lockdown rules for a second time or is just about to. Thankfully, live sport, which has been back on our screens for a while, albeit without spectators, will continue to be shown. This is a strange and surreal world we’ve found ourselves living in.

Over the past ten months since COVID-19 changed the world as we know it, remote production has given a lifeline to the entire broadcast and media community, providing the capability to produce programmes and manage media remotely, ensuring the safety of colleagues, customers and partners during these unprecedented times.

Cloud at the core

By adopting a cloud-based core infrastructure for remote operations, broadcast manufacturers have provided consistency to media companies enabling remote operation from acquisition to enhanced-delivery. Using web-based interfaces with HTML5 technologies, MAM tools can be used anywhere, anytime. Customers and staff can access their MAM solution from home, irrespective of whether it is an on-premises, hybrid or full cloud solution, and continue working in a ‘business as usual’ scenario. Integration of multiple storage tiers and far-flung locations using a dynamic storage content management solution allows customers to effectively access and utilise their content to maintain a continuity of channel output.

Adopting the hybrid cloud

To allow sports broadcasters to maximise hybrid cloud capabilities, the content management solution must transparently manage various tiers across departments, locations or in the cloud. This includes on-premises live storage, nearline storage, deep archive tape libraries or public cloud storage such as Microsoft Azure Blob storage or AWS S3 Glacier Deep Archive. This technology enables sports broadcasters to efficiently operate using their chosen current architecture with the capability to evolve as future operational and commercial factors change.

The content management system provides the ‘link’ between various storage and hosting scenarios available today and in the future, abstracting users from where media is physically located. Using logical storage groups and rules defined within each group, the technology seamlessly moves, backs-up and restores content when and where required.

This means sports broadcasters can enable remote production without any security issues or deploy a hybrid architecture to move part of the operation into the cloud. This allows them to adapt quickly to new requirements, deploy new media management workflows to produce more content and guarantee business continuity and profitability.

The main technology drivers we see to achieve this are, firstly, microservices architectures. These have a number of benefits, including reduced costs; fast deployment; elasticity; resiliency; flexibility; and efficient content delivery to multiple platforms. Secondly, component-based media management that can quickly configure new platforms and can handle new UHD formats in a simple and efficient way. This can be combined with platforms that allow Build it Yourself (BIY), which means they are not dependent on specific vendors.

Getting ahead of the competition

As well as remote working, fan engagement continues to be a major priority for sports broadcasters. There is constant pressure to create more highlights packages, from 30 seconds around a goal being scored in a football match, to a 30-minute summary of the game for the archive. Some viewers or subscribers might want to watch all the action from their favourite player, a particular game, or maybe a summary of the best goals of the weekend.

Sophisticated automated sports production technology gives broadcasters an edge, layering graphics on top of highlights for enhanced storytelling. Graphics inserted into an auto-generated EDL can be reviewed in the player and then burned in when the EDL is flattened. In addition, sophisticated transitions between EDL segments, such as fade in/out, can be created adding a dynamic element to highlights. And all of this can be done with the same staff without increasing production costs, allowing broadcasters to be profitable in these hard times.

Social media capabilities for sports broadcasters will continue to be enhanced by incorporating the ability to identify audience by age and gender. While automated sports production technology can deliver to traditional TV channels as well as digital platforms, social media is frequently the end destination for content and requires accurate targets and rapid distribution.

Lessons learned

There are lessons to be learned from living through a pandemic that’s continuing to quarantine most of the world’s population, and for most this has been an eye-opener. Going forward, on-site footprints will be dramatically reduced. As we’ve discussed, remote operations, talked about for years but not globally implemented, have been catapulted to the forefront of technology as a result of social distancing with both talent and tech working from home.

This has been a true opportunity to think out-of-the-box and accelerate the industry’s predictable transformation to the earlier adoption of automated production tools and hybrid cloud. The planet has tilted off its axis and we all must continue to adjust.

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