Research: Sports broadcasters focus on the consumer experience as investment budgets bounce back from pandemic lull

New research shows that sports broadcasters are focusing heavily on enhancing the viewers’ experience as investment budgets return to full strength post-pandemic.

The new research, from media processing and delivery technology firm Appear in partnership with IABM, found that while the number of companies making low level investments was still higher than pre-pandemic levels, mid-range and high levels of investment are on the rise.

The report, titled The impact of COVID-19 on sports broadcasting technology investments, investigated the monetary investments sports broadcasters made before and during the pandemic. It found that in 2022, 73% of sports broadcasters stated that they expect their investment budget to increase compared to 2021, while none expect their budgets to decrease.

Following healthy levels of investment in 2019, 2020 saw budgets frozen or reduced for over half (53%) of sports broadcasters. 2021 then saw significantly more broadcasters investing over $501,000 in new technology to make up for lost ground.

Surveying broadcasters across the US and UK, the report found that while 2019’s most significant investment for sports broadcasters was in production equipment, the most popular investment in 2020 was predictably in remote production equipment. 2021 saw investments in lightweight compression take the top spot, and for 2022 we see cameras being touted as the top technology broadcasters are looking to upgrade.

Given the complications in getting staff on the ground because of the pandemic, the research points to the fact that investment in 2020 and 2021 was about firming up sports broadcasters’ infrastructure. Ensuring consistent access to content was the first priority, hence the strong investment in remote production equipment and lightweight compression tools. With cameras taking the top spot in 2022, the trend now seems to be about improving the quality of services having invested in robust infrastructures.

When asked explicitly about the main drivers behind these investments, sports broadcasters said that they were to support the delivery of content to more viewers, and to enable new capabilities that would maintain competitive edge. The increased investments in cameras and encoders certainly aligns with these drivers.

Speaking about the research, Thomas B. Jørgensen, CEO at Appear, said: “This research highlights a consistent theme we see with our customers, while there was a rush to adopt new technologies to keep the ship afloat among the troubled waters of 2020, there is recognised need to not just deal with today’s problems but to invest in tackling tomorrow’s.

“Sports broadcasting is a fiercely competitive field. Maintaining a distinct competitive advantage is key to thriving in it. Consumers don’t just want variety, they demand quality. Deloitte found that the single most important factor for sports fans is the quality of the broadcast or stream. Investments in 2020 and 2021 were about getting that content to viewers, while 2022 looks to be all about improving the quality and experience for audiences.”

Stated Lorenzo Zanni, head of knowledge at IABM: “The report on sports broadcasting technology investment shows an industry that is back to natural evolution after the exceptional innovation driven by pandemic-induced disruption. Investment in technologies such as new image capture has returned, but the report also shows that the big shift to remote production necessitated by the pandemic has become permanent and fundamentally changed some technology investment priorities.”

The full 360° report, The impact of COVID-19 on sports broadcasting technology investments, is now available to download here.

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