Sky Sport Summit: new Production Center previewed ahead of July launch

The creation of the Sky Sports new Production Center will be a paradigm change for the biggest German Pay TV platform, according to a session that took place as part of the recent Sky Sport Summit, which was organised in conjunction with SVG Europe. The digitisation offers new possibilities for live sports and might lead to new concepts and business models for the broadcasters.

“For 17 years, we have outsourced the SNGs for Sport Sky News,” said Alessandro Reitano, VP Sky Sports Production, Sky Germany. “Now we are going to insource and start with the SNGs for Sport Sky News.”

The vehicle fleet will include 13 cars, among them seven SNGs and two small support trucks, as well as four smaller vehicles. Technically equipped with Riedel‘s MediorNet and Lawo units they can be used for live productions.

“They are scaleable so that we can handle small unilateral productions with three cameras. The firsts tests that were made at the handball Champions League at the weekend have been successful. The production vehicles will be linked to the Production Center and used for Sky‘s sport production. That means that with the start of the new cycle in August we will use them on Saturday and don‘t have to use the unilateral technique from Sportcast anymore,” Reitano pointed out.

Sky Sports’ new Production Center will go on air on July 1. The systems integrator Qvest Media had only eight months time to refurbish the 1960s building, to install the new techniques, and introduce new workflows in the editorial department. The Production Center has 68 connections to the outside world, 44 ingest channels, 28 playout channels and 14 redundant TV chnannels. Furthermore, the installation includes 72 graphic channels with Vizrt engines. “We almost have one petabyte of storage with a data throughput of 9.8 GB/s that can write two DVDs in a second,” explained Daniel Url, Managing Director, Qvest Media.

As the first decentral router backend, the backend of Riedel‘s MediorNet with a total of 1,072 crosspoints will become the worldwide largest MediorNet installation. In view of the UHD and 4K future, all the lines in the Production Cente are completely fibre-based. “We installed 50 kilometers of cable, among them 18 kilometer fibre optics,” says Url.

“We will include our editors in the complete workflow and are thinking about automation to optimise the process with intelligent systems so that only a button needs to be pressed to playout the content on all the different platforms,” said Reitano. For that reason, Sky‘s MAM system will be extended, but also with the possibilities that Virzt provides there will be new elements offered that have never been seen before Reitano added: “We are working on various processes so that we can thrash the system out to the maximum.”

Chances and risks

As well as Sky, broadcasters like public station ARD and the private netwok ProSiebenSat.1 are facing the chances and risks of digital transformation. “Live sports is the big USP which won‘t lose its attraction,” underlined Roman Steuer, EVP, Sky Sports Production, Sky Germany. “There are no better scripts than what is happening at the soccer field on Saturday at 3.30.”

But it is not always easy to shift content to online platforms. “Everything that works on television also works online,” said Axel Balkausky, Sports Coordinator, ARD. “The top content always finds a ready market.”

According to Alexander Rösner, SVP Sport, ProSiebenSat.1, the success of a sports production depends on the event which has been created. “With great preliminary reports I can gain the attention of the viewers and communicate that they shouldn‘t miss this event,” emphasised Rösner. “This way we taught the German viewers [about] the SuperBowl.”

For Balkausky it is obvious that the broadcasters have to take another path since the market is completely changing: “We need to react on it.” Therefore, ARD and Sky are sharing the rights of the handball Bundesliga. “We want to develop the [coverage of] handball. In the US there are four big kinds of sports and also in other European countries such as Great Britain and France there is more than soccer.“ The cooperation with Sky works well because they are providing the platform while ARD has the media penetration: “We are also sharing the revenues.”

The changing parameters also make it necessary to look for future investments. ProSiebenSat.1 considers amateurs sports in this context. “We need to position us in a digital way and look for sports that nobody is competing for yet,” remarked Rösner. “We have to cooperate with sponsors and brands. Every online platform is a future investment.”

The ARD even gives sublicences to other broadcasters since it is legally complicated to return them to the clubs. The viewer doesn‘t want to see a single type of sport, said Balkausky, who suggests the notion of pooling them. “On the European level that is going to work out in 2018. The ARD will link the Athletics European Championship to seven differents sports that will take place in Glasgow. In 2018/ 2019 we will initiate a German Championship Day with five, seven or eight Olympic types of sport at a weekend which will raise a lot of attention.”

The more players such as Amazon and Google that are coming to the market, the more important it is to launch as many platforms as possible beforehand. “The digitisation offers a lot of chances that we have got to use,” said Steuer. “The linear thinking will be over soon; [instead] we are going to think in 360 degrees. We can put content on various devices. Of course, not everything will become a business model but we have to [investigate the new opportunities].”

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