Sports broadcasters embrace the post-linear age

Adrian Pennington writes: The live linear feed has been the template of live sports broadcasts for as long as anyone can remember but this is all set to change as broadcasters look to enrich their coverage with an array of video and data destined for second and third screens.

BSkyB is evaluating the C-Cast multi-cam platform from EVS, while the Belgium company has also revealed that UEFA is considering a 100 Gb/s IP network for match production by 2016 in order to shunt more and more video to viewers eager to interact with live action on their smart phones and tablets.

“Consumers are consuming more content online and on second screens and consuming it differently to linear TV so there’s a big risk for sports broadcasters who might lose viewers if they don’t adapt,” explains Nicolas Bourdon, marketing and communications cirector, EVS.

“We see a great opportunity here for them which is to try to converge the experience of live sport across different media. One aim is to make sure that the consumer on the web can view additional, related content and that media can be exchanged platforms.

“The big problem is that broadcasters are scared of investing in this area, but with C-Cast we say that this need not be the case.”

C-Cast was first used by UEFA at the 2012 Euro Championship in Poland/Ukraine and was subsequently picked up by Canal+, which intends to provide subscribers with the Canal Football App during live coverage of Ligue 1 matches over the next four years. According to Bourdon trials are also ongoing at Kyodo TV for Japan’s J League and at BSkyB.

“Broadcasters currently use 10% or less of the content recorded onto servers during for their live production,” says Bourdan. “They can do so much more with the material they are already creating. All of the different camera angles, slow motion clips and player cams, for example, can be made available in less than a minute to viewers across different platforms. This is C-Cast and it’s a simple add-on, not a massive investment.”

C-Cast is an automated hardware and software platform designed to process and transfer live multicam media recorded on EVS’ XT/XS production servers, along with descriptive metadata and third-party items (graphics and statistics), over a content delivery network to users. Its first application is as a consumer app for iPad and Galaxy tablets.

All the clips are processed in the OB using a C-Cast agent and sent over IP to a centralised ‘hub’, dubbed C-Cast Central for wider distribution.

“We could do this for one match or multiple matches,” says Bourdon. “For Champions League matches, C-Cast central could manage all the clips generated from eight different OB vans at eight matches simultaneously, for re-routing to different markets.”

A major focus for EVS in the new year is a Pro version of the tech which will enable more production processes, such as logging, to be remoted, as well as more content to be augmented with greater editorial oversight from venues.

“The professional evolution of C-Cast effectively allows production operators to review all the content instantly from the server, add logs, and import selected playlists,” explains Bourdon. “All of this can be done remotely from a broadcast centre. So while this will enable costs to be saved in terms of staffing operational teams locally rather than sending them to a venue, one big advantage is that production companies and broadcasters can increase the number of editorial teams and journalists at play. So they reduce the cost of the production with distant browse and access while increasing the quality of presentation.”

This canny logic appeals to sports broadcasters like the BBC and BSkyB who are keen on exploring the remote production as a cost-saving execise but not at the expense of leaving a slimmed down directorial, talent and production team unable to respond adequately to events on the ground.

It’s likely that such a system will see widespread use during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil where distances between venues inside the country, not to mention travel there in the first place from Europe or Asia, are immense.

“Bandwidth used to be a bottleneck in the past but this is not now the case. We are discussing with UEFA the capability of 100GB for production of a match in 2016,” adds Bourdon. “With that you can do anything.”

Subscribe and Get SVG Europe Newsletters