SVGE 2015 Forecasts: Let’s get together for cellular uplinking says Ronen Artman, LiveU

Sport is a visceral experience and it’s essential that video technologies allow media companies to reflect that, writes Ronen Artman, LiveU vice president of Marketing. Covering the gentle thwack of willow on leather – test cricket, for those not familiar with that phrase – to the head-turning, end-to-end sweat and toil of a basketball game, requires both technical brilliance and also storytelling skill. Sport needs strong narratives, now more than ever given the competitive nature of the media landscape. Sport sells and sells well.

That means constant innovation from manufacturers like us, but also a clear understanding of what media companies are trying to achieve. Stepping back a moment, it’s worth recapping where cellular uplinking has reached as the technology matures. While cellular networks are fundamentally unstable, the market-leading bonding technology has reached the point where signal robustness and image quality are a given.

As a sector we are in the next technology phase, meaning that media companies can select exactly the form factor they want, from smartphone apps to pocket-sized units onwards. It’s now more a question of management platforms and cloud-enabled applications, allowing full monitoring and control of all field units via any browser-supported computer or tablet.

There are three clear trends that have been powered by cellular uplinking. The first is the ability to provide 360-degree coverage, enhancing the narrative around events and drawing the viewer closer. A prime example of that occurred at the XXX Olympic Games in 2012 in London. Swiss TV achieved the only exclusive interview with Roger Federer as he walked off the practice court ahead of the tennis final with Andy Murray using LiveU technology. For the women’s Triathlon the broadcaster followed the husband of the Swiss competitor Nicola Spirig who won the Gold medal, providing unique insight into the event. Swiss TV also deployed LiveU to cover the Olympic rowing races by filming alongside on a bicycle!

The second trend is providing the ability to cover lower-tier sports. Using cellular uplinking technology changes the economics, bringing a cost-effective, easy-to-deploy solution that opens up the market for sports such as beach volleyball, mountain biking and rowing.

The third thing we expect to see continue in professional sports, sports media, and college sports, is an increase in types and quality of game-related content on mobile apps and websites.

It’s very hard to look at what 2015 will bring without taking a look at the great sporting year that was 2014. With both the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and the FIFA World Cup 2014 cellular uplinking usage took giant leaps forwards. At the latter event, over 200 LiveU units were deployed with 816 hours of live transmission. In fact an astonishing 98 per cent of LiveU-based coverage was live!

While 2015 is not such a packed year sports-wise, there is still the Super Bowl with use by one of the teams and by dozens of networks and stations. There’s also Copa América as well as the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Both these events take place in Chile in eight different cities.

As Ken Zamkow, LiveU’s VP of Marketing Americas, says, “These won’t be as big as the FIFA World Cup, of course, but will certainly been another major event where our technology offers great advantages in terms of allowing broadcasters to be where the story is. We are using the experience that we gained in Brazil as a blueprint for this event, though on a smaller scale.” US colleges are also increasingly using cellular uplinking technology, with more live games and competitions streamed live than ever before.

With broadcasters like BT Sport now using CNG vehicles (Cellular Newsgathering) powered by LiveU technology to cover the stories that provide the narrative around sporting events, we’re likely to see more CNG activity this year. We also think that we’ll see increasing usage of cellular uplinking in smartphone form, perhaps for user-generated content on a temporary license basis.

Lastly, the New York Jets selected us in late 2014 to provide the team’s live video technology. We are fascinated to see how this develops across 2015, with the NY Jets now able to stream live video from any spot, both home and on the road, from the side-line, locker room, stadium tunnels…the list goes on.

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