Thought Leadership: Ross Video’s Oscar Juste talks about spending over the odds trying to attain top production values
In the latest Thought Leadership feature with one of SVG Europe’s Gold sponsors, Oscar Juste, Ross Video’s sales director for EMEA, shares his thoughts on whether too many sports clubs and stadia spend over the odds trying to attain top production values, and what a lower budget can actually achieve.
“Over the last few years I’ve seen a number of new and ever-more-impressive stadia being built. The most recent, which Ross Video is very proud to have been a part of, is the Mercedes Benz stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. It has a huge halo screen that runs around the perimeter of the ‘petal’ retractable roof and features cutting edge technology to really make the match day experience something to remember.
Fan engagement has been a popular theme in the sports market recently and I completely understand that sports clubs, teams and rights holders want to strengthen the bond with their fans and provide an enhanced experience. It’s a competitive market, after all. That said, it’s obvious that not all sports clubs or teams have $1.6 billion to throw at a new stadium, so how can they improve production values and enhance their product without spending large sums of money?
The answer, I would suggest, lies in a new generation of graphics products and ‘all-in-one’ integrated systems that have trickled down from manufacturers’ flagship products. These products represent a highly cost effective way of getting into professional broadcast-quality solutions without the need to be a broadcast engineer; they’re easy to programme and operate thanks to customisable control panels but still offer room for expansion as user experience and expertise grows.
As to whether too many spend too much trying to achieve top production values, I think ‘too much’ is a subjective term and everything really depends on scale and scope. The European sports landscape obviously looks very different compared to the US; they have many different layers including a very vibrant college sports segment that doesn’t exist in Europe, and their overall market is larger, more lucrative and hence more competitive. This competition pushes progress (in terms of technology and content) which, in turn, changes fans’ expectations of what to expect.
Europe behind the curve
We’re still a little behind the curve in Europe for understandable reasons, but it saddens me to see large video screens in stadia only being used to show the match score and a few static adverts at half time. Technology has brought us to a point where high quality animated graphics and video content don’t need to cost a lot of money, social media content can easily be integrated into video presentations and replay systems are now more compact and affordable than ever before. This opens up great opportunities for sports clubs to make the in-stadia experience much more interactive and interesting.
We’re also seeing some clubs make use of virtual studio technology by having small green screen studios on-site, enabling them to produce high quality content for the web or subscription-based streaming. While some of the infrastructure required to enable video production in stadia (such as video screens and ribbon boards) may be costly, the products required to create the content and play it out don’t necessarily have to be.
On if sports content creators look enviously at our cousins across the pond, with their massive video screens and budgets, and think “I’d like to do something more, but I don’t have the money or resource”, I think to an extent, yes, but it is a very different market space. Bigger budgets inevitably allow for higher production values but some US stadia at college level have sell-out crowds of 40,000 every weekend and so can have teams of people dedicated to match day production; there are professional top tier football teams across Europe that don’t even have that size of fanbase or resource.
That said, I’m firmly of the view that even modestly sized sports teams and stadia owners can use video content not only to bolster fan engagement but also to improve in-stadia revenue and increase the effectiveness of sponsorship; there’s a solid business case for it. Again, where budgets are limited there are a great many products out there that can help content creators.
Traditional linear broadcasters have seen CAPEX and OPEX budgets being squeezed and are under pressure to maintain or grow audience share in a market that’s increasingly fragmented and delivering declining revenues. In response, those broadcasters have begun to look for new products that are more flexible, more cost efficient and deliver better ROI as part of their procurement strategies. A great example here is PPUs; a product like the new Ultrix router from Ross only takes up 2RU of rack space and yet can replace two full racks of more traditional equipment, making life a lot easier and cheaper when it comes to transport, load in and power.
No baggage for new entrants
Some of the new entrants to the broadcast market, and I’m thinking specifically of Esports companies here, don’t actually see themselves as broadcasters; more as content creators. They haven’t come to broadcast with any of the baggage associated with a traditional linear model and they are absolutely focused on engagement; it’s their MO. These companies have started with a guerrilla ‘good enough’ mentality and more modestly priced equipment but have been very conscious of headroom and expandability.
I think the key word (in both scenarios, actually) is flexibility. Manufacturers need to respond to the budget concerns that are prevalent in the current market and offer solutions that are powerful and accessible but will not orphan customers or tie them into closed ecosystems.
Sports broadcasters still have some competitive advantage over other genres insofar as live sport remains one of the few types of ‘must see’ programming that can draw the family together around a screen, so I think they are taking the initiative and I’ve seen some broadcasters (eg. Eurosport and M6 in France,) doing some really cool stuff with virtual studios and augmented reality. I can’t forecast what effect the move by some streaming services into live sport will have on the market but it’s bound to be an important development given their budgets.
In terms of the clubs and teams, their primary product remains the match itself but you can sense an increasing desire to investigate other content-based activities that might help bring additional revenue. I think a lot of sports clubs in Europe are self-referencing and it’s perhaps no surprise that we’ve seen an increase in interest from some well-known football brands in Europe following the work we did with one of Spain’s most famous teams.
That said, European sport does tend to be dominated by football, rugby and golf so there must surely be great opportunities for the clubs or governing bodies of other sports to be more progressive and imaginative with their content.”