Tuning into 2019 with Grass Valley’s checklist for sports broadcasters

Matt Zajicek, director of replay at Grass Valley, gives us his take on key areas that sports broadcasters should keep top of mind to prepare themselves for 2019.

Grass Valley’s Matt Zajicek

Despite the surge of over the top (OTT) services that are rolling out into the market, the value of live coverage has not wavered, particularly when it comes to sports. A survey by CSG [The Future of Digital Experience: Sports Streaming Edition September 2018] found that 71% of global consumers watch live sports through pay TV (cable) subscriptions compared to digital channels like streaming and mobile, which are preferred by 18% and 11% respectively.

Yet as the mediascape continues to evolve at unprecedented rates into 2019 – giving consumers access to a wide array of premium content on a growing range of devices in higher quality resolutions – sports broadcasters are under enormous pressure to give their audiences immersive live viewing experiences that keep them engaged and tuned into their content.

Viewers expect more camera angles, higher resolution images, multi-game and split-screen options, and interactive second screen content that gives them additional, valuable information, such as player statistics and social media feeds; and the list goes on. All of these features drive the cost of production up, while broadcasters are being met with downward pressure on budgets.

So, as we enter 2019, what are some key areas that sports broadcasters should keep at the top of their minds as they prepare themselves for the year ahead?

Rights are no longer linear

Steep increases in the cost of rights and growing competition from streaming rivals who are making a land grab for them is a situation no stranger to sports broadcasters. In the UK, Amazon snapped up the rights to broadcast 20 Premier League matches a season from 2019-2022, while new arrival Eleven Sports now has exclusive rights to La Liga and Serie A.

In Italy, streaming service DAZN has the rights to show 114 Serie A games over the next three years. Additionally, big clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United are delivering their own content directly to fans. This combination of factors puts sports broadcasters under intense pressure; they have to compete more fiercely than ever before to retain their market share.

Understanding the power of IP

As sports broadcasters worldwide, regardless of size, push to give audiences what they want, efficiency becomes increasingly vital to their businesses. As a result, they, and by association, OB companies must find innovative ways of working that allow them to meet the demand for more content across more platforms.

IP delivers the agility and flexibility to meet the challenges of a multiplatform, multiscreen, content-hungry marketplace. It’s no longer a question of why to make the transition to IP-based platforms, but when and how. This rapid adoption progression is happening despite the fact that the full extent and benefits of IP’s agility have not even been fully realized yet.

Thanks to the publication of SMPTE’s ST 2110 specifications, and work done by industry bodies, such as Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) and Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA), to drive vendor interoperability, adoption rates by broadcasters, OB companies and media organisations is growing.

We have already seen major OB providers and broadcasters including, Canal+, RTL, Timeline and Arena among others, make major investments in IP-based infrastructure; a trend backed up by Grass Valley’s 2018 IP Barometer study that revealed nearly 70% of surveyed media professional will have active IP projects underway by mid-2019.

Taking a remote view to production

OB set ups have become bigger and more complex to support a growing amount of equipment. Setting up an OB production environment has traditionally been expensive and has required large numbers of operators and production staff, as well as long set up and take down times. With more robust open IP standards now in place, this is changing.

An IP-based approach can replicate a traditional OB set-up back in a home studio with little effect on workflow speed. An IP backbone that delivers low latency video and audio signals back to the main broadcast facility enables events to be covered with far less equipment and staff. With just a camera crew on location, key functions such as vision mixing, replay and editing can be done remotely.

This type of remote production set-up means production teams can cover more than one event in a day, enabling broadcasters to utilise staff and equipment in more creative and efficient ways. This paves the way for coverage to be expanded and resources to be maximised, while saving on cost.

With more open IP deployments than any other vendor and its deep knowledge and expertise in live production, Grass Valley is an unmatched partner for broadcasters looking to adopt IP-based remote production.

The shift to OPEX and virtualisation

The need for greater efficiency will also drive more widespread adoption of virtualised and cloud-based solutions. As more media companies realize the power and benefits of IP, cloud and virtualised applications will begin to increasingly spread through the production environment. Beyond enabling high scalability, they allow broadcasters to rapidly add and take down workflows as they adapt services in response to market demand.

The industry as a whole will continue to move from CAPEX to OPEX-based models as it strives for the flexibility and agility needed to take on the challenges of a fast changing mediascape. For sports broadcasters, this agile approach will enable them to better adapt services and operational models to deliver more high-quality content, across more platforms, and do it with greater cost efficiency.

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