Visual Unity on broadcasting the Czech Extraliga

After five successful years streaming the Czech Extraliga ice hockey, Visual Unity is one of a new breed of European companies pushing multiscreen technology to sports without big broadcast contracts as 2012 rapidly turns into the Year of the Tablet.

The company’s vuMedia system is an integrated product line that features four scalable service modules that can be deployed into existing workflows and pretty much govern everything from mobile to VoD to content delivery. It’s been developed over the years in conjunction with VU’s work on the Extraliga, which dates back all the way to 2005 when it issued a tender for rights to both Mobile and IPTV.

“They wanted it done in broadcast way, wanting OB vans and all of that,” says company President, Tomas Petru. “I told them they will never get ROI by building it that way and that they ought to go via a ‘new media’ path. To do all of one season the broadcast way was roughly 100m Czech Crowns at that time, whereas my suggestion was closer to 7m Crowns for every game of the whole season. I was basically saying that I could deliver 93% saving over television broadcast technology.”

The tender was cancelled in 2005 and reissued a year after. “I copied and pasted what I had written before and unsurprisingly won it,” says Petru.

Petru is an evangelist for his company’s approach and sees the technology it has developed over the years take the cost of an OB down as low as €1000 per game.

“You can achieve nice results in football with one camera, as long as you also use graphics and commentary, while for hockey you need three cameras as the game is so much faster. In a very pragmatic, minimalistic set-up, we could cover a game for a little over $1000, while $2000 brings in multiple cameras, editing, graphics and so on and gets it on the web, on mobile, and wherever.”

His contention is that 3D and higher resolution sports coverage is largely a technologically deterministic chimera being driven by the technology companies themselves, whereas what sports fans want is to be able to follow their team/s on mobile devices. And when it comes to monetising sport, right holders need to look at the technology too. “In every round we have been able to increase the number of people who have have seen the games and we increase the bandwidth for advertisement by 15 to 20%,” he says. “And that’s interesting for rights owners.”

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