Sony Sports’ Beyond Sports recognised for Toy Story Funday Football broadcast

Alkmaar-based sports technology company Beyond Sports, a sister company of Hawk-Eye, has received three major accolades at the Sports Emmy Awards. The awards were won in collaboration with broadcaster ESPN for the innovative alternative broadcast of an NFL game: Toy Story Funday Football. During this broadcast, TV viewers had the chance to watch an animated Toy Story version of an American football game. It was simultaneously aired with the regular game on ESPN+ and Disney+ to engage new and diverse audiences with the sport.

Beyond Sports and ESPN were nominated and won in three categories: ‘Outstanding Studio or Production Design/Art Direction’, ‘The George Wensel Technical Achievement Award’, and ‘Outstanding Graphic Design – Event/Show’.

Thanks to Beyond Sports’ expertise in visualising sports, TV viewers could watch an animated Toy Story version of the American football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars. This was broadcast on 1 October 2023 on ESPN+ and Disney+ while the traditional broadcast was simultaneously aired on ESPN’s main channel.

By utilising Hawk-Eye Innovations Skeletal and Next Gen Stats single-point tracking data, Beyond Sports transformed the live feed into a 3D environment of Andy’s room, a character from Toy Story. All the well-known characters from the film and various recognisable elements from Toy Story were featured in the broadcast. This innovative approach appealed to a new and more diverse audience and pulled more interest in the sport among existing fans. It was ultimately the most-watched live broadcast on ESPN+ and Disney+ ever.

Sander Schouten, managing director and co-founder of Beyond Sports, said: “When Nicolaas and I founded Beyond Sports ten years ago, winning three Emmy Awards in one evening was something we never imagined. We are incredibly proud of this achievement. It is a compliment to the entire team that worked so hard on this project. With the Toy Story Football Funday broadcast, we bridge the gap between sports, technology and entertainment. We reached a new audience in their own environment and on their terms. Instead of adapting the original TV broadcast, we offered them a place where they felt at home. This allowed us to help the NFL engage a new audience and bring people together around an NFL game.”

In November 2022, Beyond Sports was acquired by Sony Sports to further strengthen the organisation’s sports activities and create new sports entertainment that bridges the gap between live and virtual worlds.

Nicolaas Westerhof, technical director and co-founder of Beyond Sports, added: “In recent years, Beyond Sports’ technology has advanced significantly, partly thanks to the economies of scale that Sony Sports provides. We are therefore particularly proud to bring home the George Wensel Technical Achievement Award. This recognises the innovative technology that Beyond Sports developed for the broadcast. We have just returned from the US and look forward to celebrating the success with the entire team in Alkmaar!”

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