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Live sports: from stadium to smartphone without losing a second

April 25, 2016

Brian Morris   

Blog contributor

Broadcasters worldwide are exploring new ways to bring sports fans closer to the action. Delivering sports events to people in a way that is convenient to them and with an increased level of social engagement is key as viewers’ expectations are rising. Events are now being watched live on multiple devices, from TVs to tablets and smartphones, at home and on the go. Two examples from very different sporting disciplines – F1 and rugby – show how fibre and the cloud are enabling broadcasters to create more action-packed, immersive experiences for fans than ever before.

IT infrastructure for the fast lane

Since we started working with Formula One Management as Official Connectivity Provider, connectivity at the track has been boosted by tenfold from 100Mbps to a minimum of 1 Gbps today. Our global fibre network plays a central role in Formula One Management’s broadcasting centre, a 130-tonne structure built onsite at each Grand Prix location. That is why Formula One Management is able to handle many of its broadcast operations remotely in the same way as at trackside.

For example, using a reverse data path, Formula One Management controls some of the robotic trackside cameras remotely from its technical HQ in Biggin Hill, UK. The team also listens to and edits the radio messages between drivers and their teams, and shares them with TV broadcasters globally.

To showcase the capabilities of broadcasting over fibre, we undertook a trial with Formula One Management at the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix practice session, delivering live footage in 4K quality over the network to Biggin Hill. That is a distance of over 10,000 kilometres and multiple time zones. The critical factor here is fibre connectivity, enabling the seamless delivery and management of content worldwide in ways that is just not possible via satellite link.

Another technology innovation that has been trialled by us and Formula One Management is live OTT content delivery – arguably the biggest revenue generation opportunity that the media industry has seen in years.

Traditional OTT content delivery results in a lag of up to several minutes between the live TV broadcast and the online feed of an F1 race viewed on a tablet or smartphone, for example. This prevents real-time social media interaction between viewers. So, a person watching the action on TV can see a crucial overtake first and tweet about it, potentially ruining the race experience for those watching the race on a tablet. The technical capability now exists, enabled by our Media Ecosystem, to allow F1 broadcasters to deliver live OTT content globally, in complete sync across smartphones, tablets and TVs, so that live Grands Prix can be made a truly real-time, social TV experience. We tested this technology in action in Singapore, delivering a live app video feed to Formula One Management’s team in Biggin Hill – with no time lag between the live broadcast and the footage viewed on the app.

Connectivity throughout hemispheres

Another example where fibre is making a huge difference is rugby.

When the best teams from the Northern and Southern hemispheres – including European champions RC Toulon and New Zealand’s Highlanders, led by World Rugby Player of the Year Dan Carter – battled it out on the pitch in February in France and Hong Kong, millions of viewers tuned in from all over the world.

To ensure a seamless viewing experience for rugby fans worldwide, Tata Communications acted as the Official Broadcast Partner, harnessing our fibre network and sports broadcasting expertise to bring these historic matches to people’s living rooms.  With around 20 million rugby fans across 100 countries tuning in for the games, there was no room for error.

We distributed the video feeds of the three matches live in high-definition to broadcasters, using our cloud-based Video Connect service, underpinned by our global fibre network. This platform enabled broadcasters to deliver live video feeds from anywhere in the world in a way that fans didn’t miss a millisecond of the action.

These examples demonstrate how fans’ expectations for sports content – available live, globally, across different channels and devices, and supplemented by a range of data, insights, images and video feeds – is creating new opportunities for the industry to innovate. And, this is just the start. With new technologies on the horizon such as virtual reality, more and more sports organisations and broadcasters will be turning to superfast fibre and the cloud to be able to create more immersive and adrenaline-filled fan experiences than ever before.

Brian will be attending this year’s TVConnect in London, where he will be joining a panel discussion on ‘Blowing Up the Value Chain – Redefining Relationships for a Content Everywhere Environment’

In the meantime, how do you see the landscape of live content delivery changing over the next ten years? Leave a comment below.


Tata Communications was the Official Connectivity Provider of Formula 1® between 2012 and 2019. Tata Communications was also the Official Managed Connectivity Supplier to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and Official Digital Transformation Partner to ROKiT Williams Racing until the end of the 2019 season.