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For your eyes only – creating a hyper-personalised sports experience

September 5, 2016

Mehul Kapadia   

Vice President - Global Marketing at Tata Communications

The scintillating pace of an F1 Grand Prix can be seen as a microcosm of the modern broadcast entertainment landscape. The action comes thick and fast, making it seemingly impossible to capture every moment as it happens in real time.

As the leaders play a game of cat and mouse for first place, one of the favourites crashes out due to a technical failure, while the pack jockey for a good position to mount a challenge for a points finish. Thanks to action replays, state-of-the-art camera technology, live commentary and expert analysis in real time, modern viewers don’t miss a moment and are kept fully up-to-speed with all the on-track action.

With so many big moments occurring at one time, the role of an objective broadcast to many is to deliver the action viewers want to see most. However, as the viewing experience is subjective, it’s impossible for a broadcaster to know exactly what action on the track every individual viewer wants to see and deliver it to their screen.

What isn’t impossible, however, is to realise the next evolution of live broadcasting which is the singular experience, delivered via a singular stream. Currently, events are broadcast live based on their importance and demand from audiences to watch them.

The on-demand tomorrow

The concept of a singular stream goes beyond this model, dictating that you could request to watch whatever event is happening live wherever it is, whenever you want and it would be streamed to your device. Perhaps you are not interested in watching the Sunday lunchtime football, but are unable to watch your son play football because you have to take your daughter for her swimming lesson.

With the existence of the singular experience, you could request to stream your son’s football match on your phone so you can watch him score the winner, at the same time as seeing your daughter swim her first full length of the pool without armbands.

Ofcom’s recent UK Communications Market Report found that almost six in ten adults used a video-on-demand (VoD) service in 2015, with over a quarter watching paid-for VoD services each week. The culture of having whatever content we want, whenever, wherever, on any device has become increasingly engrained, meaning broadcasters must push the boundaries of what content can be delivered as hyper-personalised services become an expectation rather than a possibility.

Taking the singular experience concept a step further, perhaps one day it will be possible to not only watch any live event you want to but to also watch it from your own perspective. Returning to the F1 example, the singular experience could allow you to focus on your favourite driver, team or even corner.

This highly personalised experience could also be complemented by technologies such as virtual reality (VR), allowing viewers to become a part of the action and build their own unique race viewing experience, dictating exactly what action they want to engage with as well as how they do so. This may involve not just “jumping on-board” Lewis Hamilton’s MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS, via his car-cam, but actually plugging you into immersive experience within which you feel that you are in the driving seat.

The Tata Communications Formula 1 Connectivity Innovation Prize is currently at the forefront of efforts to bring these kinds of experiences to the sport. Winners from Challenge 1 of this year’s competition used virtual and augmented reality to imagine solutions that would deliver a ‘trackside’ experience to fans anywhere in the world. The winners of the second challenge then took this one step further, coming up with applications that could give an F1 team a competitive edge by enabling the engineers working at trackside, and experts back at the factory thousands of miles away, to immerse themselves in each other’s worlds, making the two a more closely integrated unit.

Demands of VR and OTT distribution

Anyone looking to mix live experience and VR will need superfast, robust connectivity, as a stop-start connection could dampen the user experience, or potentially destroy it – going as far as making the user disorientated and nauseous. In the future, as VR will also go mobile. Today’s 4G connections won’t be able to handle VR, so we need more advanced networks to deliver the high-quality connectivity that these immersive experiences will demand. To bring VR to the masses, we therefore need to see a greater understanding of the demands that this rich traffic will place on networks, and widespread adoption of intelligent traffic management to ensure that networks are smart, robust and ubiquitous enough to provide the user experience consumers expect.

Furthermore, these new personalised experiences are only possible by delivering content using over-the-top (OTT) technologies. That is why broadcasters and sports organisations looking to continue evolving the experience of fans consuming live events must invest in OTT content delivery and increase their non-traditional distribution capabilities to better support new technologies and personalised services.

In doing so, broadcasters can begin to make exciting possibilities, including singular experiences, virtual reality and hyper-personalised viewing within a larger live event, a reality rather than a possibility.

How do you see new technology shaping the broadcast landscape? Let us know in the comments below