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Broadcasting the new way with remote production

July 16, 2018

Dhaval Ponda   

Global Head, Media and Entertainment Services, Tata Communications

When it comes to engaging audiences in a fast-paced digital world, there is no alternative to live content. But creating high-quality content through traditional OB (outside broadcasting) methods is getting more and more restrictive, and requires a lot of investment. For example, recent reports indicate that the global media rights market is valued at $47 Bn. To add to this, broadcasters end up spending an additional 10% of the amount invested in media rights, on content production and distribution.

Remote production is proving to be the answer to this challenge, redefining the traditional model of broadcast operations. It allows broadcasters to produce content efficiently given the availability of cutting-edge equipment, highly skilled resources and global fibre connectivity. Today, many broadcasters across the world are embracing remote production to deliver live events, especially in sports.

As a part of the media services team at Tata Communications and an avid sports follower, I have realised that there are many similarities between a remote production operation and a team sport like cricket. Growing up in India, I have been a big fan of cricket, and I can vividly remember watching the world cup matches on the telly with my family and friends. But the recently concluded 2018 IPL season holds a very special place in my mind, because my team played a central role in enabling remote production of the tournament for Star India.

In fact, IPL 2018 marked the first time that a sports spectacle of this magnitude had been produced remotely from start to finish. It has given me a new insight into the game I have loved and followed for decades.

In my opinion, cricket has never been just a game of superior talent. It requires players to have a detailed understanding of each other’s games too. That’s why there are a few parallels that can be drawn between remote production and cricket.

The right combination can unlock maximum potential

Any championship journey in cricket begins much before the tournament starts. Every team has to find the right set of players that can complement each other and take their game to the next level. It’s no wonder that team selections attract so much attention, media frenzy and debate.

In a similar fashion, broadcasters begin their preparation way prior to the event. It all starts with broadcasters scouting for new partners who will be able to support their remote production operations, by bringing in a new degree of efficiency. A key requirement is the ability to seamlessly transfer live raw content from multiple event location(s) to the broadcaster’s central studio. Choosing the right partner is critical, as making the wrong decision could jeopardise the viewing experience for millions of fans.

Practice makes perfect

Countless hours of gruelling practice is a critical ingredient in winning any prestigious championship like the IPL. In the nets, players develop an insight into the mind of their teammates, such as which ball the bowler is going to bowl next, what the right field placement should be, and where the next shot will be played. The ability to foresee such aspects can really come in handy on the day of the big game.

Similarly, in a remote production operation, the broadcasters and the technology provider come together to draw up their game plans much before the event. To ensure everything goes to plan, they do multiple practice runs together, set up a robust operational framework to mitigate unanticipated challenges, and plan backups for critical situations like outages during the broadcast.

Pre-game jitters are not just for players

Every cricketer feels the heat as the anticipation builds in the run-up to a big match, especially for a significant event like the IPL games. There would be a lot of questions in one’s mind about how things will play out on D-day – and in some cases this anxiety even brings out the best in the players.

Just before a live event, the buzz in the broadcast studio reaches elevated levels. Both the broadcasting teams (at the venue and back in the studio) and the technology partner can feel the tension rise. They’ve worked hard together to ensure that the action is perfectly captured, seamlessly transferred and delivered for instant editing back in the central studio. However, in such high-pressure situations, it is only natural that one’s natural instincts come into play. This can be healthy for both the teams, as it helps in keeping them alert – but it’s important to but these emotions aside to be able to deliver a world-class performance.

It’s time to go LIVE

As the crowds fill the stadium, the excitement is palpable. As the players walk onto the ground, the noise and the roar of the crowd gives goosebumps to everyone, including those tuned in to the action thousands of miles away. In India, cricket is traditionally watched with friends, family or even with a group of absolute strangers watching the action on TVs that are on display, at a showrooms’ show window.

However, for broadcasting teams and their technology providers, the action has already begun the moment the camera goes live – with the pre-game analysis, the toss, pitch report and the weather report. This is finally the moment of truth, with the two teams working together seamlessly in the operations room like a well-coordinated symphony. As the broadcast is in progress, both sides are continually evaluating multiple parameters, communicating with each other and looking out for any glitches that might occur.

It’s not over even when it’s over

As the teams get back into the dressing room, there is much to talk about. The post-event de-brief includes a deep dive into how the players performed, whether the match went as planned, and what needs to be done to improve performance for the next match.

In the same way, back in the central studio, the broadcaster and technology partner teams are busy analysing what went well and what could be improved.

The real success in a highly competitive tournament like the IPL is when players lift their team’s game up to the next level – and it’s exactly the same in the remote production operation of a live event.


Read about the impact broadcasting has on global sports events like the World Cup here.