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Remote production: successful sports broadcasting in the digital age

July 9, 2019

Dhaval Ponda   

Global Head of Sales, Media and Entertainment Services, Tata Communications

With the women’s Football World Cup just wrapped up and the Cricket World Cup in full swing, Dhaval Ponda talks about the transformation of live sports broadcasting to bring brilliant viewing experiences for fans across the globe.

Marc Marquez wins the MotoGP race, Catalunya 2019

What’s the most important quality you think of when it comes to being a sports champion? Is it skill? Raw talent? Or just coincidental moments of genius?

As an ardent sports fan, I believe there are a few traits that cut across all sports and are pre-conditions when it comes to winning. They include team spirit, motivation, focus on continuous improvement, eye for detail and the thirst to win. You can win an occasional contest here and there with individual brilliance, but sustained success is impossible without these traits.

On that note, I want to touch upon another, relatively new but revolutionary aspect of sports broadcasting. Like being a champion, it is becoming a pre-condition for success for broadcasters.

Remote production: a game-changer

With traditional production, the cost of producing and broadcasting a major sporting event is massive. These costs are driven by the need for a fleet of OB vans at the venue and a big technical team required to keep the operation up and running.

“Remote production has changed all this. It is transforming sports broadcasting by reducing the need for travel and onsite logistical resources.” 

It allows a more flexible workflow and enables the seamless transfer of content – while delivering substantial cost savings and efficiencies.

Hitting it out of the park with the IPL

The Indian Premier League is among the top sporting spectacles in the world: 60 matches taking place in 9 cities over 50 days – with a billion eyeballs glued to every bit of the action. The 2018 season was the first time that a sports series of IPL’s scale was produced remotely in India by harnessing superfast connectivity. It enabled the broadcaster Star Sports to capture match feeds from multiple locations and produce customised feeds in eight languages for different regions. All this while keeping the lag and production costs down to a minimum.

Catching the action at high speed with MotoGP 

MotoGP is the world’s oldest established global motorsport championship, and it is synonymous with speed, thrill and nail-biting experiences. The 2019 MotoGP season comprises of 19 Grand Prix races spread across Europe, Asia, Americas, Australia and the Middle East.

With the action unfolding within the blink of an eye, the production of each race needs to be seamless to ensure an exhilarating viewing experience for fans worldwide. To meet this challenge, each of the MotoGP locations uses superfast connectivity and remote production at a broadcast operations hub in Barcelona, Spain. This ensures a reliable distribution of live video feeds from multiple sources including footage from the track, 360° onboard cameras as well as commentary – and, ultimately, a brilliant experience for fans everywhere.

Live… or truly live?

From motorsports to cricket, social media platforms have brought instant sports updates to fans’ fingertips. This means that they now expect to catch the action live as it happens, without a moment’s delay – even if the race or match might be taking place on the other side of the world.

This puts extra pressure on sports broadcasters. The time it takes for each moment of action to travel across the globe to the remote production centre, followed by its conversion into a single broadcast feed and the final broadcast cannot take more than a few seconds – at best!

“To enable a truly live sports experience, every member of the remote production team has to be like a cog in a fine piece of intricate machinery.” 

The on-site team needs to hear instructions and feedback from the production teams as well as have their eyes fixed on the event to capture the action. Real-time communication is critical. All this – the instant enrichment of content and the seamless handover of feeds to the broadcasters’ locations for satellite uplink – is made possible by superfast connectivity.

Innovating to stay competitive

As the likes of Netflix and Amazon are increasingly investing in sports rights there is growing pressure on traditional broadcasters and content owners to keep up with these sports industry newcomers.

To remain competitive, many are looking to expand their global reach by entering new markets and monetising digital platforms in new ways. Simultaneously, many broadcasters are taking a hard look at how they operate to boost their profitability by reducing overheads, logistical and engineering expenses.

“This is where remote production can make a huge difference, becoming an enabler of business transformation for broadcasters.”

As fans’ appetite for high-quality live content across multiple platforms continues to grow, we look forward to working with more innovative organisations like Star Sports and MotoGP to help them transform how they operate through remote production and bring sports fans the brilliant viewing experiences they crave.

 

Read our previous blog on how tech brings us closer to the World Cup.