The Next Hurdle for Sports Broadcasters
By Jonathan Roberts, Global SVP of Sports at Vizrt Group
As we cautiously re-emerge from a year of empty stadiums, socially distanced productions, soft starts, and “bubble” mandated seasons, we can begin a review of the work we’ve completed for the past 15 months.
For the world of broadcast that is focused on live sport this will be a time to review our practices and workflows of the past year and make some more permanent decisions. What new approaches are here to stay? What practices will we leave in the past? What are we excited to bring back to the fore of production?
The idea that broadcasters must be able to smell the grass at the stadium is now under forensic analysis by the accountants. It has been a long-held belief by many that teams of play-by-play commentators, producers, and other staff are needed to be in-stadium to experience – and convey – the atmosphere of an event. Pandemic-era productions have tested this convention.
Credit to the professionalism of production teams over the past year who needed to work from home. They produced compelling, effective, entertaining, and professional events. The vast majority of viewers had no idea staff was working remotely. That said, for those who enjoy taking trips to such marquee events, the bad news is they may have performed their way out of a few flights going forward!
Rethinking Production Techniques
These professional productions were also enabled by software-based solutions that empower visual storytelling. And, largely, these systems have shown that they hold up in remote environments. The ability to direct, live switch, and commentate on sporting events in near-real time with robust production tools from home is now a tangible and proven capability.
Further entrenching this new workflow is the beneficial cost savings and efficiencies of such practices. By making a team available remotely, you don’t just save on travel and lodging for staff members, you also make your best workers available for more premiere events.
Moving to a remote, software-defined visual storytelling workflow is a cost-saving approach that helps counteract rising rights costs.
Live sport has an immediate, real-time, and perishable value tied to it. When an event ends, the value of it as a marketing opportunity sees an abrupt drop off. That is joined by the fact that viewership numbers of live sport are somewhat down year-over-year (although, encouragingly, it appears the UEFA European Championship is bucking that trend). This is largely due to the fact that we have so many screens, devices, and content options fighting for our attention.
Now, that said, just because a viewer on the west coast of the United States missed the live feed of the Portugal v Hungary fixture doesn’t mean they didn’t later see Cristiano Ronaldo secure his spot as the tournament’s all-time leading goal scorer – nor does it mean they didn’t hear about his post-conference snub of a soda bottle in favour of water.
These types of moments raise an intriguing case study for advertising in sport. That soda sat upon the press conference table for a reason: to get more airtime for the brand. It is a play to provide more value to the sponsors. In this instance, however, it backfired. So, what other advertising real estate might be offered that also features one of the world’s biggest stars? What about his two goals during the match?
One of the discussions being had pre-COVID was how best to offer the on-screen advertising that is digitised onto the field of play. Now that we are emerging from a challenging year for advertisers of live sport (they lost millions of eyes when in-stadium attendance went away) broadcasters need to reignite these discussions with new ideas.
Among the potential offerings are dynamic advertising inventories that display based on viewer region, language, and perhaps even fanship. Device-by-device viewing also needs to be explored. An on-field advertisement can look magnificent on the 65-inch UHD display in a living room yet be unreadable on a mobile device. How can we deliver effective advertisements to these mobile viewers as well?
The answer to this question is rooted in the previous innovations we’ve noted: software-defined visual storytelling tools that allow for flexible and dynamic solutions.
Just as software helped solve for remote production, it too can offer new ways for viewers, sponsors, athletes, teams, and broadcasters to interact within a rich media environment. Thus, it is on manufacturers to develop virtual advertising insertion technology and increasingly software-based tools that make production easier and more effective.
By working together, the sponsors, rights holders, broadcasters, and manufacturers can continue to evolve the way we present live sport to the public. And that will result in more stories, better told – a win for all involved in the joy that is live sport.