Innovations in sports broadcasting technology 

RR Media's Luca Marinoni

RR Media’s Luca Marinoni

Luca Marinoni, head of sport and live events at RR Media Europe, discusses 4K, cloud delivery and other innovations in sports broadcasting. 

Last year saw a huge amount of innovation in the field of sports broadcasting technology, with major sporting events such as the World Cup demonstrating the value and demand for sports content around the globe.

But what were the biggest innovations in this sector from a broadcast perspective? One of the most prominent has to be the accessibility of sports content via mobile. With last year’s World Cup one of the most widely watched tournaments in history, its popularity was only increased by the shift in global audience viewing habits, with mobile taking up a growing slice of viewers.

In 2010 smartphones accounted for just 19% of all mobile sales, a staggering figure when compared to the one billion units shipped as early as 2013. Viewers’ attention is now divided between the TV in their living room and the device in their lap; with consumers searching for videos, action replays, interviews and relevant news. Sports broadcasters are wising up to this fact and delivering content that works across all devices in order to capitalise on this new audience segment.

Since the previous tournament there have been great strides taken in terms of technology. As viewing habits change, so does behaviour online. From social media through to mobile apps and interactive viewing options, broadcasters and content owners in 2014 had to adapt in order to take advantage of the growth in internet-connected devices, to engage with viewers beyond the living room and their TV screen.

Last year’s coverage of the World Cup via mobile and on-demand TV services has led to an expansion in the amount of content that audiences can access, and also the methods by which they access this content. Broadcasters such as the BBC launched interactive platforms to allow the audience to share and comment on matches, whilst FIFA’s app was one of the most widely downloaded mobile apps in the sports world.

4K was one of the other innovations which drove this increase in content consumption and variety. This ultra high-definition format created an improved viewing experience for the main matches, as well as for the extra 1500 hours of content available to viewers during and after the live events.

Cloud technology has also revolutionised the way the sports broadcast industry delivers content to its audience. The cloud offers broadcasters the ability to cut production costs, and deliver content far more quickly to a variety of different channels. It also offers the ability to increase the monetisation of said content. By allowing analysis of how it is being consumed, smart decisions can be made about the broadcast of future content, which can be replaced with better, more engaging offerings if necessary.

Due to lower production costs, more obscure sports can now also be seen as potential revenue generators. With an increased variety of sports now being accessed, content owners can open up new streams of revenue, which need to be managed by centralised systems in the cloud to make sure they are properly organised and distributed.

Another innovation in sports broadcasting is the change in attitudes from within sports themselves. Tennis for example has seen major changes, with the addition of hawk-eye technology and the accompanying graphics, as well as 3D technology, meaning that consumers are now expecting advanced viewing experiences. This means the broadcasters and content owners are having to adapt to this demand, providing more options for consumers as they seek to immerse themselves further in the sporting experience. So the lesson for these organisations needs to be loud and clear – innovate, or find yourselves left behind in the ever-changing sports broadcast environment.