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Leveraging IP Technology for Dynamic Live Sports Coverage

Live sports continue to attract large TV and online audiences worldwide, despite changing viewing habits. High-quality coverage of live events lets viewers share all the excitement of major sports tournaments and events, and follow their favourite teams and players all year round.

Advances in IP technology are playing an important role in meeting the growing demand for live content in the sports industry, and in broadcasting in general. IP is of course fundamental to cellular bonding, and cellular bonding itself has been a game changer, allowing coverage of events where it was previously impossible. The availability of hardware-based HEVC encoding solutions has enabled broadcasters and sports organizations to provide high-quality, reliable, and creative live sports coverage at a fraction of the cost of satellite and fiber transmission. HEVC encoding offers not only ultimate-quality 4K, but it also provides the option of massively reducing bandwidth usage at lower resolutions.

At last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, for example, hundreds of HEVC bonding units were used by customers from all over the world. The units were used to follow the teams, interview the players and fans, and to capture the atmosphere with daily live feeds. ESPN India, one of the biggest regional sports broadcasters, was there in Moscow, following all the live action. “Sending live feeds back to India was seamless with no technological glitches,” said Suketu Mehta, a multimedia producer with ESPN India.

Cellular bonding using HEVC encoding is disrupting the sports industry in other ways too, enabling sports producers and broadcasters to provide dynamic coverage of events from every angle, even in areas with limited connectivity. For instance, in the world of motor racing, G1 Formula racing manufacturer Griiip has deployed compact HEVC units on board their new entry-level race cars to provide dynamic, premium-quality coverage. Fans can select from feeds of the whole race or an individual driver’s car for a unique viewing experience.

The technology has also been deployed by WRC promoter GmbH, the company that is responsible for all its commercial aspects of the FIA World Rally Championship, to expand its live video coverage across 10 rallies. WRC reports that the system “revolutionises the way WRC TV crews positioned in the stages transmit their footage to the TV production base in the service park” (WRC website). Previously, they had mainly relied on satellite and RF to cover the events around the world, with stages spread up to 250 km around the service park at each rally and on motorbikes to deliver material from the field to the studio.

Another industry trend is the increased deployment of remote at-home production – used by sports organisations, production companies, colleges, and brands – to save costs and simplify logistics. High-quality, reliable wireless solutions remove the need to deploy costly field production trucks and satellite uplinks and use expensive bandwidth at the venues themselves. Customers simply produce live shows from centralised studio control room, using existing equipment. Each camera can move freely without the need for internet connectivity or cables onsite. The solution reduces transmission costs, the number of on-site crew needed, as well as travel, rental, and shipping expenses typical in other remote-production solutions. Built-in precision measurement of end-to-end delay allows for complete wireless synchronisation of multiple video sources.

Remote at-home production addresses the needs of any vertical requiring cost-effective live production for their events. Enabling a lot more content to be created and transmitted live, producers can simply afford to cover more events. With customers seeing up to 75 percent cost reduction for live event production, we see the use expanding in the region and globally this year.

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