Ranjit Bhatti
Director, South Asia,
LiveU Ltd.

Rebooting live sports in the COVID-19 era

The world has been turned upside down with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a still-developing situation for many. Nowhere is this more evident than in the sports sector with the cancellation/postponement of the Summer Games in Tokyo, the IPL, FIFA Under 17 Women’s World Cup, which was to take place in five Indian cities, and hundreds of other major and smaller sports tournaments.

While the situation is still uncertain, especially in India where we are all hoping for the virus numbers to come down, there are signs globally that sports are slowly coming back with fans greatly missing the live action. Korean and Japanese baseball and football leagues (European too) are finishing their 2020 seasons, the NBA is set to return in the US, and tennis, golf, and other series are starting – albeit without a crowd.

Having come to dominate the newsgathering market, we have witnessed a huge rise in the use of LiveU across the sports sector over the past few years. From the Rugby World Cup, where our technology was used both to gather content and also as a disaster recovery solution, to the FIA World Rally Championship; cycling coverage in the UK and South Africa to motorsports with our relationship with Griiip, it has been a period of tremendous growth. We have also been active across eSports too, our work with the Mexican league being a prime example. But we also knew that to continue our expansion across sports and into more Tier-I use, we had to develop a true production-grade product family with all the capabilities highlighted above and that, of course, is the LU800.

The pandemic is pushing remote production and remote working more generally to centre stage. In terms of remote production, we had already established a powerful reputation in this area with regards to our wireless at-home production solution, using LiveU Precision Timing. Remote production was already rapidly growing as a methodology and we see this expanding as the world gradually opens up again, looking for cost-effective solutions, which also minimise the number of people required onsite.

In the face of the new reality, broadcasters and sports organizations need to be more creative than ever in finding ways to broadcast live sports to sports fans and other audiences. Portable cellular bonding technology and remote production workflows plays a key role in enabling this to happen, making the launch of LiveU’s new LU800 production-level field unit even more relevant.

The LU800 combines multi-camera production and superior video and audio capabilities with mission-critical transmission in a native 5G unit. The LU800 supports up to four fully frame-synced feeds in high resolution from a single unit, using powerful IP bonding of up to 14 connections. It also offers the highest-quality video performance, with up to 4Kp60 10-bit HDR transmission for optimal colour depth and richness, as well as up to 16 audio channels for high-end productions. For the sports market, this is truly next-generation technology.

In terms of social distancing, the LU800 minimizes the number of people required on site, offering high-quality and reliable multi-camera remote production. Live events can be produced from your centralized studio using your existing equipment, with only essential personnel required on site.

With today’s budget limitations, this is an important advantage. There is no need to send an expensive OB production truck to the venue, and no need for cabling. Events can be simply be covered using cost-effective wireless technology, instead of traditional transmission methods (satellite/fiber).

Today’s COVID-19 situation is also making long-term planning a challenge with some organizations in survival mode and others struggling with reduced sponsorship revenues. CapEx expenses are hard to justify at this time so our OpEx model is of even greater benefit now.

Over the last few months, LiveU has been used to cover NASCAR races and PGA golf in the US where no one needed to be close to the athletes. In China, LiveU technology was used to stream live the Simulation Game of the International Skating Union (ISU) Championships in Beijing within the strict limitations of the COVID-19 outbreak. There’s a massive demand for live sports: we’re proud to be making it happen.

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