The world is currently facing extraordinary circumstances, with the outbreak of COVID-19 having a significant impact on everyday lives. Establishments and organisations, as well as entire industries, are hard at work to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. For the broadcast sector, this means that most productions and live sporting fixtures have been either halted or entirely cancelled. As unfortunate as that may be, these are unprecedented times where the safety and health of stakeholders (rightly) have been made a priority.
As a result, many sports broadcasters have opted to turn to their archives for already aired content such as historic games, interviews, and sports tournament highlights. Others have had to significantly cut or pause subscription fees for the foreseeable future or offer users other kinds of added-value perks. It is clear that these are challenging times for the sports broadcasting industry where companies will have to work even harder at retaining users’ loyalty and attention.
One way for broadcasters to add significant value to their customers is through the integration of new immersive technologies. With the rollout of 5G and growing demand on VOD services, what new innovations should sports broadcasters be looking at, in order to keep viewers engaged in the toughest of times?
1. AI’s capability in delivering data
Many sports broadcasters recognise the importance of technology in delivering real-time, immersive viewing experiences to fans. Technology can add to important moments, rebooting the way in which fans interact with teams, athletes, and sponsors. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been making waves within live content delivery for quite some time. Through data collection and machine learning, live stats can be collected, collated, and displayed quickly and accurately during live matches and races.
The speed and accuracy of AI are opening up opportunities to develop other technologies, allowing broadcasters to deliver immersive experiences to fans. Real-time graphics, on-field players stats, AI chatbots, Artificial Reality, and Virtual Reality all require vast amounts of high-quality data in order to justify their value and deliver great viewing experiences. AI delivers enough data to open up these opportunities to broadcasters, enabling them to add highly sought-after, immersive features to their repertoire.
2. Adding valuable data with AR
Alongside on-screen graphics and stats, supplementing the viewing experience with data through a second device is a great way of giving the viewer control over what they see. AR, combined with AI and Voice Command, delivers data via an organised and intuitive display, allowing viewers to find what they’re interested in without spending much time searching. As smartphones and tablets can access increasingly complex AR content, many consumers use the technology to enhance their viewing experiences.
One of the primary challenges to have faced AR is the slow consumer uptake of wearable devices, with previous headsets looking too different from ordinary glasses. However, there have been significant strides in working around this challenge, with rumours of large clothing brands developing their own AR headsets.
3. Is VR ever going to take off?
VR technologies play an increasingly central role in delivering fully immersive viewing experiences. After facing a few initial challenges (including motion sickness), progress has been made. With improved comfort in the VR experience, fans can now experience being courtside during live games from the comfort of their own homes. But does VR cut fans off from the extras offered by AR? AI can be brought in to deliver the bonus features to the VR realm. Not only will people be turning to VR for the in-stadium experience, but they can also access match stats via their headset.
What consumers want
Broadcasters are beginning to understand the high expectations placed upon them to deliver a wide range of data-rich features. We expect to see a wealth of high-quality technologies upon live sports’ return. It’s no longer enough to simply broadcast a live event, add in some commentary and a roundtable discussion; broadcasters ought to think of ways to immerse their viewers in an interesting and interactive broadcast.
Fans expect live updates; they want to be able to explore stats, connect with their favourite athletes and interact with content in their own homes. To maintain a viewer’s attention, broadcasters must tap into the potential of technology instead of competing against it.
Read my full article on Immersive Viewing in TVBEurope to discover more on immersive viewing, including how Google and Apple are delivering frameworks for second stream content.