The LiveU Live Sports Summit 2023 took place in the Tunnel Club at the Etihad Stadium, home to the 2022-2023 treble winners, Manchester City Football Club.
Delegates from sports clubs, leagues, broadcasters, universities, LiveU EcoSystem technology partners, and production companies explored insights around several themes and perhaps unsurprisingly, the importance of placing the fan at the center of every content creation endeavor was often returned to throughout the day.
Two of the customer presentations that highlighted this cater for fans of sport at very different ends of the sporting scale. At the upper end, Manchester City’s production team at City Studio shared their narrative-driven approach to adding fresh and authentic layers of engagement to the beautiful game, while Ireland’s Clubber TV talked through their highly successful niche-led focus.
The City Studio Team is responsible for producing in-house content across all the club’s teams and events, feeding content directly to their own channels to fans all over the world. The City Studio leadership team stressed the importance of earning and retaining the trust of the elite athletes that are so often the source of entertainment. A key enabler of this was the decision to embed three content producers within the First Team, placing them, and therefore the fans, at the very epicenter of the action. This approach allowed them to capture the player’s ecstatic reactions at the exact moment that they realised they had just become Premier League champions for the 2022/203 season.
The Studio Team use their LiveU units to not only capture action with the players but also to go live to stand-up positions with pundits around the ground. In their quest to bring fans into the heart of the story, they have used LiveU to capture live audio and video from fans in the stands and fan zones, bringing the atmosphere of match days to their audiences.
“We go where no production crew has gone before”Laurence Doyle, Clubber’s COO
At the other end of the scale, Clubber TV hosts a dedicated Gaelic Sports channel on its content platform. They utilize the LiveU EcoSystem to help them cover local and regional Gaelic games at, very much, a grass roots level. With over 2000 clubs involved, there are often over 100 matches being played over the weekends. Traditional broadcast methods made it impractical and often impossible to cover even a tiny percentage of these. Clubber TV have seized upon LiveU’s lightweight live production solutions to allow them to deploy one or two person crews to venues, and using LiveU Studio, produce broadcast-ready program feeds in the cloud. Now with the ability to provide coverage for a much larger percentage of the fixtures, they have found that by making these culturally important sports more readily available, they have grown the fan base.
With such a range of clubs involved, the Clubber TV teams encounter every type of venue, from fully serviced stadiums to pitches perched on rocky outcrops, so they rely on LiveU to take their gameplay feed from ground-to-cloud. The native intelligence of LRT™ (LiveU Reliable Transport) is used to bond connections together, across 4 and 5G modems and this is augmented with WiFi, Ethernet, or LEO satellite via Starlink, where required. As Clubber’s COO, Laurence Doyle says, the LiveU units allow their teams to “go where no production crew has gone before” and deliver high quality, low latency program feeds with surety.
The freedom to go to where the action is, be that in the dressing room, on the terraces or bleachers, on an overseas tour with the First Team, or halfway up a mountain on a small island in County Mayo, Ireland, grows in importance as audiences become ever more sophisticated. As discussed in one panel session, viewing habits continue to evolve, with many of the younger generations disengaging entirely from ‘TV’ and embracing a plethora of ‘content’ that is consumed across multiple digital devices. This leads to a fragmentation of audiences, with smaller viewing groups seeking specific content that is relevant to them. The Manchester City Studio team recognize this and have embraced a strongly ‘digital first’ ethos, seeking to push content to where their fans are present already – online and across social media – rather than solely focusing on retaining the content in ‘owned’ channels or behind paywalls.
Remote and lightweight production techniques, like those supported by the LiveU EcoSystem, have driven down the complexity and the cost of acquiring, producing and distributing live video content, making this powerful communication tool a viable medium for audience engagement for more content creators. Innovative storytellers have been quick to use these developments to expand their storytelling, not just in volume, but also breadth and quality.
Back at the top table of sports production in terms of scale, large sports production companies are increasingly viewing LiveU and bonded IP-video not just as a valuable ’backup to main’ but as a main feed solution. Neutral Wireless, the LiveU EcoSytem partner that has pioneered broadcast capabilities over Private 5G networks, demonstrated the ease at which private, uncontested 5G cells can be deployed to deliver assured connectivity. Working with the BBC and LiveU, the King’s coronation provided a high-profile opportunity to showcase the solution to great effect, and the audience at the Live Sports Summit were quick to explore the use cases of this type of connectivity in sporting arenas.
As more and more sports storytellers are looking to ‘LiveU it’ when solving production challenges, the assurance of having a diverse range of connections, from the 14 that are built into the LU800, to the easy interface for low earth orbit satellite connections, 5G network slices or Private 5G set ups, bonded IP-video is paramount. Having a number of ‘good’ options for connectivity adds reassurance through redundancy, however this must be allied to responsive and expert service and support. It was remarked upon that LiveU’s proven commitment in this area has been instrumental to the maintenance of mission-critical activities.
For many delegates at the Summit, bonded IP-video had also accelerated meaningful change for good, as more storytellers and content producers look to pivot to more sustainable and efficient production methods. Going beyond the greener-by-nature design of the LiveU EcoSystem that allows carbon and cost reductions to be realised, for example, by reducing the number of OB trucks rolls and sending lightweight production crews instead, remote and cloud-based production solutions are delivering additional ESG and CSR benefits.
As the complexity of workflows is reduced, the tools of storytelling become democratized, making it easier to hire local or geographically diverse production crews, widening the talent pool and making the industry more attractive and accessible to prospective workers.
The LiveU EcoSytem delivers a reliable way to go from ground-to-cloud-to-crowd, that is, it provides the freedom to deploy efficient crews to wherever the story or game is, and from there reliably move the content into a cloud where value can be added by creating a fully mixed program in real time, before it is distributed either for linear or syndicated playout via LiveU Matrix for instance, or direct to digital channels via LiveU Studio.
Ultimately though, the true benefit of moving pixels instead of people is to actually ‘move’ more people in the emotional sense. To create and share memories – moments of passion and engagement and to make doing so more sustainable. Being able to easily and swiftly scale up and down the means of production, to have the freedom to place cameras exactly where they are needed without being limited by technical constraints, to be able to show the whole story, live, rather than some of it later, once the tapes have arrived from location, is now commonly expected and demanded by production teams. To be able to produce more immersive quality content and to be able to share it reliably and consistently with an audience, and to do so in a highly cost-efficient way is no longer the preserve of enterprises with large infrastructures in place. With reliable, high quality, low latency bonded IP-video, every type and size of sports storyteller can focus on what really matters. Telling great stories to their audiences, delivering immersive fan engagement and ultimately, creating more fans.