Feb 27, 2024

Cloud, IP and 5G: Three themes shaping live sports production in 2024 according to LiveU

The field of live sports production and broadcasting is entering a pivotal phase, confronted by challenges arising from changing viewer preferences, continued economic uncertainty, and evolving societal expectations. This is further complicated (and enriched) by the continued advancement of cloud-based workflows and IP video transmission technologies, and the widespread implementation of 5G.

Catering to younger audiences

In a landscape dominated by the likes of TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram, sports rights owners and broadcasters are in a race to capture and retain younger viewers who favour short-form, instantly accessible content. This shift in consumption patterns has triggered a demand for bite-sized highlights, social media-friendly graphics and an emphasis on immediacy. Driven by the goal of engaging younger audiences, Paris Saint Germain (PSG), Free Ligue 1 and the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) stand as examples of rights owners that are demonstrating innovative approaches to this challenge, while managing costs.

PSG’s Qatar tour involves broadcasting its match against the Riyadh XI team and pre-match content to a global fan base in multiple languages and across various platforms. To ensure top quality and a seamless viewing experience, it has evolved to transmit live feeds (one main and one backup for each language) to a cloud-native live video production solution using multiple IP bonding field units and all at a fraction of the cost of using a traditional on-premise workflow.

Free Ligue 1, the top soccer league in France, leverages a flexible and cost-efficient IP video transmission and cloud production workflow to deliver a rich array of content to fans via their app, including match highlights, pitch-side interviews and more. Monetisation has been increased with fans looking for additional football content signing up for Free Ligue 1’s Premium Account.

WRC Promoter, the company that’s responsible for all commercial aspects of the WRC, has recognised the need for continuous innovation to engage existing viewers across different platforms and attract new and younger audiences. It is using IP video workflows in conjunction with its traditional radio frequency (RF) and satellite workflows, allowing it to significantly expand coverage.

Balancing cost efficiency and quality

Cost efficiency exercises inevitably come with concerns about compromises in quality. This need not be the case with live sports production and the sector is already reaping the benefits of embracing cloud and IP video transmission technologies, as well as 5G.

For example, the European League of Football (ELF), a professional American football league based in Europe, leverages affordable IP video solutions for full cloud production, streaming up to six live games per game day on its digital platform.

Premium sports rights owners are not immune to budgetary pressure. Those that have not already done so will increasingly be forced to explore the potential of new technologies and reduce their dependence on traditional methods.

Sky Deutschland’s 2023 Special Olympics World Games coverage highlighted the efficiency and ease of use of 5G, together with IP bonding, as a mode of live video transmission. Sky Deutschland worked with both the Local Organising Committee and a 5G service provider to create a private 5G network and deliver a successful proof of concept (POC) that perfectly highlighted the future of contribution and production.

Live news production, known for its demands, is an important source of innovation for the live sports production and broadcast sector and there are fewer news events that attract more interest than the coronation of a British monarch.

The coronation of HM King Charles III marked the first time that a network slice was created on a public 5G standalone (SA) network in the UK by Vodafone. Live IP video feeds were transmitted over the network slice helping ensure dedicated bandwidth and the delivery of low latency and high video quality with the rest of the bandwidth remaining available for public use.

Coverage of the coronation benefited from the world’s largest single-use private 5GSA network. The private network enabled broadcasters to reliably deliver live wireless contribution pieces and the scalability of the network architecture meant that portable encoders could easily and swiftly be added in different locations.

Meeting ESG standards

The emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in the sports industry is a welcome development. In the past, ESG compliance may have been perceived as a mere tick-box exercise, but the landscape is changing.

At the 2022 International Ski Mountaineering Federation World Cup Finals in France, Eurovision Sport delivered a POC to test innovative contribution, production and distribution solutions through the cloud. The POC demonstrated that even in remote locations with unstable local internet networks, reliable IP distribution is achievable. Eurovision Sport can now deliver production solutions in the world’s most beautiful and fragile alpine landscapes, in an environmentally sustainable way.

While the environmental aspects of ESG frameworks often tend to capture the headlines, sports industry players committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, supporting social initiatives and upholding high standards of corporate governance are set to gain an edge in 2024.

The outlook for 2024 and beyond

As the live sports production and broadcast sector navigates the challenges of engaging younger audiences, optimising budgets and meeting ESG standards, three key questions will shape its strategies in the coming years:

  • How to adapt to younger audience preferences (and control costs)? Align content production and distribution with the preferences of younger generations, and leverage the latest technologies for convenience and immediacy (and cost efficiency).
  • How to leverage innovation for greater cost efficiency? Innovate with cloud-based production, IP transmission technologies and 5G networks for more efficient content creation and distribution, and reduce reliance on traditional broadcasting methods.
  • How to meet rising ESG standards? Focus on environmental sustainability, social inclusion and corporate governance, and contribute to a positive industry image through reduced carbon footprints, diverse workplaces and support for community initiatives.

By proactively addressing these themes, sports rights owners and their broadcast and production partners can ensure the longevity and success of live sports production and broadcasting in 2024 and beyond.

Written by By Ophir Zardok, LiveU’s Head of Sports Strategy and Business Development. Published first at SVGEurope.