Why Remote Commentator Is Right For Sports RightsholdersThe outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent declaration of a pandemic in March 2020 forced changes on sports and television few could have imagined were possible.
Cancellation of March Madness, postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, sequestered tournament play and stands filled with a range of virtual fans—from cardboard cutouts to video images streamed to videowalls and monitors at venues—made last year a one-of-a-kind experience that most hope to never repeat.
Sports rightsholders in particular faced challenge after challenge. With game play dormant for months, the broadcasters and sports networks holding television rights, scrambled to find programming alternatives in the short run to fill the voids left in their schedules.
At the same time, they along with their sports production vendors planned for the return of sports and their production in a manner that maintained social distancing and adhered to other health recommendations without negatively affecting the quality of the product they put on air.
REMI To The Rescue
Another spin on this strategy –sort of a REMI 2.0— has been to remove the brick-and-mortar production control center from the workflow completely, and virtualizing all of the studio production functions in the cloud. IP packets of video and audio from the venue transported via the internet thus could be switched and mixed, titles, graphics and replays added and full productions of games ultimately distributed to TV viewers (with the production staff performing those functions working safely from home or in an office) via a web browser.
TVU Producer is a great example of a cloud-based REMI 2.0 tool that powers virtualized live, multi-camera productions like sports. To support remote intercom, IFB and interviewing demands for this REMI 2.0 approach, TVU Networks introduced TVU Partyline.
Of course, there were also various combinations of on-site, REMI and cloud-based REMI 2.0 approaches that fostered safe production environments while enabling proper social distancing in the close confines of production trailers as some crew stayed at home, worked remotely and freed up real estate so those on site could remain physically separated.
Commentators Go Virtual
Play-by-play announcers and color commentators, many of whom spend a hundred days or more on the road traveling from venue to venue and thus risking exposure to COVID-19 from other travelers, faced the same health concerns in the close confines of their announcing booths as those staffing mobile production trailers.
Just as REMI 2.0 in the cloud protected production staff, the cloud and a virtualized announcer booth made possible by TVU Remote Commentator offered talent a way to call games without being physically present at a stadium or arena.
With TVU Remote Commentator, play-by-play announcers and color commentators work together, while connected virtually, from their individual homes or offices in perfect sync with one another regardless of the physical distance separating them. All they need is an internet connection, a laptop, microphone and the TVU Remote Commentator client that connects them to the cloud. Video of on-field action is streamed in sync to their laptops so there’s never any concern about audio description not matching video game action. There’s also a video back channel so they can see one another’s faces and share in and convey the emotion of the game.
Remote Commentator Benefits For Sports Rightsholders
Rightsholders will immediately realize significant cost savings when they deploy TVU Remote Commentator. Not having to leave home to call a game means travel, lodging and meal expenses for announcers drop like a stone from the moment TVU Remote Commentator is deployed.
While universally appealing, these savings may be particularly attractive to broadcasters considering acquiring the rights to televise minor league games, NCAA Division II and III teams and niche sports, such as lacrosse or track and field, where smaller television audiences limit advertising revenue potential. Lowering expenses over the course of a season might be enough to make it profitable to produce these games.
Reducing expenses is only the tip of the iceberg, however. Because travel is entirely removed from the equation, it is possible for the same crew of announcers to work more than one game in a day, giving sports rightsholders far more staffing flexibility than they’ve ever. It is not unreasonable to think the same announcers could regularly call a couple of games in a day. How’s that for maximizing resource utilization?
Rather than scrambling to present a second game or possibly having to forego bidding on those rights because there’s not enough talent available, rightsholders can confidently pursue additional opportunities knowing that TVU Remote Commentator makes it possible to double up on announcing duties when required.
The IP-based commenting solution also makes it possible for sports rightsholders to expand their reach and partner with foreign broadcasters wishing to distribute games with commentary in foreign tongues. Just as TVU Remote Commentator supports multiple distant commentators to call a game, it also enables other commenting teams located remotely –anywhere around the globe with an internet connection—to call games in languages other than English for distribution in the foreign markets.
With TVU Remote Commentator, foreign-language-speaking announcers enjoy the same precise syncing with their fellow announcers and synced streaming video of game action as well as back-channel-video of those on the announce team as do domestic announce crews.
One day, the COVID-19 pandemic will pass. When it does, sports rightsholders will enjoy the same benefits of using TVU Remote Commentator as they have during the pandemic. Lower costs, less travel, the possibility of making it economically viable to televise games with limited audiences, improved staffing flexibility and productivity, as well as the ability to pursue foreign distribution rights partnerships will all remain.
That’s why it makes sense to add TVU Remote Commentator to the mix even as planning for post-pandemic coverage commences.