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Sports Reporter: Spring 2024

Posted on May 24, 2024 by FEED Staff

Bringing the latest developments in sports tech and broadcast

World Darts Championship breaks Sky Sports records

This winter’s World Darts Championship broke records, bringing Sky Sports an audience of nearly five million and peaking at 3.71 simultaneous viewers – the channel’s highest non-football number as of January 2024.

The final, held in London, saw defending champion Luke Humphries go head-to-head with Luke Littler, ultimately defeating the 16-year-old in a 7-4 result.

The championship final attracted over 4.8 million viewers, representing a 143% increase from the previous year.

The event also saw increased engagement on socials, with 27.6 million video streams across Sky Sports channels and 2.44 million following its live blog.

Besides darts, Sky Sports covers live broadcasts of the Premier League, Formula 1, cricket, rugby and golf, as well as boxing, mixed martial arts, American football, basketball and tennis.

The channel has recently commissioned a three-part darts docu-series detailing these record-breaking figures.

DAZN UK makes Women’s Football free

Dazn UK has struck a New Deal – named after the 1967 tournament when the English FA broke its ban on women’s football – as part of its campaign to invest in the sport.

In January, the streamer lifted its paywall from the sport, attempting to improve the match day experience, expand sponsorship opportunities and deliver broader distribution.

Dazn, which broadcasted the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup, has made its coverage of the UWCL, WSL, Liga F, Frauen-Bundesliga and others free to UK viewers. “Women’s football is the most compelling sport investment opportunity for a generation,” comments Hannah Brown, Dazn’s co-CEO of Women’s Sport. “When you put good content in front of an audience, they watch it. If you put a paywall in front of it, few make a direct pay choice.” She concludes: “To realise its potential, [we need] another moment of bravery just like that 1967 tournament.”

Blackmagic Design plays critical role at DreamHack Winter 2023

What started without online access has transformed into an international beacon of gaming culture.

Dreamhack Winter 2023, held at Elmia Congress Center in Jönköping, Sweden, epitomises this growth, becoming more than just a festival: it’s a gathering spot for tens of thousands of gaming enthusiasts from around the globe.

With 45,000 attendees and a record-breaking 17,000 people on a single day, Dreamhack Winter 2023 was a melting pot of esports activities.

It wasn’t just a gaming festival: it was an immersive experience bringing together the world’s best esports athletes, over 200 content creators and numerous expo partners.

The festival showcased a diverse range of competitions, including ESL Challenger, Fiba, R1, Formula 1 and Brawl Stars – each adding a unique flavour to the event.

The ESL Challenger stage at Dreamhack offers aspiring teams a platform to showcase their skills. Integrating ESL Challenger into Dreamhack gives attendees a glimpse into the competitive heart of esports. “Challenger is a chance for aspiring teams to prove themselves as world-class athletes and qualify for the sport’s largest stages,” explains Martin Bergström, ESL Faceit Group’s head of broadcast technology for Sweden.

Blackmagic Design’s role in Dreamhack’s production is crucial. From signal ingestion to switching, playout and camera operations – including the Ursa Broadcast G2 camera – Blackmagic technologies were integral at every stage.

“We use Blackmagic Design products heavily throughout our workflows, from the hundreds of converters for SDI, fibre and audio, to multiple Atem Constellation 8K live production switchers to the largest Universal Videohub 288 router, which is populated to the max with video signals,” says Bergström.

“Blackmagic stands out as a pivotal technology provider in the industry, enabling high-quality production at a reasonable cost. It remains a prominent and recognised name in the esports market,” he concludes.

Haivision helps cover NYC Marathon

One of the world’s largest marathons, the TCS New York City Marathon sees more than 51,000 racers running through all five boroughs over 26.2 miles, with millions of viewers watching.

The most recent marathon used Haivision video solutions to successfully broadcast the annual event.

Live production company CP Communications installed Haivision’s mobile video transmitters – including the Pro460 and Pro360 – in Smart cars, on electric bikes and in production trucks, allowing the race to be broadcast in real time over 4G and 5G networks.

CP also deployed Haivision’s Makito X4 video encoders and decoders at the start and finish lines, sending video feeds which doubled as security surveillance.

In total, CP established four on-prem and three remote production sites, all enhanced with Haivision’s video solutions, bringing audiences an unrivalled viewing experience.

Riedel and Kalaam enhance MENA-region motorsport

Riedel Networks has announced a strategic partnership with Bahrain-based Kalaam Carrier Solutions – a collaboration that aims to enhance the MENA region’s motorsport experience and establish a sturdy network infrastructure within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

So far, Riedel and Kalaam have improved connectivity by 41%, decreasing the round-trip delay from Riedel’s Milan POP to Middle East POP from 120 to 70 milliseconds.

Riedel’s new POP in Bahrain will rely on Kalaam’s terrestrial cable system, covering Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE.

“Collaborating with Riedel has allowed Kalaam to continue to cater to strategic industries and mission-critical projects within the GCC, such as the world’s largest motorsports events, where quality and performance of the connectivity solution is paramount for success,” said Veer Passi, Kalaam’s group CEO.

Wharfedale Pro provides audio to Lauberhorn Alpine World Cup

British manufacturer Wharfedale Pro provided its WLA-1 line array audio system to the Lauberhorn Alpine World Cup in Switzerland.

With 80,000 in-person attendees and 1.2 million online viewers, the event required a robust audio solution to cover its various zones over three days of competition.

The Wharfedale Pro system included WLA-112 and WLA-121 sub loudspeakers, plus DP-4100N and DP-2200N amplifiers, carrying audio to the Girmschbiel spectator area, the race finish area and a dedicated DJ zone.

Located in the mountains, the event comes with some logistical challenges: “All equipment had to be transported by train to a nearby village,” recounted Markus Walther, owner of Stagepro – the event’s technical provider. “The Wharfedale Pro system was easy to manage. It offers several deployment options: line array, stacking and stand mounting.”

Ateliere Connect powers World Poker Tour

The World Poker Tour (WPT) has chosen Ateliere Creative Technologies’ cloud-based Connect platform as its new media management system.

Using the power of AI, the solution offers the WPT the ability to efficiently identify and organise digital assets, saving valuable time and energy.

Since 2002, the WPT has transformed the world of poker, highlighting various high-stakes tournaments on a single TV show.

With audiences in over 150 countries, the WPT has established itself with partners and other stakeholders, with distinct branding requirements depending on territory – meaning there are often multiple versions of the same video content. Ateliere Connect makes it much simpler to differentiate between assets: “The move eliminated the ‘version-itis’ that was bloating our inventory and driving up operational costs,” commented Ian Matteson, director of content operators and post-production at WPT.

Stage Precision produces world’s largest esports tournament

Located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Gamers8 has quickly become the world’s largest recognised esports tournament, taking place over eight weeks and uniting an international cohort of gaming enthusiasts.

Last summer’s Gamers8 required an immense effort to combine the gaming competition itself with live performances by Iggy Azalea, Imagine Dragons, Macklemore and others.

Stage Precision stepped in, providing its data and control platform to Bright! Studios, who handled the tournament’s media playback, virtual production, lighting design and show control. “Stage Precision’s SP platform was imperative to what we were doing,” said Leon Herche, Bright! Studios’ creative producer. “We had around 30 Unreal Engine machines, 28 tracked cameras and 36 disguise servers that were controlled using SP.”

Gamers8’s competitions included Fortnite, Rocket League, Dota 2, CS:GO, Street Fighter 6, Fifa and other popular games. The tournament reached 429,000 viewers at its peak and over 2.5 million collective hours watched on the first day alone. “We were able to create a completely immersive experience for the audience,” shared Herche. “Using SP gave us unlimited flexibility, helping us deliver another incredible show.”

Dalet delivers content for Cricket Australia content

Cricket Australia (CA), the country’s governing body for cricket, has selected Dalet Flex for its efforts to increase engagement, deliver more content and monetise its archive.

Responsible for producing cricket-related content, CA is committed to improving audience experience.

Replacing its existing media asset manager, CA employed Dalet Flex – already in use by the Australian Football League, Australia’s National Rugby League and other international conferences.

The solution uses AI technology to index archived content, create captions and transcripts and catalogue faces, allowing a faster turnaround time for social media uploads and distribution elsewhere.

“The Dalet solution has enabled us to further upgrade our operations,” began Dan Allan, CA’s content manager for broadcast. “We have eliminated significant content duplication, which saves unnecessary storage, and regained control of our historical content. This allows our teams to focus on what they do best – deliver engaging content that inspires everyone to love and play cricket.”

Gravity Media joins Supercars to deliver Repco Bathurst 12 Hour

Gravity Media Australia linked with Supercars – for the ninth year in a row – to broadcast the Repco Bathurst 12 Hour, an endurance sprint for recognised racing vehicles held at New South Wales’ Mount Panorama Circuit.

To undertake such an event, Gravity Media installed over 140 in-car cameras and 37 TV cameras, 24 kilometres of broadcast cable and a production crew of more than 120 on and around the circuit.

Together, Gravity and Supercars captured ‘one of the most thrilling races in the world’, according to Supercars’ head of broadcast, Nathan Prendergast, and delivered it to an international audience.

Audi, Mercedes-AMG, Porsche, Lamborghini and McLaren all made appearances at the Repco Bathurst 12 Hour.

Fox Sports, Kayo, the Seven Network and 7plus broadcast the event domestically, with Sky Sports NZ, Radio Show Ltd and other streaming partners carrying the international coverage to end consumers.

In addition to the Repco Bathurst 12 Hour, Gravity Media Australia produces the Repco Bathurst 1000 alongside the Repco Supercars Championship.

Pittsburgh Penguins’ arena gets an upgrade

The PPG Paints Arena – home of the Pittsburgh Penguins – received an upgrade with the installation of Ayrton Zonda 9 FX LED moving head washes underneath its new scoreboard.

The LEDs, distributed by North American company Act Entertainment, are delivering a more exciting game experience to Penguins fans.

The scoreboard itself is part of an arena-wide upgrade, spearheaded by Fenway Sports Group (Penguins owners since 2021).

Designed by Mitsubishi Electric, the four-sided fixture includes 50-foot LED panels around a hollow centre.

Two Zonda 9 FX LEDs – selected by the team’s lighting designer and programmer Kevin Hogan – are attached to the lower mounting rail of each individual panel.

“The Zonda 9 FX is an amazing fixture with so many features built in, including the LiquidEffect and individual pixel control,” said Hogan. “It is a great quality wash light with eye-candy effects that are second to none – exactly what I would like for the new scoreboard.”

The Game Changers podcast announces 16th series

After five years, The Game Changers – a podcast centred around female athletes and their stories – is still going strong thanks in part to Sport England, the National Lottery and a host of other sponsors.

In February, Jess Carter – footballer for England and Chelsea FC – kicked off the podcast’s 16th series, discussing her experiences with diversity, sexuality and social media. Other guests in the series line-up include Claire Taggart, Sue Redfern, Sabrina Pace-Humphreys, Kristen Dusting, Lisa O’Keefe, Steph Harries and Mo Hunt.

The Game Changers also highlights coaches, broadcasters, club managers and other inspiring women who continue to challenge the status quo in sport.

Amazon strikes deal with Diamond

Amazon has agreed to pay $115 million to Diamond Sports Group, taking a minority stake in its content and distributing it on Prime Video.

The deal will boost Amazon’s US sport presence while protecting Diamond’s regional sport networks (RSNs) against bankruptcy.

Prime Video will be the primary destination for all of Diamond’s local direct-to-consumer content, including select MLB, NBA and NHL games, as well as pre- and post-game coverage.

Amazon subscribers will be able to purchase this streaming access for an additional cost.

This Diamond deal comes ten months after the company filed for bankruptcy.

In an effort to restructure itself, Diamond turned to Amazon – a streamer which has been looking to increase its number of sport-related offerings.

Peloton and TikTok become partners

Peloton and TikTok have agreed on an exclusive partnership, with Peloton’s fitness content now appearing on the social platform under #TikTokFitness.

This deal is Peloton’s first time creating dedicated content for a third-party channel, with existing partners including the NBA, Samsung, Liverpool FC and Lululemon.

TikTok has over one billion users worldwide, most of whom are on the younger side. Peloton will share live classes and celebrity collaborations with this audience, with the aim of driving consumer awareness of the Peloton brand and shift towards a software-based business model.

For TikTok, more fitness content will diversify its offerings.

During lockdown, Peloton saw remarkable growth, as the at-home lifestyle encouraged many to purchase the Peloton Bike.

Four years later, the world looks drastically different – forcing Peloton to rethink its strategy. #TikTokFitness will initially be available in the UK, US and Canada, and won’t require specialist equipment.

“Peloton and TikTok both move at the speed of culture to better serve our respective audiences,” said Oli Snoddy, Peloton’s VP of consumer marketing. “Our team is excited to complement TikTok’s burgeoning fitness content by introducing the magic of Peloton to new audiences.”

Saudi Arabia hosts first women’s 11-a-side football championship 

For the first time, Saudi Arabia hosted the WAFF Women’s Championship, an international tournament which included eight teams in the West Asian Football Federation.

The competition ran from 19-29 February, with Jordan – the defending champions – taking the title; their sixth win overall.

The 2024 competition, held in Jeddah, marks the first 11-a-side women’s football tournament hosted by Saudi Arabia, having hosted the WAFF Futsal Championship back in 2022.

The national team was joined by Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Guam and Nepal.

In October, the Gulf state expects to stage the Six Kings Slam tennis exhibition, bringing together Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz and other leading men’s tennis players.

Timeline uses Videosys to power British Basketball League

London-based production company Timeline is using Videosys Broadcast’s camera control solution to cover the British Basketball League championships, screened on Sky Sports.

The tournament involves ten clubs from across the UK, causing Timeline to think creatively about remote production.

Timeline provides studio space for production crew, as well as flyaway kits at each venue – unicasting the camera control data between these locations.

Four Sony cameras feed back to London via Ethernet, allowing the League to deliver every championship game to its fans.

This feature was first published in the Spring 2024 issue of FEED.

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