This week’s Sky Sport Summit, in cooperation with SVG Europe, was a hotbed of debate and discussion about the latest sports broadcasting trends, from practical uses of 5G and data to vertical mobile viewing and attracting new talent to the industry.
On 27 September, the Sky Sport Summit 2021 took place at the Dolby Cinema in central Munich. Whereas traditionally the event would have taken place at Sky Germany’s production facility in Unterföhring, Munich, COVID social distancing measures saw this year’s event moved into the large auditorium of the Dolby Cinema, as had been done in 2020.
The theatre is one of Germany’s most technologically advanced cinema complexes sporting Ultra HD projectors and immersive 360-degree Dolby Atmos sound.
As it turned out, it was a magnificently fitting location for sports TV production experts from all over Germany, who gathered here to learn about new trends in live sports production and to network in-person.
Alessandro Reitano, senior vice president of sports production at Sky Germany, hosted the event once again. Representatives of production service providers, rental houses, technology manufacturers and solution providers were invited to listen to numerous keynotes and discussions.
Around 80 participants took advantage of the full day’s event to network and exchange ideas. Individual presentations and panel discussions provided insights into innovative production methods, and a hands-on training booth outside the auditorium had guests testing out broadcasting equipment from the event’s main sponsor, Panasonic.
In the first panel discussion “What’s next Dolby?”, Dolby Germany’s Stefan Kramper discussed how Atmos immersive sound technology is being increasingly integrated into sports broadcasting events, citing the recent Euro 2020 tournament.
He also pointed out that this technology, which was also integrated into this year’s Champions League final, will be added to the Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022. Kramper also highlighted the possibilities outlined by Atmos and the Dolby XP app in enriching the audio experience of a wide array of live sports and esports events.
The next panel discussion, entitled “Bundesliga Match facts / Sky Tactical Feed”, dealt with the topic of Big Data and Smart Data.
Panelled by the Sky Experte and former FC Schalke coach Manuel Baum (pictured above, left) and Sportec Solutions managing director Hendrik Weber (pictured above, centre), questions were raised as to how data can be effectively used to enhance the viewing experience of live sports. Both agreed that data has been proven to provide added benefit to the viewing experience when successfully integrated, for example, through additional real time statistics for player performance in football matches.
The consensus, however, was that there is a need to stress the qualitative over quantitative integration of data within sports broadcasting.
“Data needs to be integrated in a contextually useful manner,” commented Weber. “We need to encourage the additional element of storytelling through data integration. The value-added chain must be clearly deduced from a clear visual language, and getting this right is going to be one of the biggest challenges for sports broadcasting in the future.”
Another event highlight was the “Transformation in Broadcasting” session (pictured, above) featuring Andreas Heyden, the CEO of Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) Digital Sports and EVP of digital innovation for the DFL Group, Riedel Communications founder Thomas Riedel and Christian Massmann, the managing director of Qvest Media.
Guests discussed several topics such as the oncoming 5G revolution, glass to glass strategies and the difficulties of finding the right talent in the industry.
While Riedel expressed scepticism about the media buzz surrounding 5G, the panel were united in their view that the broadcasting industry requires increasing adaptation in order to stay ahead of the game, especially with respect to how younger generations consume live sports.
The panel observed that the increasing prevalence of vertical as opposed to horizontal viewing on smartphones, coupled with the insatiable desire for statistics and live analysis, is shaping the way digital natives consume content.
The next presentation from Lars Quetting, Head of Media Technology Projects, at Axel Springer Liveware-IT gave the audience a glimpse into the new shared TV broadcasting facility of die Welt and BILD Live in the new Axel Springer Verlag Building in Berlin.
Together with Qvest Media, the concept of the studio was implemented in several phases leading up to go-live in 2021. The studio’s spatial distribution, which makes use of a closely connected live desk, newsroom and production area, provided an excellent example as to how workflows can be streamlined within the studio environment.
Given the fact that the demand for TV series production will constantly increase, the next talk with Amelie von Kienlin (pictured above), Amusement Park Film called “Munich Match / Tech in Fiction Production”, provided an interesting detour into the technical challenges presented by the world of fiction and film. In her exchange with Reitano regarding her latest production, Munich Match, von Kienlin noted that the decision to film in 4K was a conscious move to differentiate from the typical 8K streaming aesthetic usually ubiquitous on Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services.
While sports broadcasting differs here in its desire to utilise ultra-sharp 8K cameras, both industries are apparently united in their struggle to find appropriate talent. “The biggest issue with productions is finding the right talent,” confessed von Kienlin. “With so many productions currently underway to satisfy the surge in demand for streaming, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find the right people on set.”
After the lunch networking session, the “Fan Engagement” panel (pictured below) with Robert Niemann, chief revenue officer at Native Waves, Charly Classen, EVP of Sports for Sky Deutschland, TeraVolt founder Tobias Fröhlich, and FC Cologne’s head of corporate development and esports Philipp Liesenfeld, asked the question: how does one inspire fans through engagement?
With the demonstration of TeraVolt’s app and Native Waves’ immersive and personalised approach to content consumption, the audience was able to get a glimpse of the innovations currently being developed to draw fans into the viewing experience.
Niemann also observed that younger generations are rarely fully concentrated on the sports games they’re watching and reinforced the need for a gamified approach to engender engagement with live content. Here, he cited basketball programming by ESPN as providing potential creative cues for how to keep fans entertained outside of the actual game.
Niemann commented: “In the stadium, one is totally focused on the game at hand. At home, however, the experience is entirely different. Trying to keep the viewer entertained with additional layers of statistics, whether that’s through an app on the smartphone or perhaps additional live analysis, is essential to develop fan engagement.”
The much anticipated “Sky / Telefonica 5G Handball Journey” panel (pictured below), which featured Daniel Url, head of global product management at Vizrt, Markus von Böhlen, director of trading, devices and digital life at O2/Telefonica and Peter Frantz, CEO of Netorium/ LiveU, deconstructed the recent 5G Handball broadcast, which was the first of its kind in Europe.
The lower-tiered sports event – which was 100 per cent cloud produced – saw 12 Samsung Galaxy smartphones transmit 134Gb of data to the cloud.
“The freedom and flexibility of 5G is unprecedented,” commented Url. “As this event demonstrated, 5G is enabling the possibility of turning up to a tier 4 event with a laptop and a smartphone and broadcasting the event entirely using cloud services.”
What’s more, the panel agreed that the use of smartphones as camera devices highlighted some new dramaturgical perspectives for sports coverage. Whereas static cameras require lots of space and distance to the pitch area in order to achieve the correct angle, the agility of the smartphone coverage produced new and previously unseen angles, with the added benefit of being able to quickly pan to follow the fast-moving action.
While 5G will inevitably lead to positive changes on the creative side, the panel were, however, unanimous in their concerns about the deployment of 5G. Echoed sentiments included the necessity of guaranteeing a strong and consistent connection: crucial if 5G is to prove a viable alternative for broadcasting in high profile Tier 1 sports events.
The final session before the networking drinks was a one on one with Maurice Tollenaar (pictured below), UEFA chief of media rights and production services, regarding Euro 2020. The Euros were by all accounts a mammoth undertaking from the broadcasting perspective, with over 24,000 unilateral services booked by broadcast partners and over 3,500 hours of content produced.
Tollenar conceded that the tournament was the most challenging UEFA Euro which he worked on to date due to a number of factors. First and foremost, the fact that the event was staged across the continent and held under extremely challenging circumstances within the global COVID-19 pandemic provided extra stresses and hurdles for what would already have been a taxing production.
Tollenaar also delved deeper into some of the highlights of the tournament from a broadcasting perspective, which saw 328 million people tune into the final.
In addition to four format transmissions including UHD integration, over 52,000 clips were ordered by broadcast partners over 229 territories. Tollenar concluded that with production preparation already underway for Women’s Euro 2022, a number of new fan engagement and content strategies will be tested for the Euro 2024 tournament – albeit without 5G integration.
“In a time of significant technological development, Reitano’s closing remarks pointed towards the importance of the next generation in pushing creativity forward in the industry.
“If we’ve seen one common thread throughout each of our keynote discussions today, it has been the necessity – and the difficulty – of finding the right talent across the board: talent that is capable of harnessing the incredible recent developments in technology within the sector.”
He concluded: “For next time, let’s start to think about how we can encourage and draw young talent into our industry. Only this will safeguard the great work we’ve been doing as an industry.”
Sky Sport Summit 2021, in cooperation with SVG Europe, and sponsored by Panasonic, took place in Munich on Monday 27 September 2021.