5G will improve the user experience for sports fans

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Eric Black

5G was a hot topic at this year’s IBC with NBC saying that it is excited by the potential it has to offer sports fans a better user experience over mobile.

NBC Sports Group Digital CTO Eric Black (pictured) said: “For us the driver is quality – it’s about how do we push high-quality video to mobile devices faster. We think that 5G will drive higher engagement with our mobile users. We are incredibly excited about it.”

Speaking at an IBC Conference session on ‘What will 5G mean for Media?’, Black said that one of the problems with mobile technology such as 4G is that users don’t quite know what experience they are going to get. “You can be sitting on a train commuting and the video quality is variable. If a video buffers in the middle of a football game you might tune out.”

Black placed 5G alongside innovations such as Ultra HD, HDR and VR for sport in terms of its significance.

“It’s all about making our content more immersive. What we have seen is that the higher the quality of the video we push to users the more engaged they are.”

NBC last year distributed 15,000 events from NFL football to the Olympics – with 20,000 events lined up for this year. “We have seen a massive growth in IP video distribution so for us 5G mobile is a fantastic use case.”

The benefit of 5G for video is that the technology promises low latency, much higher and more reliable connectivity and the ability to handle higher quality content.

Black added: “NBC has rights to a tremendous amount of sports content. What continues to amaze me is that when we did the London Olympics we covered every event. But at Sochi in 2014 and Rio last year we found that we continued to push the boundaries covering more than everything, offering alternative angles and going beyond.”

Telstra director of media networks Gary Traver and Qualcomm SVP engineering Ed Tiedemann agreed that the first 5G services will be available in 2019.

Independent analyst Ben Keen said that the arrival of 5G services could result in more market disruption in media.

“I can imagine a player such as Amazon coming in with the offer of 5G as part of an enhanced Prime subscription, which could open the door to interesting new business models,” said Keen. 

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