The world of live sports production traditionally has been divided into two categories: the haves and the have-nots. The former are the conventional moneymakers — the top professional leagues, the high-profile international competitions, and so on — with well-established brands and large viewing audiences. The latter are lower-level regional and university leagues, and niche sports events.
While there absolutely are fans with a passion for these less-visible sports, it has been tricky for content producers to build a brand and an audience for competition without the benefit of an OB van equipped with up-to-date production gear. While there are enterprising individuals out there trying to make it happen for the sports they love, creating their own MacGyver-style mobile production systems because they don’t have the six-figure budget that a broadcast-grade OB van requires, it’s a steep challenge.
Perhaps they successfully create the go-to channel for a specific sport and eventually work toward investment in a mobile production unit. But in doing so they must overcome significant obstacles and limitations. For someone looking to develop a global audience for a niche sport played worldwide, it requires shipping precious gear all over the world, sourcing talent in different countries, and spending years just trying to build up stock and capacity. Each time that content producer chooses to make a jump up in production quality and raise the bar for their live streams, they need to make a significant new investment across all their gear. For every two steps forward, they take one step back.
Access to broadcast-quality tools in a cloud-native production environment changes all that. It removes barriers to building niche sports or smaller-market leagues into recognisable and increasingly popular and profitable entities.
In the cloud, independent content producers have access to a complete toolset that they simply can’t buy outright. Today’s cloud-based production solutions give them the same tools and graphics horsepower on which the major players have built their brands, switching, CG-quality graphics, and even telestrated replay and audio mixing — the works. Everything the big networks use to engage audiences with a sports event is now at the fingertips of a content producer motivated to bring their sport to a broader audience.
Production in the cloud isn’t free, but it’s economical in a way that allows dedicated content producers — a group of massively dedicated family and friends or enterprising player-fans of the sport — to quickly start building a brand and a following. It’s an investment in a few PTZ cameras, an encoder, and maybe $50 an hour in subscription fees. Gone are the time, budget, and functional constraints that come with being tethered to physical production gear.
And because the long, painful process of working toward an OB van is no longer a prerequisite to creating live content that looks great, content producers can immediately begin to offer engaging sports coverage and stories that capture the attention of fans. They can build off high production value and growing viewer interest to bring sponsorship opportunities into the live production. These factors work with each other to bring the fan base together and build new audiences — a viewing community with a shared interest in the sport and its athletes.
Depending on the complexity of the show, a solo operator could produce it alone or work with other contributors, who can log into the same production instance from anywhere and fulfill different roles as needed. Because functionality is built into a web browser rather than siloed by physical systems, production team members can take on new and expanded roles. The same talent doing commentary at halftime or after the match might be grabbing highlights or doing telestration during live play.
While cloud-based live production is a huge win for the “little guy” because it bridges a gap in access to resources, in fact it’s an opportunity for all players, small and large. Larger broadcasters can use the same cloud environment and tools to test out new channels and markets, maintaining the network look and feel without shifting resources away from the traditional moneymakers.
Reducing costs, simplifying logistics, facilitating remote collaboration, and providing web-based access to top-tier production tools, the cloud-native live production environment is empowering content producers of all sizes to develop vibrant new sports platforms, brands, viewing audiences, and sponsor communities.