FEED Issue 26 Web

Exploring the future of media technology




On your marks… get set… Welcome to our annual sports special. Our interconnected digital mediaverse has turned the watching of sports from something that we did with the family once a week in front of the telly (yes, this is really what it was like in those days) to a 24/7 personalised wormhole that we can disappear down whenever we like.

EDITORIAL EDITOR Neal Romanek +44 (0) 1223 492246 nealromanek@bright-publishing.com

STAFF WRITER Chelsea Fearnley

In the rapidly expanding world of esports and online gaming, the world of players and fans has comingled to create a new kind of sports experience altogether, one which is both intensely private and online, and yet also brings people together into stadiums in bigger numbers than just about any other sport. In this issue we cover the preparations for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo – hoping against hope that they go off without a hitch – and how new cloud and delivery technologies are bringing thousands of hours of events directly to fans. And we discuss how online football destination COPA90 is promoting women’s football in new ways. We look at esports too, of course, including how a venue in Berlin is bringing in fans and how esports productions deal with the complex challenges of achieving quality audio. …go!



SUB EDITORS Elisha Young & Felicity Evans

CONTRIBUTORS Ann-Marie Corvin David Davies

DIGITAL HEAD OF DIGITAL CONTENT Daisy Dickinson ADVERTISING ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Matt Snow +44 (0) 1223 499453 mattsnow@bright-publishing.com



DESIGNERS Man-Wai Wong Lucy Woolcomb Emma Di’Iuorio Bruce Richardson PUBLISHING MANAGING DIRECTORS Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck


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NEWSFEED Dispatches from the world of online video

40 44 46 50

TECHFEED Cloud production is ready for prime time

HAPPENING London’s Soho Media Club offers down-to-earth discussion about real industry issues START-UP ALLEY We look at a company pioneering LED backdrops as an alternative to VFX BRAINFEED Fill out our crossword and win an exclusive FEED T-shirt!


SPORTS FOCUS 10 YOUR TAKE New tech is paving the way for a boom in niche sports content

16 TOKYO READY Olympic Broadcasting Services gets ready for the world’s biggest sports show

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20 GENIUS INTERVIEW COPA90’s Bex Smith on getting women’s football on an equal footing with the men’s

28 ESPORTS We visit an esports venue using new tech to bring in new audiences

32 ESPORTS AUDIO Audio in esports is incredibly complex. We listen to some of the experts.

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6 NEWSFEED Updates & Upgrades



Google is to take advantage of Brexit by moving the data and user accounts of its British users from the EU to the US, placing them outside the strong privacy protections offered by European regulators. Ireland, where Google and other US tech companies have their European headquarters, is staying in the EU. But it is understood that Google has decided to move its British users out of Irish jurisdiction because it is unclear whether Britain will follow UK GDPR or adopt other rules that could affect handling of user data. It’s suggested that if British Google users have their data kept in Ireland, it would be more difficult for British authorities to recover it in criminal investigations. Whereas the recent Cloud Act in the US is expected

to make it easier for British authorities to obtain data from US companies. But the US has among the weakest privacy protections of any major economy, with no broad law despite years of advocacy by consumer protection groups. Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, warned, “moving people’s personal information to the US makes it easier for mass surveillance programmes to access it. There is nearly no privacy protection for non-US citizens. “The UK must commit to EU data protection standards or we are likely to see our rights being swiftly undermined by ‘anything goes’ US privacy practices.” While the British government has promised to form equivalent data

protections to GDPR, it is unclear what UK data protection will look like when it does finally leave the bloc, especially if it becomes part of a broader trade deal with the US. Lea Kissner, Google’s former lead for privacy technology, said she would have been surprised if the company had kept British accounts controlled in an EU country with the UK no longer a member. “There’s a bunch of noise about the UK government possibly trading away enough data protection to lose adequacy under GDPR, at which point having them in Google Ireland’s scope sounds messy,” Kissner said. “Never discount the desire of tech companies not to be caught in between two different governments.”

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7 NEWSFEED Updates & Upgrades

NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR GRASS VALLEY Grass Valley has been acquired by a private equity firm called Black Dragon, which focuses on technology investment opportunities in disrupted industries. It follows last October’s decision by Belden to let go of the company following a strategic portfolio review that also put forward a cost reduction programme that’s expected to result in $40 million a year savings. The deal will see the transfer of all Grass Valley assets to Black Dragon, led by former Avid CEO Louis Hernandez, with aims to accelerate the company into a software-based technology leader. “Grass Valley has led the market in the transition from SDI to IP and has been diligently pivoting our product lines to cloud-based and SaaS solutions,” said Tim Shoulder, Grass Valley’s president. “Black Dragon brings the expertise and vision that will allow us to accelerate this transition to the benefit of our customers who are looking for more robust and flexible models for content production and delivery.” Hernandez asserted that Black Dragon is in it for the long term and looks to bring stability to Grass Valley, which has seen three owners in the past decade. “Everybody loves media tech until they dig deep into what is actually happening. It’s an expanding market, but it’s in the middle of a very disruptive economic transition – and I think most investors get spooked or don’t know how to navigate it,” Hernandez told SVG Europe. “That’s why our background and decades of experience in the industry are so significant. We live and work here, so we’re used to it, and these kinds of transitions don’t spook us. We’re not afraid to invest in our community.”

Netflix is rolling out top ten lists of its most popular streaming content to its users across the globe. The lists will show the overall top ten titles in a subscriber’s country, as well as the top ten most popular series and films when the ‘TV shows’ or ‘Movies’ tabs are selected respectively. The criteria for a TV show or movie landing in the top ten, however, is NETFLIX TOP 10

something of a mystery. The streamer already has dedicated rows for categories like ‘Popular on Netflix’ and ‘Trending Now’, but what determines these descriptors can’t exactly be verified by third-party data. According to Variety , A Netflix rep confirmed the top ten daily rankings are being compiled based on its new viewership-tracking methodology – tallying the number of user accounts that watched a given title for at least two minutes over the previous 24 hours. The idea is that a two-minute window removes the discrimination against longer titles. Previously, Netflix counted viewers of a title if they watched at least 70% of a movie or TV show episode to completion. Assuming Netflix aren’t making up these viewership numbers, the daily top ten lists could more accurately reflect which titles are garnering more attention and work as a solution to our ‘too much to watch’ age.


Australia’s privacy watchdog is suing Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Australian information commissioner (OAIC), Angelene Falk, alleged Facebook exposed the data of 311,127 Australians between March 2014 and May 2015 through the This Is Your Digital app, a quiz that harvested the data of 87 million users worldwide. The app was able to collect so many users’ profiles because Facebook’s policies for developers using its Graph API at the time allowed apps to gather data from not only users, but all of their friends. The data was then sold on to Cambridge Analytica for political profiling, which helped inform Donald Trump’s election team and the Leave campaign in the UK Brexit referendum. “We consider the design of the Facebook platform meant that users were unable to exercise reasonable choice and control about how their personal information was disclosed,” said Falk. “Facebook’s default settings facilitated the disclosure of personal information, including sensitive information, at the expense of privacy.”

The suit seeks a maximum penalty of $1.7 million per person, meaning Facebook faces a $5.2 billion fine if the court awarded the maximum civil penalty for each person affected. In a statement, a Facebook spokeswoman said the company had been engaging with the OAIC on this matter for two years. “We’ve made major changes to our platforms, in consultations with international regulators, to restrict information available to app developers, implement new governance protocols and build industry- leading controls to help people protect and manage their data.” She continued, “we’re unable to comment further as this is now before the federal court.”

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8 NEWSFEED Updates & Upgrades


Rise, the UK advocate group for gender diversity in the broadcast technology sector, is launching in North America and APAC. Serena Harris, who has over two decades of experience in the M&E industry and worked with Avid and Marquis, will be running Rise North America. “What Rise is doing for women in the industry is extraordinary and I want to open those same opportunities to women here,” she said. “I am very much looking forward to building on the momentum of Rise’s success to help

Rise APAC. Diaz Curiel, who is based in Singapore and has over ten years of experience in the broadcast industry, will also be launching a Rise mentoring scheme in the region. “I am a strong believer in gender equality and an active participant in several mentoring initiatives in the APAC region to highlight and drive the success of the women in our industry.” In addition to the global expansion of Rise, it has also appointed four new board members as it seeks to increase its important work throughout the M&E sector. will “keep the EU at the forefront of the data-agile economy, while respecting and promoting the values that are the foundation of European societies.” Based on the existing EU frameworks on personal data protection, open data, consumer protection and competition rules, the strategy seeks to foster a legislative data approach that will contribute to “realising its potential in the data economy,” covering data governance, access and reuse. Discussions on how to govern platforms and their role in propagating hateful or harmful content have increased in Europe over recent years. The report states, “some platforms have acquired significant scale, which effectively allows them to act as private gatekeepers to markets, customers and information. We must ensure that the systemic role of certain online platforms and the market power they acquire will not put in danger the fairness and openness of our markets.” Finally, according to the Commission, “digital technologies are a critical enabler for the Green Deal, the EU’s new growth strategy, to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050.” It also states that digital can advance the circular economy, support the decarbonisation of all sectors and reduce the environmental and social footprint of products placed on the EU market. It’s worth noting that this inclusion of environmental sustainability in its plans sets a good precedent for digital policy discussions worldwide.

even more women realise their potential and growth within our industry.” Nancy Diaz Curiel will be running


The European Commission has launched a blizzard of proposals and policy papers under the general umbrella of ‘shaping Europe’s digital future’. Over the next five years, the Commission will focus on three key agendas: technology that works for people; a fair and competitive economy; and an open, democratic and sustainable society. We’ve highlighted some of the interesting areas covered in these agendas below. The commission defines connectivity as the “building block of digital transformation” and its report focuses on the need to invest in infrastructure and to scale interoperability with 5G and future 6G networks for digital growth. On cybersecurity, the Commission points out that digital transformation has to start from EU citizens and businesses trusting that their applications are secure, and announces plans to develop cybersecurity for the bloc in the future. In this respect, it has also released a separate white paper on its deployment of AI, covering safety, liability, fundamental rights and data. The white paper proposes a “balanced approach, based on excellence and trust” and addresses the benefits of

AI as well as the risks associated with the lack of transparency, gender-based and other kinds of discrimination, as well as the intrusion of privacy. It states that future regulation will focus on the so-called “high-risk” AI systems, which are AI that interferes with human rights, such as biometric identification and other surveillance technologies. These systems have to be tested and certified before they reach the EU single market and their use should be “duly justified, proportionate and subject to adequate safeguards.” On data, the Commission has developed a data strategy for the next five years which includes measures that

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10 YOUR TAKE Niche Sports

New delivery technologies and production tools are preparing the way for a rise in niche sports content NEW SPORTS FOR NEW AUDIENCES

‘The long tail’ was a term coined in a 2004 article and subsequent book by Chris Anderson on digital commerce. The term referred to the idea that, over time, selling low volumes of a broad range of niche items is just as profitable as selling high volumes of a limited selection of popular ‘hits’. Anderson explained: “The act of vastly increasing choice seemed to unlock demand for that choice.” Certain niche sports, therefore, may have the potential to surpass industry expectations and develop much larger audiences, simply by being more widely available to watch, in much the same way as the proliferation of entertainment choice from streaming services such as Netflix, has shifted audience’s taste in new directions. Consumers are less and less defined by location, and more by shared interests. Screen viewing represents the closest most fans will actually get to their favourite team. Historically, potential fan bases for niche entertainment were disconnected, and it proved challenging to bring them together into an engaged following. Now, broadcasters can target specific audiences directly with cost-effective delivery, and that provides the catalyst for niche offerings. Although rugby has a long-standing history in other parts of the world, in the US, it has gone from a little-known niche sport, to being firmly on the national radar in a short space of time, growing 82.4% in popularity between 2011 and 2016. Transferring the success of a sport from viewers in one geographical location to another is becoming much easier with live IP delivery. In the UK, Televideo has delivered OB and production facilities for the Elite Ice Hockey League. Providing affiliates with cost-effective access to

CHRIS CLARKE The CEO of Cerberus Tech, on how diversifying content can be key to building a wider audience

n all areas of media and entertainment, diversity of content is a key focus for 2020. Until recently, the cost and logistics of production

meant only a handful of key sports events could be televised. In March 1991, the month before Sky Sports launched, there were just 27 hours of sports available on TV. Today, you’re guaranteed multiple sports channels running 24/7 and the variety of sports on TV is starting to catch up with the sheer volume available. When there was only a handful of content outlets, content choices were dictated by gatekeepers and the cost of entry was extremely high. Now that global distribution is within reach for lower-tiered sports content, the playing field is widening to encompass a broader range of viewing.

COMPUTER SPORT OTT means broadcasters need to offer their audiences more variety, not just mainstream sports

taking advantage of cloud-based workflows, broadcasters can function without on-premises set-up. distribution has become a realistic alternative to dedicated satellite or fibre links. By implementing IP distribution, content creators can sidestep the costs associated with traditional broadcasting, without compromising on quality.

3. Finally, live contribution and

There are three key technical factors that have been driving this expanding offering:

1. First, high-quality production is much more accessible. Smaller

production companies are now able to afford sophisticated cameras that were previously only available to larger companies, which had budgets to match. developed, managed and distributed. Creating video content used to mean operating from an established site, with its own complicated hardware infrastructure. Now, by

DIVERSIFYING OPTIONS The current framework for sports

broadcasting is built on a limited set of options. By expanding the choice for consumers, we could start to see new patterns in viewer preferences. As OTT continues to alter the way media is consumed, broadcasters need to offer their audiences more variety, measure their responses and respond accordingly.

2. Second, operating in the cloud has changed the way content is

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11 YOUR TAKE Niche Sports

z z Prioritise quality: while flexible infrastructure is important for the smaller players to stay agile, retaining quality is a vital

live feeds. This has huge potential for growth, as ice hockey is now the third most popular winter sport in the UK, behind football and rugby. BUILDING AN AUDIENCE With restrictions of cost and infrastructure disappearing, broadcasters are now able to remove other barriers to entry by broadening audience demographics. Exposing fans to sports at a young age is one of the key drivers for securing their ongoing engagement. Grassroots initiatives are proving popular with many Tier 1 sports rights holders, utilising IP feeds for minor league and regional tournaments. This exposure will secure the broadcast future of more established grassroots sports by opening up potential sponsorship opportunities, as well as showcasing the path from amateur to professional for a new generation of viewers. The broadcasting of women’s sports is another area where barriers must fall. Last year, research from consumer insights consultancy, Netfluential, found that there was a growing demand for women’s sport. It concluded that, in the majority of cases, the need wasn’t being met by the mainstream broadcasters. The huge growth of women’s football in recent years is just one key indicator of the appetite for more women’s sports content, with 993.5 million watching the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2019 on TV

THE ACT OF VASTLY INCREASING CHOICE SEEMED TO UNLOCK DEMAND FOR THAT CHOICE and 481.5 million accessing coverage via digital platforms. As wide video coverage of niche sports becomes more attainable, what are the key takeaways for broadcasters looking for new opportunities?

component of delivery. Advances in IP distribution mean it can provide low-latency, live video content without compromising on quality, which ensures content providers are meeting the expectations of affiliates and consumers. potential niche viewers have felt disconnected. While they may be the only member of the audience in their home town, globally they are part of a network of like-minded fans. Utilising AI to customise their experience will help keep them engaged, as well as implementing AR to expand their understanding of the broader context of the game. Both features will ensure they feel immersed in the community surrounding the sport.

z z Connect with fans: historically,

z z Rethink distribution: using

cloud-based distribution protocols, such as RIST, means it’s entirely

We now have the tools to deliver responsive, high-quality feeds over IP, surpassing legacy broadcasting technology. The new influx of sporting contenders offers a huge increase in viewing choice, with broadcasters building networks of passionate fans. Who knows what the new mainstream will look like in a few years’ time? Here’s to a future of diversity.

possible to sidestep pricey satellite links. This provides

content creators with the option of delivering video feeds directly to broadcasters. This ensures maximum coverage opportunities for niche sports, while keeping distribution cost-effective.

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n late 2019, Streaming Media and Unisphere Research, sponsored by AWS and assisted by Help Me Stream Research Foundation, hosted a survey of companies using streaming video. Responses were collated from 515 participants at companies streaming for myriad purposes including advertising, education, pay TV, OTT services and sports. The results made it clear most companies and organisations aren’t exclusively executing either live or on-demand workflows – respondents indicated a consistent mix of live and VOD – and that cloud is very much a part of their strategy going forward.

• RANKING OF LIVE EVENTS SUB CATEGORIES Respondents gave a breakdown of the types of live events they were streaming.

• RANKING OF VOD SUB CATEGORIES Respondents also reported the types of VOD content they were streaming.


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To read the full report, visit bit.ly/ StateofStreaming




• PERCENTAGE OF EACH MARKET VERTICAL FOR YOUR OVERALL STEAMING BUSINESS Respondents identified which market verticals their streaming business served.



• PREDICTED USE OF CLOUD-BASED SERVICES OVER THE NEXT 24 MONTHS The respondents were also asked to predict whether they would be using cloud services in the next two years.








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AWS and partners showcased a real-time filmmaking workflow at the HPA Tech Retreat’s Supersession

he Supersession is a tradition at the annual Hollywood

to filmmakers, allowing operations that formerly took days, weeks and months of post-production effort to be done in near- real time. CALLING IN THE INDUSTRY PROS To achieve this speedy turnaround, JZ reached out to AWS for its cloud storage services, but the role grew to support a number of chosen partner technologies running on AWS to act as the central hub for all post-production service activity. “JZ approached us with the idea of producing a movie in real time – and I’m game for crazy ideas,” laughs Jack Wenzinger, Global M&E Partners SA at AWS. “I agreed, thinking we were going to do a couple of minutes of footage. But that went straight out of the window when JZ recruited professional filmmakers.” Although some of the film’s scenes were recorded earlier, a large portion of the action was captured on the day, with Steve Shaw, ASC, directing, DOP Roy Wagner, ASC, lending his cinematography skills, and Sam Nicholson from Stargate Studios. “By the time they had finished shooting a scene, it was already up in the AWS cloud for creatives anywhere on the planet with an internet connection to work on,” explains Wenzinger. It was shot on the Sony Venice, Arri Alexa, Red Monstro, Panavision DXL, Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with lenses from Zeiss, Sigma and Panavision, HDR monitoring care of Canon, wireless via Teradek and lighting from Rosco, Kino Flo and Dedolight.

Professional Association (HPA) Tech Retreat, where a full day of presentations are grouped around a single unifying technology theme. This year’s very novel Supersession was dreamed up by Joachim ‘JZ’ Zell, vice-president of technologies at EFILM. He’s also vice-chair of the motion picture academy’s ACES project and organiser of the Hollywood Beer Alliance (HBA), a regularly scheduled, but less formal get together where filmmaking professionals meet for drinking and socialising. Wearing his many hats, JZ decided to produce a short film, with much of it captured, assembled and premiered all in the same day for the presentation. The Lost Lederhosen follows the story of Helga and Hans, JZ’s German beer buddies, as they make their way to LA to meet their friend before heading to the HPA. It was designed to demonstrate how standards like ACES and OpenEXR, as well as cloud-amplified technologies can enable a rich set of creative services for


BIG COLLABORATION Post-production brought several

BEER BUDDIES The Lost Lederhosen showcased the technologies available to filmmakers, with AWS the hub for post-production

companies into the collaborative effort, including Dell, Blackmagic’s Resolve, BeBop Technology, Pixelworks, PixSpan, Frame.io, Ownzones, Colorfront, Filmlight, Skywalker Sound, Ownzones, Red Bee,

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BorisFX, Pomfort, Sohonet, Graymeta and The Foundry’s Nuke. “Realising how many technology partners were needed to make this project work was one of our biggest challenges,” explains Wenzinger. “We had a few drop out at the last minute, because they didn’t have enough bandwidth to support it. JZ was very reactive, though. He would immediately call me up and say, add this partner, or these three partners to access multiple terabytes of content that will enable creatives to do their conform work or their graphics or promos work.” He adds: I come from a media asset management space, so understanding what production creatives required was new to me. I relied on AWS expertise.” The short incorporated all elements of a real Hollywood production, including delivery of dailies, editing, colour grading, conform and an outtakes reel. This was performed live at the Supersession and achieved in support of AWS partners Frame.io and Colorfront, which helped connect every participant and every company to its framework. “Because of our partnerships, integrating all these technology partners into the cloud was easy,” Wenzinger notes.

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE The Lost Lederhosen follows the story of Helga and Hans as they make their way to Los Angeles to meet their friends

SUCCESSES AND FEEDBACK The film’s primary goal was to educate industry pros about working in the cloud, as it’s going to be increasingly employed going forward. And while it may not be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, it proved the value of a “AWS content lake architecture”, where the content resides in one central location and numerous collaborators can access it at any time, with any number of applications. “The feedback we got back from creatives was positive,” Wenzinger enthuses. “A conform artist had his first experience with the cloud on this project and he was amazed by how fast the Nuke UI was. He said it was a lot faster than his on-premises implementations of the software, and that’s simply because he

was accessing the AWS Local Zone in LA using GPU capabilities.” He adds: “It piqued everybody’s interest as they realised they didn’t have to wait a day to review shots. To prove this, the gentleman from Frame.io was able to take shots and create a rough-cut sequence just from using Final Cut and then showed it to the director, who realised he had missed a shot. It’s immediate feedback you wouldn’t get on a typical production.” The challenges for creatives, however, are more cultural. Getting people

comfortable with a new way of working is always difficult, but AWS is reviewing the experience for future use.

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16 SPORTS FOCUS The Olympic Games

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17 SPORTS FOCUS The Olympic Games

GOING FOR GOLD The OBS is providing coverage for every live event, not only in UHD 4K, but also in HDR

The broadcast of the Olympics is itself an Olympian feat – and one that gets more complex and impressive with each passing Games

t the time of writing, major sporting events are being cancelled in response to the Covid-19 crisis. With the

Olympics still four months away and the situation constantly changing, it’s still not clear what fate awaits the world’s biggest celebration of sports. But whatever time, place and form the competition takes, Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) has been developing and preparing one of the most formidable operations in sports TV. OBS is the official host broadcaster of all Olympic Games and is responsible for covering and distributing all the action. It delivers signals to all rights-holding broadcasters – like NBC in the US and the BBC in the UK – throughout the world. “It would be financially and logistically impossible for these rights-holders to independently do their own coverage of all the games,” says Sotiris Salamouris, OBS chief technology officer. “So they rely on us to fully cover every sport in the most skilled manner and then deliver the signals. When

you watch the Games, maybe 80% of what you see is what we produce here at OBS.” OBS also provides the facilities that enable rights-holding broadcasters to do their own coverage on-site. The International Broadcast Centre is a massive building, containing broadcast, operations and editing facilities, which allows broadcasters from around the world to parachute into a foreign location, leaving months – or years – of necessary preparation to be sorted out by OBS. Generally, as one Summer Olympic Games

concludes, OBS is beginning its planning for the next one in four years’ time. “Establishing a presence at the Olympics is very difficult to do without some kind of support,” explains Salamouris. Right now over 100 employees, mostly from Japan, are working to put the finishing physical and digital touches on the International Broadcast Centre. The plan – again, at the time of writing – is for the Japanese broadcast teams and the big crew from NBC to start moving into the International Broadcast Centre in May,


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18 SPORTS FOCUS The Olympic Games

then the other global broadcasters, around 200 of them, will start taking up residence in studios and technical spaces in June. The Olympics runs on four-year cycles, of course, and everyone looks forward to new innovative coverage in each iteration of the Games. What will we see now – which perspectives, what storytelling, what bells and whistles – that we didn’t see last time? OBS has to walk a tightrope between bringing in the newest and best technology and ensuring there are no tech surprises and that everything works flawlessly the first time round. “The technology has to be mature and reliable and stable. But, of course, there is an expectation for something new, the ‘wow’ factor. The Olympics are always one of these events where we expect to see new things. This is our continuous challenge,” explains Salamouris. 8500 HOURS LIVE This year, OBS is providing coverage of every single event live – not only in UHD 4K, but in HDR as well. The Winter Games in Pyeongchang offered substantial 4K coverage, but delivering wall-to-wall live


UHD HDR for every event is quite a leap forward. Most broadcasters will just need the HD feed this time around, but the groundwork will have been laid for the next Games. 8K has made an appearance at the Olympic Games since London 2012, but this Olympics, with the help of Japanese public broadcaster NHK, will feature a comprehensive 8K broadcast to Japan’s new 8K-only TV channel, NHK BS8K. Other broadcasters will be doing trials with the 8K feeds – though it might be another Olympics or two before we’re looking at any kind of global 8K distribution. OBS will also be experimenting with high frame rate 8K content.

“The technology we use is driven by the kind of content we want to produce. And this is driven by what our clients – the rights-holding broadcasters – expect. We are essentially a B2B organisation providing services to other professional partners that are often sophisticated media organisations,” says Salamouris. Hunger for that content has grown and grown, and OTT and on-demand technologies now make every single moment of the Olympics action accessible. Twenty years ago, at the Sydney Summer Olympics, OBS produced roughly 850 hours of content. At the Tokyo Games, it is preparing to produce 8500 hours of content – all of it live. It is also post-

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19 SPORTS FOCUS The Olympic Games

producing supplementary content for delivery across multiple channels, including social media. As Salamouris points out: “These organisations now have many, many ways of delivering this content. They have traditional linear TV, but also a huge amount of digital – live, VOD, highlights, and delivered on smart phones, smart TVs and so on.” Not surprisingly, OBS is pushing out into newer technologies, too. It is doing VR coverage for some of the sports – both live and post-produced, in partnership with IOC technology partner, Intel. This VR content is downloadable through a VR app made available to the broadcasters. Immersive audio is also supported for certain broadcasters. OBS is also experimenting with volumetric capture for some events, which will allow viewing a sport via virtual camera that can be positioned anywhere in the arena – a true ‘bullet time’ look at Olympic competition. CONTENT PLUS Broadcasters are also being supplied with improved ways to access all that content. Content Plus is a tool that allows broadcasters to get hold of OBS content via the cloud anywhere they are in the world. In addition to the live events, other produced content is also available on Content Plus. These include a MCF – multi-clip feed – which is a parallel stream generated while the competition is on and contains additional content not directly related to the event. This could be footage of back-of-house preparations or warm-ups that can be distributed in parallel. Content Plus also allows users to clip footage and post it directly to social media from within the application. broadcasters to find what they want in the endless sea of content produced during the games. “For years, we have been predominantly doing this metadata tagging manually while it is being produced live,” says Salamouris. “But we have been doing a pilot for these games, called AMD (automatic metadata discovery), that allows automatic metadata tagging using AI. This is especially useful not so much in our live content, but in the huge amount of rushes we have, the recordings from the coverage of the events. The amount of footage we have from these is many times more than the 8500 hours I mentioned earlier.” Cloud will be employed widely in the production of this Olympics. Chinese e-commerce and cloud company, Alibaba, OBS content is tagged with an abundance of metadata to allow

IN IT TO WIN IT OBS is preparing to produce 8500 hours of live content for the Olympics, along with content for social media

is the official cloud partner of the games. “We are already hybrid in many of our systems – a lot of the systems that we use are essentially virtualised hardware in our own, if you like, on-premises cloud. But more and more we rely on public cloud.” OBS Cloud is a ring-fenced subset of Alibaba cloud services, which OBS connects directly to the International Broadcast Centre and, using fast, dedicated links, connects to several other points of presence around the world. “It allows us to send our content to these locations in a very fast and efficient manner,” says Salamouris. OLYMPIC VIDEO PLAYER Olympic Broadcast Services has embraced VOD and OTT content by rolling out what it calls OVP – not ‘online video platform’, but ‘Olympic Video Player’. The Olympic Video Player is a modular, white-label platform that allows rights-holders to easily set up a digital, online video service for the Games. The system is modular and can be skinned to integrate with a broadcaster’s own brand. The OVP offers access to the more than 40 concurrent live feeds produced at the Games, as well as extra VOD content, including highlights, interviews and features. “An app can be downloaded and, although we’re doing everything on

the back end, it will act as if it’s the broadcaster’s own app.” For those rights-holders who have already developed their online offerings entirely in-house, OBS can offer modules and widgets of the various streams and data, which can be integrated ad hoc into their own platforms. “They can integrate the content into their own platforms without having to get into this very complex process by themselves. Starting from scratch would be very complex and very expensive,” adds Salamouris. OBS also offers raw data to broadcasters via two sources – the Olympic Data Feed (ODF) and the Broadcast Data Feed (BDF). These are rich XML-type data feeds that provide access to all the sports-related data for the games, including scheduling information, live and final results, and even athlete bios. The ODF is also used to produce the widgets for the OVP platform. There is also data made available about athlete performance, speed, location and height (which differ sport by sport) that are not available in the ODF, but are used to enrich content and storytelling. The Olympic Games are an amazing spectacle, enacted by seasoned talents working at the top of their game – and Olympic Broadcast Services is very much a part of that. We look forward to seeing its performance this summer.

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After a long career in football, including captaining the New Zealand national team, Rebecca “Bex” Smith is now working to bring Women’s Football to the world at online football destination COPA90

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FEED: How did you get from being on the football pitch to working on bringing the game to the wider world? BEX SMITH: I was born in LA to Kiwi parents from Christchurch. We grew up in both countries and then I went to college on the east coast at Duke. When I was playing soccer in college, I got picked up by the New Zealand national team for World qualifiers in 2003. I had never really wanted to be a professional footballer, but I enjoyed that opportunity. They made me captain of the team in my debut match, which was crazy. I was going to quit soccer, but Australia left the Oceania Football Confederation, which meant New Zealand had a direct qualification into the World Cup and Olympics, so I thought, I'm technically captain of a national team that could go and play in a World Cup and maybe even the Olympics, and it felt really crazy not to try it. I played in Frankfurt at FFC Frankfurt, which was at the time the best team in Europe. I didn’t know that at the time, because there were no agents or anything like that for women players. I was on the internet Googling anything I could find, sending out emails and asking for a try-out. From there, I went to Sweden, then played in Newcastle and Australia and then went back to Germany. Then I had to retire because my knee was really bad. I couldn't

and brand name – I mean, who has a bigger brand name than FIFA? – I think that they could do so much more. By the end I saw way too much politics and other things that I couldn’t put my name to. I’m just not a politician. Having said that, it is still the biggest moment in women’s football and last summer was incredible. There are still really good parts of it. I wish that they would double down on those great parts of the women’s game. I hope that they do the right thing and actually put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the women’s game. FEED: What have been some of the barriers in building up women’s football? BEX SMITH: One of the biggest barriers in terms of growth and investment was a lack of it being a great brand. The story of the players wasn’t out there. All of the storytelling and the messaging around women's football was, you should get involved because it’s good for girls and gender equality and so on. Which is a great thing; but the game is also about incredible athletes with phenomenal stories. And the sport itself is worth watching – tough quality, good pace, good technique and tactics. The product was good and the players are incredible. But there was a need to get the right storytelling.

play any more, even run any more to be fair. So when I was looking at what to do next, I got approached by FIFA to come and run their women’s tournaments. INTERNALLY YOU NEED THE COMPANY TO UNDERSTAND AND REALLY LIVE BY THAT CULTURE BEX SMITH: I was at FIFA for four and a half years, organising the women′s football – the Under 17, under 20 and Women’s World Cup. In the last year I was there I did more strategic planning. What kind of competitions do we need? What does an international match calendar look like? And how do we use the tools at FIFA to grow the women’s game globally? But I got tired of governance and politics and wanted to try something new. FIFA didn’t have the same values as I did. I think there it was a lot more to do with politics and power and money. With the resources FEED: What was it like at FIFA?

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My sister is a cinematographer-director in LA. She started a production company and we started doing projects with some top female footballers about a year and a half ahead of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Working with players like Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, we looked at doing a proper series with some cool storytelling. That’s how I met Tom Thirlwall, the CEO at COPA90. I got introduced through Abby Wambach. Tom had brought Abby on in an advisory role to help COPA90 get more into women’s football. It had always been a digital-first football media company, telling stories and celebrating football culture from a very fan-centric point of view. It didn’t have any rights, but it started a football channel that focused on the fans and their stories. BEX SMITH: COPA90 is very celebratory. It’s very much about diversity and inclusion. It’s about how football can bring communities together rather than the normal rhetoric around Manchester City versus Manchester United and blue versus red. That’s conflict. COPA90 took a view a totally different view. It was more about how fans have similarities. And that’s what I really loved. I loved the values that the company had. About a year and half ago, they brought me in and said, “We need you to integrate the women’s game into what we do. Whatever resources you need, we’ll help you.” So I started working with the strategy team to try to figure out: What’s our proposition? What’s our tone of voice? How do we see the women’s game? And we came up with a cool strategy for how to rebrand women’s football. FEED: What specific steps is COPA90 taking to rebrand the game? BEX SMITH: We had to look internally and see how we, as a company, buy into that strategy. It’s all well and good that we’re putting it out on our platforms, but internally you need the company to understand and really live by that culture. I started sitting with the different parts of the business, asking how we ensure that operationally or systemically we include women’s football. What are the KPIs that are relevant, but are also not jarring? We had a 91% male, very young fan base when I started – we don’t want to suddenly say everything has to be 50% women’s football. FEED: What did you like about COPA90?


We knew we had an opportunity during the World Cup to make an impact and plant our flag, so we set up clubhouses. We had a physical space in Paris, near the Pompidou, that had different activations for the entire month, and the last week we moved it to Lyon where all the matches were. We had an art exhibition. We did a photography exhibition with Goal Click, which is a project that sends disposable cameras to players so they can document their own stories. We had a fashion show. We also had a music night with an awesome DJ named Krystal Roxx who has her own company, Superfoxx, which promotes other female DJs. We had three of the biggest players – Abby Wambach, Ada Hegerberg and Nadia Nadim – and did three big content pieces on them.

We also screened all the matches, so people who come to the clubhouse could watch every single match of the World Cup. We also worked with FIFA, we did their daily women’s football show. So there was this all-the-time buzz. We wanted to create a hub where you don’t have to watch the matches or like women’s football or say you’re a fan. Just come hang out. We wanted to offer as many excuses as possible to try to get as many sorts of fans involved as possible and build a community on the ground. FEED: How has the uptake of women’s football changed? BEX SMITH: We did a data piece. Metrics for the digital space can be quite black and

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ON THE BALL Bringing the characters and

stories of women’s football to a wider audience is helping shift perception and uptake of the sport

white – what’s your reach? What’s your engagement? We didn't want to compare it to men’s football because you’re not going to get those same numbers. Instead, we created our own metrics. We wanted to increase visibility, we wanted to change perception and we wanted to accelerate acceptance. So we asked questions about women’s football. At the end, we actually doubled the brand awareness of COPA90 and we doubled the number of people that now say they are women’s football fans and will be willing to recommend it to other friends, and recommend COPA90 as a place to get women’s football content. So it’s pretty cool that we shifted the needle in terms of brand awareness and brand perception not only for our own brand, but also for the sport. FEED: Have you noticed that different countries have different responses to women’s football? BEX SMITH: It’s a global game. Having been here in the UK for almost two years, when people have a dismissive attitude

toward women’s football, I cringe. In the UK, women’s football was banned by the FA for 50 years; the ban was only lifted in 1971. Whereas in America, when I was growing up, you could always play. There were all different levels of club, so the brand of women’s football in the US is so different from the UK, or in South America, where there are very strong social and cultural barriers for women. So you have these different cultural and social barriers in all different parts of the world. The biggest swing in momentum is in the UK and in the US. Those are the two markets that we started with and doubled down on, but we’re not ignoring the rest of the world. When players or stories are coming in from South America, from Asia, from Africa, we want to shine a light on all of it. FEED: What are some of the big things that can be done to change perceptions of women’s football? BEX SMITH: First, there have to be role models. There has to be representation wherever you consume content or you

educate yourself. When I was growing up, in 1999 the US women’s national team won the World Cup. We were at the Rose Bowl for that final match with 92,000 people watching the women’s national team win. For me, I never questioned that I could be a pro footballer. It was very, very normal. Whereas in the UK in 1971, girls weren’t playing, so they genuinely didn’t think that they could – well, they couldn’t actually. Second, there has to be the support and infrastructure for girls to make it to that level. You have to invest. It’s a vicious cycle when you say, well, girls don’t want to play football. They don’t want to play because they don't see anyone else playing. And when they do play, they’re the only girl and that’s an uncomfortable place. If you’re not willing to invest in this infrastructure to create those environments for girls, then it doesn’t matter what they think, they’re never going to be able to play. It really isn’t about football. It’s about what football can bring and how it breaks down barriers and shifts conversations that so desperately need to take place. We need more support with things that bring people together and build communities.

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