If the Covid-19 pandemic provided one significant challenge to broadcasters, it was the logistics of commentating on games without actually being in attendance.
Television networks had to rely on local workers to set up match feeds in order for their commentators to call the matches from home or a local studio.
That solution, however, raised questions about whether big production teams are strictly needed in future.
A new product launching today, Spiideo’s CloudStudio, has been designed to put such solo broadcasting on a path to the big time, and it already counts top clubs in England and Europe among its clients.
“Artificial intelligence cameras capture the full field and follow the game,” says head of product Emil Hansson. “This level of automation is starting to happen in the lower tiers of top sports and growing upward.
“We’re aspiring for automation in the TV class of production eventually. This will happen, it will become more realistic for even the top produced sports with multi cameras.”
It’s a curious future, a sort of all-in-one system for remote commentary, consisting of production, graphics and highlights creation.
But the pandemic has taught us that remote broadcasting simply isn’t the same. Albeit on radio, Test Match Special’s cricket coverage took a hit from its lack of presence in the stands. Listeners enjoy commentators offering colour beyond what’s obvious on the pitch.
Then there is the threat of media production staff becoming redundant as a result of technology advancement.
“It will give people time to focus on the more forward-leaning stuff,” Hansson adds. “These revolutions happen in any type of industry.
“This will open up new opportunities, there will always be room for creative craft.
“These technologies will enable fans to get involved and get more experience. I see it as a way to open up new types of ecosystems for the sports industry.”
From advanced analytics to smart mouthguards, the march of technology shows no sign of halting on the pitch. So is easy-to-use off-field technology also the way forward?
“Anyone from a small local football club to a newspaper or media company can use this to make their output better,” Hansson says.
“I wouldn’t say the production is less rich with this technology because we know we are not coming from that industry.
“I think we’ve found a good balance, but we are still able to deliver a powerful production and I think that is key.”
Spiideo’s analytics are already in use in the Premier League at Leicester City, in Serie A at Roma and at the French Football Federation, but it could soon find its way into our grassroots clubs – potentially changing coverage of pyramid-tier sports for good.