Invaluable insight into remote production, esports, the metaverse, sustainability and the rise of sports documentaries


From remote production to esports, the metaverse, sustainability and the rise of sports documentaries, the Broadcast Sport Theatre was home to wide-ranging discussions on issues facing the sports industry on day two of the Media Production and Technology Show.

Day two kicked off with the Sport Production: State of the Nation session, examining how the industry has come through the pandemic and dealt with the glut of events of the past 12 months, with two Olympics/Paralympics, the Euros, the T20 Cricket World Cup and many more competitions all taking place. It also looked ahead to more big events this year such as the  Women’s Euros, the Commonwealth Games, and the World Cup.

The growing importance of remote production to keep up and the need to improve sustainability were key themes, as well as the integration of data and entertainment to keep sports presentation exciting.

The speakers were Bethan Evans, director of production at Whisper, Chris Carpenter, senior producer at Aurora Media Worldwide, and Stephen Cook, director of content at IMG.

They agreed that flexible working that has become normalised since the pandemic comes with many advantages for staff, but that the sports production sector is so busy at moment that sometimes working from home feels like ‘living at work.’

Aurora’s Chris Carpenter spoke about producing motorsport event Extreme E sustainably, saying that for its first ever Greenland race last year, everybody including drivers had to bring their own cutlery and plates as part of a plan to ‘race without a trace’.

IMG’s Stephen Cook said that the Euro League Basketball has been one of its most challenging productions during pandemic, citing the difficulty of moving through different countries given Covid-19 rules.

Whisper TV’s Bethan Evans spoke of the importance of entertainment in sports production, stressing the need to make content immersive, enjoyable and entertaining. She said the tone might change depending on the sport, but at the core it was vital to entertain the viewer.

Next up was a Beijing Winter Olympics Case Study with Vizrt, with the BBC’s John Murphy and Sally Richardson revealing some of the preparation and planning that went into creating their sports studio for Beijing – and how they used it for maximum effect during the Games.

Vizrt’s Gerhard Lang and Mark Pizzey joined in - giving insight on its XR Set for AR graphics and 3D virtual sets, which blend photorealistic rendering with the real world.

This was followed by a presentation from Ross Video on how its Unified Venue Control Solution is used by esports venues to deliver world-class shows, which saw the company showcase its esports production solutions.

The Power of the Sports Doc was the subject of the next session. Following on from the success of Formula 1: Drive To Survive, All Or Nothing, The Last Dance, it looked at the boom in all-access sports documentaries.

The panellists - Anouk Mertens, global CEO of NEO Studios, and Tom Hillier, founder of Shoot the Company – discussed the challenges of balancing the need for access with the editorial demands of sports teams and organisations.

Next the Women’s Sport Trust and research firm Futures Sport + Entertainment presented the latest data from the Women’s Sport Trust visibility research.

2021 was the most watched year for domestic women’s sport, driven by the WSL deals with the BBC and Sky and emergence of The Hundred cricket women’s competition, said the Women’s Sport Trust’s Chris Hurst  These big women’s sports events have acted as entry points for other women’s sports, he added.

15.1 million people watched three minutes of women’s sport in the first quarter of 2022, the highest ever quarter for viewership, said Emma Gibson from Futures Sport +M Entertainment. Football, particularly WSL, and cricket account for most of the viewership, she explained.

Shortly after, Matt Stagg, director of mobile strategy at BT Sport, talked about sports in the metaverse. Stagg explained what the metaverse is and what it can offer sports fans, through innovative use of VR, AR and XR.

BT Sport is currently carrying out R&D projects to see what could be possible utilising cloud computing and 5G, to stream immersive ‘metaverse’ experiences live and with ultra low latency to fans. These include enabling MotoGP fans to build a room of virtual screens around them to show the broadcast feed ,supplemented by an interactive, holographic track revealing where each of the drivers is currently located.

The final session of the day tackled sustainability. In ‘How Sports Broadcasting is Driving Sustainable Change Through Tech’, a panel comprising Andy Beale, chief engineer at BT Sport, Phil Marshall, director of production at Sky Sports, and Brian Leonard, head of engineering at IMG Studios, talked about how Covid has changed the way sports broadcasters work.

They said that remote and cloud native filming which was introduced out of necessity during the pandemic has stayed put as it meets another need for sports broadcasters - to reduce their carbon impact.

Andy Beale noted that BT Sport used to send four large OB trucks to a Premier League game, but now it just sends one thanks to remote production technology.

Sky Sports’ Phil Marshall said that using biofuel on its outside broadcast trucks in the UK had reduced their carbon emissions by 90%.