From AI to VR, the race is on to find new ways to enhance the TV viewing experience for sports fans.  Anna Lockwood, General Manager of Market Development, Telstra Broadcast Services shares her top ‘game changing’ trends for sports broadcasting as seen at the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas.

The NAB Show is the world largest broadcast event whereby media, tech and entertainment converge. With over 103,000 attendees from 166 countries and 1,700+ exhibitors, the NAB Show showcases technologies that transcend traditional broadcasting and embrace unique content delivery to engage viewers and fans. Once again sport was at the centre of some of the most innovative technology on display as the race to find new ways to enhance the viewer experience continues. Here are the top five technology trends that are game changers for broadcasters and sports audiences.

1. Immersive and Interactive Technologies

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) offer immersive sports experiences both from the couch to the sports stadium. The NAB Show featured a designated ‘Virtual and Augmented Reality Pavilion’ with sports content at the heart of many of the experiences on display. For broadcasters and next-gen sports fans, these immersive viewer experiences are increasing fan loyalty and engagement by offering new and innovative ways to interact with a sport, a player or a fellow fan – and we will definitely see much more of these budding technologies in the years ahead.

2. The growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning in sport

The potential of AI and machine learning in sport was a dominant trend at NAB this year, with speech to text technologies and image recognition marking an exciting new era for broadcasters. Speech to text turns on-field commentary into instant digestible commentary with image recognition technologies enabling broadcasters to capture real time data of players, umpires or even a ball in-play. Once the raw on-field data is collected, machine learning extracts meaningful insights, allowing broadcasters and fans to engage with the game in a way previously not possible.

3. Wearables

AI can also be used to gather real-time data from wearables and connected sport equipment. Wearable cameras (like Telstra’s Globecam), sensors and GPS trackers are becoming more common in sports applications, and NAB displayed a smorgasbord of the latest offerings. Wearables were showcased on caps, vests, wristbands, sporting apparel and even full body suits placing viewers at the heart of the action and providing a unique and intimate perspective of player performance.

4. Remote Production Networks

Ushering in the future of live sport broadcasting, the deployment of a remote production will transform the outside broadcasting model. Utilising a high capacity and low latency network of scale, content will be distributed from a sports venue back to a production hub, reducing the need for on-site television production infrastructure and crew. In Australia this could open up more sports venues to professional broadcasts, lower the cost of production and help increase the content output of sports from regional and remote Australia. That’s a win–win for broadcasters and sports fans!

5. Diversification

Finally, the sports industry (like many others) is always looking at ways to keep viewers and fans engaged while reaching new audiences in a rapidly changing environment. The NAB ‘Aerial Robotics and Drone Pavilion’ showcased adding robot competitions and drone racing events to the sporting calendar, as well as eSports teams to traditional sporting codes. With sports the catalyst for so much tech innovation, broadcasters and sports fans can only benefit!