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SatBroadcasting™—Sports Broadcasting’s Future Challenges
By Mylan Tanzer, Director of Sports Services, SatLink Communications

Today, consumers are faced with many ways of accessing and watching television programs. Whether via a television set, PC, mobile or tablet device, the change in habits and the audiences’ desire to watch what they like, when and where they like, is an area that has involved much discussion. These developments pose many challenges for sports broadcasters as they look to meet customer demand, stay ahead of competitors, and retain audience share. In sports, more than any other genre, new technologies are in great demand, but there is still a need for traditional delivery methods.

TanzerFig1 Making Way For OTT + Second Screen Technology
The rise of OTT and second screen technology is having a widespread affect on how media is consumed, with viewers now favoring the ability to watch television while accessing social media applications on their mobile/tablet device. This requires broadcasters to look at developing innovative ways to address this evolving market and to engage with the audience. One example of where a broadcaster has adapted is that of Sky and its SkyGo application, a model that broadcasters will need to emulate in order to successfully compete. By enabling audiences to access content anywhere and, significantly, on any device, it increases customer satisfaction and retention, not to mention monetization.

It is also highly likely that sports social media technologies currently being developed will, in future broadcasts, provide an additional layer, which will enhance the viewing experience for an audience that is increasingly immersed in social media, enabling them to view sports on a simple screen.

Platform Neutral Distribution
Another factor to be considered is that the sports content distribution market has changed dramatically over the past two to three years and has presented broadcasters with a distribution conundrum. The traditional linear model of content distribution has to make way for the rise in mobile and Internet-based delivery.

For example, the current method of distribution of content was, and is, managed on a territory-by-territory basis. The emergence of mobile and Internet platforms cannibalising the traditional content distribution method, and the legal and technical limitations and difficulties in preventing it, is a real threat for rightsholders. As these mediums have introduced a multitude of new players into the field that hold no geographical boundaries or limits in sharing content via the Internet, it means rightsholders are finding content being shared further than originally agreed upon, resulting in a loss of earnings.

comtechEF_ad_SM0313 As a result, content providers are turning the tables by adopting an “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach, which is seeing digital media content rights offered on a ‘platform neutral’ basis. This means successful bidders routinely exploit their content distribution rights across all media platforms in their territory including television, Internet and mobile on a linear and on-demand basis. This is aimed at ensuring maximum exposure while providing partners with programming flexibility to fully exploit the properties they invest in.

Additionally, many international rightsholders, such as the Spanish La Liga, the NBA, and the UFC, have launched their own globally-accessible YouTube Channels, enabling them to exercise a degree of control and exploit new digital opportunities.

However, sports programming is still dictated by the linear reality of live events, the hours of which are based on local requirements—the “TV everywhere” approach of OTT is particularly significant, where viewers are increasingly active and mobile and live events take place in different time zones.

Nonetheless, sports broadcasters/rightsholders, who internalize that the crucial function of programming is moving into the hands of viewers, will be the first to successfully adapt to this new reality and should reap the rewards.

The Rise Of Ultra HD
With sport content being in high demand and traditional linear delivery of live events still important, and with audiences demanding high quality imagery, it is now becoming the de facto standard that all content be delivered in HD. This ability to obtain high definition broadcasts was welcomed by sports broadcasters as a way to enhance the viewing experience. Yet, alongside the burgeoning demand for 3D, there are now calls for Ultra HD. These pose additional challenges as carriers will need to be upgraded and, while the DVB association discusses new standards, there is a cost/benefit equation that broadcasters need to factor in. For many broadcasters, budgets remain tight and they are looking to cut costs and increase efficiency—Ultra HD would be a significant infrastructure investment. Ultimately, while it is envisioned that 3D and perhaps Ultra HD will be widely adopted, this is still new technology that has not reached full market penetration and, consequently, there is no immediate requirement for change.

TanzerFig2 There is the additional consideration that these options are a huge drain on satellite bandwidth, which is already strained, and could cause problems with the quality of transmission if everyone was to view sports in 3D or Ultra HD.

Addressing Broadcasting Challenges
With audiences requiring high quality transmissions for live sports broadcasts so they don’t miss a single second of the action, sports broadcasters are having to constantly rethink and evaluate how their content is viewed and distributed. Looking beyond 2012, sports broadcasters will need to adapt to find ways of incorporating new technologies into their offerings and work out how consumption models such as OTT can be adapted so they don’t cannibalise traditional television distribution across the globe.

While each region has its own individual quirks and modes of operation, the common theme to unite broadcasters is the need to provide the highest possible quality broadcast in the most cost effective manner over as many platforms as possible.

About the company
SatLink Communications provides global satellite transmission services with an emphasis on Global Content Distribution for Television, Radio and Data Channels over Satellite, Fiber and IP to every corner of the world. As a leading provider of transmission solutions for Video, Audio and Data, SatLink provides an array of advanced solutions to broadcasters, Pay TV operators, Governments, satellite operators, ISP providers, large communication enterprises and Maritime as well as to other teleports.

SatLink’s broadcast solutions include satellite uplink, downlink and turnaround; occasional use services for Sports, News and special events, satellite capacity on Satlink’s own Digital Platforms or on any desired satellite; television production; High Definition (HD), Standard Definition (SD) and 3D transmission services; play-out facilities; IPTV; Web streaming; and Media Analysis Technologies.

SatLink’s Data, Governmental and Engineering solutions include IP Transit; Hub hosting; and Hub based services with iDirect VNO solutions. In addition, the company provides solutions to the Maritime industry and satellite engineering consultancy services.

SatLink’s creativity, professionalism and efficiency maximize our global infrastructure, products and relationships. Delivering superior service focused on our customers and partners for the long run, SatLink is the ultimate solution for Global Content Distribution.

More information at http://www.satlink.tv/