Live Sports Use Virtual Graphics to Find Opportunity Amid Challenges
Two powerful developments in the sports world are driving broadcasters’ increased focus on using graphics to make the on-air product even more engaging — and a better vehicle for generating sponsorship revenues.
Opening Up New Ad Inventory
The first of these developments, a result of distancing protocols, is the need for athletes and teams to compete in empty or near-empty stadiums and arenas. With the majority of fans watching from home right now, broadcasters and production teams face several new challenges and opportunities.
One such opportunity, the opening up of new ad inventory, is the result of a loosening of restrictions on virtual advertising. For this reason, an increasing number of broadcasters are using Chyron’s Virtual Placement technology for flexible placement of more visually pleasing on-screen graphics.
While no one wants to see empty stands, these open areas around the playing surface provide an excellent space in which to present sponsor logos and messaging. While some teams and leagues have employed printed tarps to take advantage of this opportunity, this approach is labor-intensive, inflexible, and sometimes compromised by inconsistent lighting and other environmental factors.
As an optical virtual placement system, it sets up simply and quickly, without disrupting the established workflow in the control room or production truck. In the case of adding sponsor logos to near-empty sports venues, the system provides intuitive controls for optimizing color, size, and placement.
Operators can rotate through different sponsor messages over the course of a single event, and viewers at home see these sponsor messages in the main camera feed — or multiple camera angles when production teams take advantage of all three camera inputs on Virtual Placement. In coverage of professional soccer, for example, this approach allows operators to place graphics around each team’s goal during set plays, such as corner kicks and free kicks. Because these graphics are present in replays and highlights clips, often posted to news sites and social media, sponsors see an added boost in exposure.
Realizing a Higher ROI for High-End Graphics
A second key development in live sports has been the shift of competition to a “bubble” model of play. This model makes it easier and more affordable for broadcasters and venues to deploy technologies such as Virtual Placement and Chyron’s Click Effects PRIME system, which provides a single point of control for all screens and other entertainment devices in a stadium or arena.
With leagues and teams playing numerous games at the same venue over a fairly short time period, the ROI for state-of-the-art graphics technology becomes much more compelling, even for production teams working on smaller budgets.
Virtual Placement system has been part of high-profile live sports for a long time now, and it likely is most recognizable to fans in the form of the virtual first-down line placed on the football field. The first-down line has proved to be a game-changer for football broadcasts, but today is brings value to a wide array of live sports broadcasts.
As a sport-aware system with capabilities tailored to unique aspects of different sports, Virtual Placement enables seamless integration of visuals that complement specific aspects of live play and give viewers a better understanding of what’s happening on the court, field, or track. Because many of these visual elements can incorporate branding or sponsor logos, they serve dual purposes: enriching the fan experience and reinforcing sponsor awareness or loyalty to the team brand.
Supporting multiple outputs, Virtual Placement also gives sports leagues and teams the option of delivering dual feeds — local and international, or broadcast and OTT — with visuals optimized for each. One feed might be a traditional broadcast and the other a gamified version that helps the broadcaster or league reach a broader viewing audience.
Moving Forward With Live Sports
Much about live sports broadcasting has changed in the past year. Building on the capabilities of Virtual Placement and other Chyron technologies, the industry has overcome new challenges and developed creative solutions for the production of engaging live programming and acquisition of sponsorship revenues that support sports leagues and teams.