AI Cameras - The Future of Televised Sport

Telemedia gets into AI with 35% stake in ITV Africa By Rob Brown, Head of Business Development at Telemedia

In the realm of sports broadcasting, the advent of AI camera technology heralds a transformative era, especially for regions previously marred by the high costs and logistical challenges of traditional live coverage. The disparities in televised sports have long been evident, with only the upper echelons of sporting events receiving the spotlight, leaving a significant portion of athletic talent in the shadows. This issue is particularly pronounced in Africa, where the financial and logistical hurdles of deploying outside broadcast (OB) units have significantly limited the reach of live sports coverage. The consequence? Only a fraction of football games are broadcast nationally on weekends, stifling the growth and financial viability of local leagues and teams.

The scarcity of coverage not only impacts the visibility of these sports but also hampers the development and sustenance of the athletic ecosystem. Without adequate funding, infrastructure and organization, the teams suffer, alongside negligible investment in training and development programs. However, the landscape is poised for a monumental shift with the integration of AI camera technology into sports broadcasting. Imagine the potential of an AI camera, such as the Pixellot Prime AI camera used by ESPN for NBA coverage, which excels in tracking the game's dynamics more adeptly than its human counterparts. The efficiency of AI technology in capturing live sports action is nothing short of revolutionary. A single operator, arriving merely an hour before kick-off, can set up an AI camera on a tripod, establish an internet connection, and calibrate the camera for the specific sport and field. Throughout the game, this AI-powered camera autonomously tracks the ball and players, adjusting zoom and focus to ensure optimal coverage, all while broadcasting in high-definition. The magic doesn't stop there. The entire production process, from live coverage to the addition of score updates, slow-motion replays, and commentary, can be executed in the cloud, allowing for contributions from around the globe. The technology also enables seamless integration of pre-programmed advertising and the generation of automated highlights packages post-game, not to mention invaluable player statistics for coaching staff.

The huge SuperSport Schools project is one example of what is possible. An average of 1000 games are covered, live, every weekend in South Africa. The entire project is run in the cloud by the Pixellot management system, with all games streamed live, and a select number broadcast on SuperSport. The financial implications are equally impressive, with the cost of using AI technology being a mere fraction of traditional OB units. This is not to say that AI cameras are set to replace high-end OB productions for marquee events entirely, but they offer a viable solution for broadening the coverage of sports events that would otherwise remain unseen. With up to 80% of the production value for just 10% of the cost, AI cameras present an opportunity to democratize sports broadcasting, especially in regions like Africa, where such technological adoption could dramatically enhance the visibility and financial health of local leagues.

As we stand on the cusp of this new era, the promise of AI in televised sports is not just about affordability and efficiency. It's about inclusivity, giving a platform to talents that have remained in the periphery, and fostering a more vibrant and equitable sports culture. This development is a beacon of hope for countless athletes, leagues, and fans across the globe, signalling a future where the love for the game transcends geographical and financial barriers. The evolution of AI camera technology is not just reshaping the landscape of sports broadcasting; it's redefining the very fabric of how we engage with and celebrate sports. Watch this space.

Note: Telemedia is a 35% shareholder in ITV Africa which has the exclusive rights to sell and distribute Pixellot cameras in Africa.

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