The Olympic fever has hit a high note, and most Indians are unable to stop talking about young Dipa Karmakar, who has made India proud by entering into vaults finals. Unfortunately, her proudest moment of performing making it to the vaults finals has been missed by many, in spite of staying up late to watch the event. Understandably the merciless twitter-verse has turned its ire on Star Sports, for not broadcasting the event live, and covering other events from Olympics instead. However, live sports broadcast is a very complex process and often there can be multiple reasons contributing to situations like these.
Local broadcasters have limited control over live feed
Typically, a sports broadcasting or a media company captures the live feed, which is then sent to various broadcasters across the globe with rights to televise the event. For example, in case of Olympics, it’s the Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS) that holds the rights to produce the live feeds. Broadcaster with televising rights may use these raw feeds coming in from the OBS or packaged feeds coming in from intermediaries to create their broadcast. While those using the raw feeds have better control over televising events as per their viewers’ preferences, broadcaster using a packaged stream have no control at all over the live feed.
Difficulty of managing abrupt break-out scenarios on OTT
The live feed from OBS is also used to create OTT streams for mobile and SVOD platforms. Often, fans watching sports on OTT complain of ad-breaks cutting into the live action. This can happen either due to accumulated network delays while fulfilling ad-breaks or due to abrupt switches from ad-break to content. Once again, the fault lies not exactly with the broadcaster, but with the Client Side Ad Insertion (CSAI) technology that is predominantly used today to manage OTT ad-insertion. However, upcoming technologies like server-side ad insertion can resolve this particular issue.
What sports channels can actually control
Channels using the live feed coming directly from the broadcasting or media company can create customized sports broadcast to better suit their viewer preferences. They can use the live feed to create a complete package including editing, inserting lower thirds, animated bugs, scoreboard panels, commentary, and pre as well as post-show discussions.
As the content consumption becomes more individual-driven, broadcast of live sports will also evolve to allow more personalization. Already, popular OTT and SVOD platforms grant users greater control by directly allowing them to view the events they are most interested in, instead of the channel deciding it for them. In near future, the audience could have a completely personalized feed, and may even have control over exact camera angles in a live broadcast. Although this level of personalization may first be experienced on OTT platforms, it could also trickle down to traditional TV. Until then, let’s just enjoy rest of the games, and wish luck to all the athletes competing in the Olympics!