Live Sports Streaming: Technology Trends for 2021

Technology has transformed numerous sectors in recent years, and that is certainly the case where coverage of sports is concerned.

Streaming on connected devices has become all the rage, with fans now able to watch live action from across the world on a 24/7/365 basis.

The best free streaming sites have taken full advantage of shifting consumer habits, leveraging advancements in digital tech to great effect.

With analysts predicting that the live streaming sector could be worth around $165 billion by 2025, we take a closer look at some of the technology trends that are forecast to drive that growth.

Personalized Viewing Experiences

The modern sports fan is a fairly demanding beast, particularly with regards to how they expect broadcasters to cover the favorite live events.

The days where they could get away with providing a handful of camera angles and a few statistics are long gone, with fans demanding a much more immersive game day experience.

Romain Rossi has an in-depth understanding of the sports industry having spent the last couple of decades working for the likes of FIFA, EA Sports and UEFA.

He currently oversees Business Development and Account Management for Deltatre, a company that specialises in enhancing live sports coverage.

Rossi believes that streaming platforms will be forced to offer fans a more personalised viewing experience during 2021.

“On a busy weekend with conflicting tournaments and championships, perhaps a viewer does not have time to sit down and watch an event stretched over multiple hours,” he told SVG Europe

“They might want to log-on halfway through a game and have the ability to create their own highlights reel from an interactive timeline, before moving to live coverage.

“Similarly, perhaps a viewer is only interested in one player in a tournament – the service presented to that user should reflect that, directing them to that player’s best moments, interviews, behind the scenes content and so on.

“The ability to shape a personalized viewing experience is key. Whether that is giving viewers the opportunity to enjoy real-time data visualizations, picture-in-picture capabilities or key moment discoverability, the aim is to put the viewer in control.”

5G Connectivity 

The rollout of 5G connectivity in 2021 will have a massive impact on sport, with broadcast distribution one of the key areas it could influence over the coming months.

One unnamed global broadcaster has already been testing live and live linear 4K and 8K broadcast workflows from Verizon’s 5G edge.

Using technology from Zixi and AWS, the trial aims to address the three main elements of live streaming success – latency, overhead and uptime.

If successful, it is hoped that content owners would be able to monetise new video-centric applications such as 8K VR, sports betting and interactive viewer-selectable angles of a sports event.

Eric Bolten, VP of Business Development at Zixi, is hopeful that these innovations will be in place in time for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer.

“Wavelength allows us to move video processing to the edge and to deliver additional performance at every part of the content delivery chain,” he said.

“In order to scale, to go from hundreds of streams to tens of thousands of streams and clients, you need the ability to have views across the organization, between organizations, and easily manage both.

“5G better optimizes overhead, so you can maximize the traffic spectrum and reduce latency. Now with Wavelength available at the 5G network edge, this combined mobile edge compute (MEC) solution foretells the future of mobile broadcast workflows.”

Twitch Channels

The recent launch of a dedicated sports content channel on Twitch is another hugely exciting development for the industry.

Amazon’s game streaming platform initially signed deals with Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal, allowing those clubs to significantly expand their live offering.

This includes exclusive behind-the-scenes content and may be extended to broadcasts of press conferences or live matches in the future.

Many other clubs and leagues are expected to follow suit over the next 12 months as they recognise the lucrative potential of the younger demographic that uses Twitch.

More than two million people interact live on Twitch at any moment in time, and the community is formed by an average of 26.5m daily viewers.

AC Milan is the latest club to jump on the Twitch bandwagon, highlighting the platform’s growing appeal to top-class sports organizations.

Lamberto Siega, Marketing and Digital Director AC Milan, said: “The launch of AC Milan’s official channel on Twitch is another important brand-new step in the club’s digitisation process.

“Our aim is to connect, bring together and thrill the more than 450 million Rossoneri fans all over the world. We are convinced that this is the right path to make AC Milan both a sports icon and a benchmark in entertainment and digital innovation.”

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