NAB 2016

Fresh Off Recent UHD Announcements, NAB Show Promises Plenty for Sports Broadcasters

The annual NAB convention is only days away and, once again, the sports content creation and distribution industry will be at the center of many of the most forward-looking developments at the show. A couple of key events in the past seven days that have allowed that to happen.

PrintTopping the list are three UHD developments here in the U.S. First, there were the efforts last weekend at The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, GA. CBS Sports and DirecTV produced coverage of Amen Corner in UHD and delivered it live to viewers across the U.S., making it the first live event to be delivered to consumers across the U.S. in UHD.

Those UHD efforts were matched that same weekend by Sportsnet in Canada as, alongside their production-services provider Dome Productions, fans of the Toronto Blue Jays had a chance to see the MLB team’s home opener in UHD (in fact, those fans will be able to see all 81 home games in UHD). That event also provided a real achievement in North American sports production as both the HD and UHD feeds were produced by one production team.

The final UHD development occurred on April 12 when DirecTV announced that it will deliver 25 MLB Network games in UHD to viewers beginning on April 15.

Couple these UHD developments with the ongoing developments in Europe (both the UEFA Champions League Final and eight matches during the Euros will be in UHD) and additional ones globally (the CONCACAF COPA Final will be produced in UHD here in the U.S. and the Olympics will be produced in 8K and then downconverted for 4K global distribution) and it is pretty clear that Summer 2016 is shaping up to be the first of many Summers of UHD Sport.

The momentum and gravitational pull of those UHD efforts will put UHD sports at the top of many of the top national (and regional) sports networks, broadcasters, and cable providers. That, in turn, will put UHD at the top of many sports production professionals’ NAB to-do lists. After last year’s NAB, where it was not quite clear what type of content would take the lead in making UHD a reality in living rooms around the world, it’s nice to see that sports content is once again the true difference maker.

But another major announcement this week that should have the NAB crowd in a positive state of mind was the decision by the NCAA and CBS and Turner Sports to extend the carriage of the March Madness men’s basketball tournament through 2032. The announcement seemed to come out of nowhere and is a testament to three key points: those who distribute content via broadcast or cable are the most willing to write the big checks; the rightsholders are comfortable with their incumbent broadcast and cable distribution partners; and over-the-air broadcast and cable/satellite distribution is by far the most efficient form of delivering high-quality and high-bandwidth content to millions of viewers simultaneously.

For a trade show run by an industry association that has the word “Broadcasting” in its name, there has to be a sense of relief to see that this week, once again, the broadcast, cable, and satellite industry has flexed its collective muscle and proved just how vital it is to sports fans. And, for an industry that is under attack from the likes of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon Prime, it’s nice to know that the old guard still matters.

So, in the coming days, the industry’s most important leaders will be on hand to investigate not only how UHD will come to pass, but how the move to IP-based production will make UHD and all other forms of production easier.  Even virtual reality is something that broadcasters and traditional production companies — with their commitment to producing content by the most professional means possible — will be looking at closely on the show floor.

In the coming weeks, you can expect SVG to offer up everything from industry Q&A sessions and video reports to product overviews that will ensure that those who are at the show and those who aren’t are up to date on all the news that counts.

But, for now, put on your comfortable shoes, be sure to pack an extra bottle of water to stay hydrated, and start the yearly trek across the Las Vegas Convention Center. Because, more than ever, you should expect to see arguably the most compelling images, the most efficient workflows, and the most interesting new concepts in content creation and distribution that our industry has ever seen.