I never thought of myself as a "remember when" type of guy, but you can’t help but look back when something you never thought would happen – a global pandemic – is happening and it promises to change your business forever. This is especially true when you work in live events and sports, like I do.
Up until recently, the live production industry’s annual calendar was filled with large conventions, meetings and conferences. We had a lot of fun, but a lot of business got done, too. One hotly discussed topic, even years ago, was remote production, and it wasn’t always met with a positive reception.
People didn't want to lose that feeling of being at a venue, feeding off the excitement of a live event when the energy carries from the field and into the production truck. Many years ago, I was in a truck for a World Series game at Yankee Stadium, and I remember it was literally shaking as the crowd celebrated after Tino Martinez hit a game-tying home run.
Fast forward to 2020, and COVID-19 has moved remote production from merely a topic of discussion to a day-to-day reality. Truthfully, it’s been creeping up on us gradually for some time now, spurred by the demand in the U.S. and globally for a wide range of traditional sports like lacrosse or volleyball that, while popular, don’t necessarily warrant the expense and time to bring a truck out on location. Outside of traditional sports, esports has been booming alongside the increased popularity of gaming worldwide, especially during the pandemic, as many sports leagues’ seasons were put on hold. Esports has been a pioneer in the use of remote production and the industry will continue to accelerate its adoption in media and broadcast operations.
Remote production is something we’re all certainly familiar with at Telstra. Last year, we covered the IAAF World Relay Championships in Japan where we delivered remote broadcasts to Australia and the U.K. using 10 gigabit per second diverse, hitless IP networks using VC2 ultra-low latency to transport 30 HD feeds across almost 10,000 miles. We’ve also been on the forefront of this in Australia, building out a network solely relying on remote production in 2017 in conjunction with FOX Sports and working with 27 tier one, two and three venues.
Gaining that experience with remote production means we were already set up for the current global environment, putting us in a very strong position in the media and broadcast industry. Moreover, we’re continuing to expand our capabilities by working with international broadcasters, forging new partnerships and increasing our connectivity to the points where our customers need to get to and from – all with the goal of being the enabling driver behind the future of seamless and dynamic remote production.
Demonstrating the long-term viability of remote production
Once COVID hit, Telstra’s media and broadcast bookings dropped dramatically, event cancellations were coming in daily and we needed a plan to get us through this slow period. We all agreed the best course was to expand our network and our partnerships, building out to the areas where we knew customers would want to be once things started getting back to some sense of normalcy.
A perfect opportunity for us to start accomplishing this actually grew out of a current relationship, and it demonstrated what happens when partners, sports organizations and technology providers all work together.
We had been working with R+S Consulting and PSSI, two of our customers/partners, to increase Telstra’s capacity into their Pittsburgh-based teleport. This effort would prove beneficial when soon after, we began support of a major international sports competition that, due to COVID restrictions prohibiting fan attendance, would rely heavily on pay-per-view and arena simulcasts.
While much of the on-site production was based on a traditional broadcast center model, during the event’s final week we worked with R+S and PSSI to test the capabilities of long-term remote-only production from this location. Using our Global Media Network (GMN), it was seamless to carry the events across our network. We put everything up on multiple satellites and Telstra’s teleports and our partners downlinked and fed content to our GMN for distribution to rights holders.
This "test case" was clear proof that remote production works and will be a key part of media and broadcast operations in 2020 and beyond. It also gave us the opportunity to enhance our Global Media Network, building on our global subsea cable infrastructure, IP transit, media cloud connectivity, and world-class satellite services.
Interested to learn more about how we can help you deliver live broadcasts around the world? Contact us here.