How UX can re-shape live sports orchestration

January 31, 2018

By Anshu George, Head of UX strategy and Design Management

Traditionally, live sports production has been a big budget undertaking, involving hundreds of people. It’s also one of the most time-sensitive broadcast functions. Operators in Monitoring Control Room (MCR) of any live broadcast need to meticulously follow commands of the sports director, with very little margin for error. Over the years, this model has become increasingly dependent on physical infrastructures, skills of the playout operators, and presence of sports experts to orchestrate seamless shifts during interruptions in the game and ad breaks- from live feed to ads, and back to live feeds. Such complex playout orchestration can be simplified through today’s intelligent cloud-based playout platforms with an intuitive User Experience (UX) design, the only requirements being a web browser and internet connection. With UX design paradigms, automation and intelligent alert systems applied on the Live broadcast workflow, here are three ways one can reinvent live sports orchestration.

Creating event-specific ad templates for each sport

Since each sporting event is different, MCR teams today must be exceptionally well-versed with nuances of each sport. Also, a sports expert is required to continuously give instructions to the live playout controllers to transition between live feed and ads. However, events of certain type tend to have a distinct pattern. Soccer, for example, tends to have ads predominantly during the half-time, whereas cricket broadcast can have an ad-slot between each ‘bowling over’ – a set of six legitimate deliveries. To deal with these challenges, a sophisticated playout interface can define a sporting event with parameters to create a ‘template’ for each event. This will completely streamline event scheduling, and allow small and medium sports channels to run a full-fledged event with minimal staff.

Contextual UX for different user roles (Event Programmer/Scheduler/ Live Controller) within the system for large sports channels.

Once an event template has been created by the ‘event programmer’, scheduling team of the sports channel could use the scheduling interface to fill-up the ad spots. This process could be made as simple as dragging and dropping assets into the event buckets. The interface will dynamically show the remaining time in any of these buckets, as well as show alerts to simplify the activities of the scheduling team. Once the final schedule has been created, the playout control team can simply trigger the ad-breaks and graphics through the interface, at appropriate intervals based on real-time requirements, and monitor the live feed. This user centric design approach to different broadcast functions can improve ease of use, bring in efficiency for each role and ensures that the system works seamlessly.

Super-user dashboard (where a single user is required to carry out all roles) for small and medium sports channels

If a channel has minimal support staff at the playout center, a multi-user playout software design may not be an ideal approach. In this scenario, a ‘super-user’ interface can be very handy. This kind of design approach to the playout software could integrate all the roles within a single dashboard. Channel’s playout operation expert could then access this interface to not only schedule ads on the go, but may also be able to trigger them, and monitor the result, all in the same browser window.

As sports broadcast evolves, modern consumers would have wider choices for live sports action, which will lead to rise of niche sports channels. However, modern users accustomed to broadcast-grade experience would still expect the best live coverage, which could be economically unviable for smaller channels, unless they innovate with cloud and design thinking.

How evolved is your playout software’s user experience? Let us know in comments!