When we heard that Fox Sports was going to use 5G to broadcast the Big East basketball tournament, we thought they would test it with a replay camera or some other non-essential part of the show. But we were wrong – Fox Sports is broadcasting every second of the tournament over 5G.
“The amazing thing about 5G is the amount of video that we can carry on a single cell modem,” said Brad Cheney, vice president of field operations and engineering for Fox Sports. Because the latency is a tenth of normal 4G LTE, 5G allows Fox Sports to send higher quality video and much more data back to the network centers and your home. Not only can fans watch games via live streams, but thanks to the speed of 5G, they can also select different camera angles live while the game is taking place.
This year’s Big East tournament will take place in Madison Square Garden in New York City, which already has Verizon’s 5G infrastructure installed. With this existing infrastructure, fans can rely on a “lean-in experience”. Josh Arensberg, director of business development for media and entertainment at Verizon, said, “I think a lot of industries and consumers … want to be able to control camera angles. You want to understand the metrics that show what is happening in the game. This “lean-in experience” that will captivate you and immerse you directly in the action. In the past, bandwidth has had big problems keeping up when sending data back from a venue to off-site studios and workflows, be it in the cloud or at broadcast facilities. With 5G, those days are behind us.
Fox Sports has partnered with companies like LiveU to implement the technology that enables 5G to bring more content to viewers, faster. Janel Fleming, LiveU’s sales director, says the new technology that will broadcast the tournament is “a portable handheld IP video encoder for cell phones”. It’s unique in that it connects multiple network interfaces together to deliver video back to an endpoint, whether that endpoint is a broadcast control room, living room, or social media network.
Dan Pisarski, Vice President of Engineering at LiveU, says, “These are the first units built from the ground up to support 5G.” Usually, 5G requirements differ for things like power consumption, modems, encoders, antennas, RF characteristics etc from those of 4G, but they still need to interact with these older network infrastructures. “So the chance to have this [built-from-scratch] Devices designed from day one to be 5G capable on real public 5G networks are a really exciting opportunity, ”says Pisarski.
All of this combined to give Fox Sports more dynamic coverage of the tournament than ever before, and in some cases, up to four times as much footage can be broadcast. “We can offer more to viewers and do more with a single device than before,” says Cheney.
“Bringing more to the audience” undermines the idea. Usually the experience of watching a tournament is the same for everyone except those actually in the arena: a one-size-fits-all broadcast. With 5G, watching sports could become much more customizable, changing the way we view live events overall.
“What does it mean to have an on-site fan experience versus an off-venue fan experience versus an experience? [inside] the home? “asks Arensberg. When networks and broadcasters move to a 5G-enabled venue and look at the expanded capabilities of services they can offer – not just for the person at home or on a mobile device, but location-based as well Content – They can ponder information about how a person is viewing the event based on where they’re viewing it and tailor the content to that experience.
The Big East basketball tournament and Madison Square Garden itself are staples in sports history. But just because they’re historical doesn’t mean they have to get stuck in the past. Fox Sports and 5G will make sports history by leading viewers into the future.