The demands of live web streaming sports - more challenging than most people think

My mother once told me that if you don't learn from the past, you are destined to make the same mistakes over and over again.  Unlike conferences, town hall meetings and product launches, sports live web streaming is difficult.  Don't let anyone ever tell you differently.  The amount of moving parts, the staffing requirements and the technical acumen needed to pull these types of broadcasts off challenge even the best broadcast power houses out there.

When you are a smaller production company, the challenges are ten fold.  We are not afraid to tackle them and we are not afraid to admit when changes in workflow, staffing and implementation are needed to produce an even better product. Sometimes the usual way of doing business doesn't always work and you have to be able to adapt and modify to meet new conditions.

We have had the honor of being tasked with doing large sports productions (involving 15 or more team members) and productions as small as 3 unmanned cameras and a production staff of 2.  We have learned from all 42 sporting events we have done since 2012.  Our experience has allowed us to rethink how we approach sports live streaming and produce a new paradigm that allows us to tackle this fun but demanding aspect of our operation.  Here is how we now approach live sports web streaming:

IDENTIFY THE SCOPE:  Clients have different needs for their broadcast.  1)  Some of our clients want a cursory online presence designed to bring attention to an event.  Basic online graphics that call attention to a score, basic online commentary and a sponsor graphic here or there to say thank you for sponsoring the broadcast.  These are our very basic live events - often a mixture of unmanned cameras and maybe one or two manned cameras with the Director doing graphics, playing music and starting sponsor video commercials.  These clients are very budget driven, don't have the resources to do a "full" sports broadcast but want the opportunity to have a solid but basic online presence; 2)  Some of our clients want an expansive online presence.  They have sponsor obligations to meet, have dedicated commentary teams, have moderate graphic packages and have the need for the production staff to be flexible and creative during the broadcast.  These clients have a reasonable budget to work with but are still constrained.  They want it all but can't have it all so there is a give and take process to make sure the core elements of the broadcast are preserved.  Their goal is to have a "full" sports broadcast; 3)  Finally, there are clients who want the "TV style typical sports broadcast."  Their expectations are for performances that are driven by all of the key elements you normally see on a TV sports broadcast.  Instant Replay, dedicated producers, graphic creations during the broadcast with huge graphics packages, lots of cameras - all of the elements you are accustom to when watching sports on TV.  These clients understand the budgetary requirements needed for large scale production and they understand that scope and scaling will cost money.  IDENTIFYING THE SCOPE OF THE CLIENTS NEEDS IS THE FIRST STEP IN DETERMINING IF WE ARE THE APPROPRIATE COMPANY TO MEET YOUR NEEDS.

IDENTIFY THE WORKFLOW (How are we getting online):  How the broadcast makes it out to the public from a technical standpoint determines the workflow that will be implemented.  The decision on using wired internet connection hosted by the venue, cellular bonded services hosted by a third party via a virtual server, using a hardware based bonded cell service or using basic 4G LTE service (not recommend) will all have an impact on the "signal workflow" that we undertake.  IDENTIFYING THE WORKFLOW NEEDS OF THE CLIENT IS THE SECOND STEP IN DETERMINING WHAT EQUIPMENT IS NEEDED AT THE EVENT.

SET-UP/TEAR DOWN TEAM and SET-UP PROCESS:    The set-up process is often overlooked in budgeting and plays a critical role in making sure that your live broadcast goes off without a hitch.  Having access to the venue is critical. Having the time needed to lay camera cables, set-up and test all camera equipment, set-up video village, test all video video village equipment based on the assigned workflow, test the internet signal for at least 1 hours, go over the broadcast agenda - all of these things take time.  The smaller the crew, the more time it takes to set-up.  Our set-up rate is standard:  $40/hour per team member.  There are 3 major set-up teams:  a) The infrastructure team (led by the Engineer), b) the camera team (led by the Technical Director) and c)  the video village team (led by the Director).

  •      If your event involves two to three cameras within 300 feet of video village with a broadcast crew of 5 or less, plan on having 6 hours committed to the set-up process & budget and 2.5 hours committed to the tear-down process and budget.
  •      If your event involves 4 to 8 cameras within 350 to 1,000 feet of video village with a broadcast crew of 6 to 10 people, plan on having 8 hours committed to the set-up process & budget and 2.5 hours committed to the tear-down process & budget.
  •      If your event involves 8 or more cameras within 1,000 to 3,000 feet of video village with a broadcast crew of more than 11 people, plan on having 10 hours committed to the set-up process & budget and 3.5 hours committed to the tear-down process & budget.
  •      OUR EXPERIENCE HAS SHOWN that when you short-change the set-up process, when you  under staff the process or when we are not given enough time and access to the site, you are setting yourself up for problems that will creep into the broadcast.

PRODUCTION STAFF:  The different staffing positions available in a sports broadcast include Producer (often the client), Director, Technical Director, Audio Operator, Graphics Operator, Instant Replay Operator with Assistant, Video Playback Operator, Camera Operators, Infrastructure Set-Up Team, Production Assistant, Social Media Assistant.  The size and scope of your event determines the crew positions needed to be filled.  It is easy to fall into the trap of letting the audio guy do graphics, letting the Director also be his/her own Technical Director.  We strongly caution against combing positions when you have a large production environment. Dedicated staff assigned to dedicated specific positions insures that those positions are handled properly.  A1 and union level day rates can be as high as $750 a day for team members.  A2 and intermediate level day rates can be between $425 and $625 a day for team members.  Director/Technical Director/Producer/Engineer rates can be between $675 and $800 a day for team members.  Clients can request union level staffing if they want that on their production.  If not, we will work with you to get quality staffing that meets your production budget.

Creating a mobile, multi-camera live streaming broadcast that is designed to engage your audience is a challenge.  It is a challenge that we continue to meet head on.  And it is a challenge that we want to do for you.  Contact or email us for more information on how our live streaming team can bring your next sporting event online.