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Is Virtual Reality The Next Big Thing Towards Achieving An Immersive Cricket Viewing Experience?
Over the years, the technologies that brought cricket to us all, have made breakthrough advancements, and the demand for sport content by broadcasting organizations has undergone a major redefinition.
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Cricket is one of the most beloved sport in India and holds a special value in our lives. With its ever-growing popularity, it has almost become a part of our culture, and a major factor in bringing families and communities together, just like a festival. Not only is it a favourite game played by the children and youth, but it has also been an all-time favourite sport amongst all age groups.
Over the years, the technologies that brought cricket to us all, have made breakthrough advancements, and the demand for sports content by broadcasting organizations has undergone a major redefinition. People who have grown up listening to the live cricket commentary on radios can vouch for the transformation. From the days of playing in the simple white dress to seeing players in an interactive, engaging event with entertainment and superstardom around it, the experience and the aura is growing with the game. The traditional approach of presenting sports content predominantly live and exclusive only through one distribution channel has now being taken over by a multi-faceted, multi-organizational approach and on multiple devices. Together with modern broadcasting coverage, expanding leagues and in-play cricket betting, it may be worthwhile to know about the history of cricket within India, how the game has evolved and the role of technology.
How it all began…
Cricket was introduced in India by the British and has remained very popular since then. In the early 1940s, it was the live cricket commentary broadcasted nationwide by All India Radio that kept people glued to their radio sets and transistors. Then came the early television sets that used satellite and the first-ever live cricket match was telecast on Indian Television Doordarshan in the year 1959 at the Indian capital. By 1978-79 cricket took on a new feel and audience with the live telecast of cricket matches between India and Pakistan being broadcasted across many cities. Till the 1990s, Doordarshan held the sole broadcasting rights for all cricket matches. But with Trans World International (TWI) entering the market in 1995, it was a game-changer! Private broadcasters boosted the game’s popularity with enhanced standards of production and attracted more viewers. The rising potential of advertising brought more money into cricket broadcasting. The whole industry flourished with players becoming more visible and better paid. The game saw the advent of expanding technology and increase in changing expectations of customers. Viewers no longer had to adjust their rooftop satellite antennas for better video clarity. With cable TVs entering the market in the 1990s, viewers switched to buying sports packages on with Cable operators (MSO based like Hathway etc ) & DTH dish antennas. And today, with increasing dependency on usage of internet-enabled devices, the audience is spoilt for choice. The industry is dominated by fibre-optics broadcasting companies, IPTV, mobile internet and now VR enabled devices are faced with stiff competition.
Zooming into how technology is changing the way people watch sports
With 1.6 billion people watching the 2019 World Cup India- Pakistan match, we got our the most-watched ICC tournament of all times. And today sports broadcasting brings even bigger audiences worldwide through technologies that enhance the overall experience of how the game is watched, ( or shall I say consumed as its all data packets). The advanced digital technology with OTT platforms has made it possible to access content anytime and anywhere. There have been matches which have witnessed close to 25 million concurrent users. A cricket fan now is not dependent on TV but just needs access to content, over a device connected through the internet. People within the same family tend to use multiple devices, requiring broadcast to be done with extra bandwidth and security, which gives a burden to both content and network providers. And although the audience has the luxury of recording and sharing live clippings of the matches right from the stadium, it increases demand on the network provider. So, what happens to all this data on the internet?
All this has made behind the scene extremely complex. Production of a live cricket match is stressful and involves lot of people, platform and technologies working in a highly synchronized way. With the rising need for content of -behind the scene views, archives and even information about players, sports broadcasting needs to focus on both the audience reach and the content availability.
A modern connected digital economy means more and more data is being generated across social and connected platforms and is being accessed by people using mobile technology. During a match, TBs of data get consumed every second. All this data needs to be stored, managed and distributed to users via a public and private cloud. All this data is stored on physical servers. These servers may be hosted in by the organizations on their own premises or at data centres. The organizations may rent these servers or just the storage capacity on servers in the cloud from the data centre or cloud infrastructure providers enabling them to store their online data and make it globally accessible. A data centre houses several data servers in the same facility. Many large Internet companies operate their own dedicated data centres, while some data centres offer storage services for multiple clients. So, when we access a website link for viewing says a cricket match, we are actually requesting information from a server. Data stored on the server is then divided into packets for transmission and is sent via routers through a series of wired and wireless networks, to reach an ISP (Internet service provider) and ultimately to our computer or mobile device. Like any type of electronic data, server data is also vulnerable to corruption, transmission errors, loss and hacking. Most data centres implement complete security measures that include data encryption during transmission, multiple saving locations for redundancy and regular backing up of data to minimize the risk of loss of data due to any unforeseen event. Data centres are one of the key pillars in digital transformation working in parallel with network providers, broadcasters, content creators, media companies and many more. There is a high demand for investing in new solutions with streaming services, OTT and cloud-based broadcast solutions which can be set up quickly, and provide more content and better viewing experience to the audience.
Although the rules of the games have remained the same, the way the game is enjoyed by the fans has come a long way with-
•Live Streaming on OTT (Over the Top) platforms: The tech-savvy audience in today’s digital era finds great convenience in watching the game live on OTT platforms. Earlier, people had to tune into their television sets at a particular time to watch the live cricket matches. And if they missed the live action, they had to wait for the highlights, but today with internet connection, any sports match can be watched any number of times on latest OTT platforms like Disney+Hotstar, Amazon, SonyLIV, JioTV etc.
•Tech upgradation for reviews and replays: The broadcast room is like a master control room where the live drama is scripted getting live feed from multiple cameras. The advanced review and replay systems have almost eliminated the margin of errors. Earlier the umpires had access to just a single angle camera footage out of 5 cameras on the field. However, now we get a 360-degree view using high-tech cameras to zoom into the details. Factors like swing, seam, bounce and spin etc are considered to generate a 3D image of the trajectory of the ball. Super slow-motion cameras, jimmy jibs on-field mikes, ultra-motion cameras placed around the field help the third umpire review decisions. Other advanced technologies that are used today include Snickometer, Hot Spot, Umpire Cam, Spider Cam, Speed Gun and stumps with LED bails etc.
•Real-Time Updates: Connecting with your favourite sport has never been so easy before with real-time match updates on news websites, twitter feeds, Instagram pages, Facebook walls, social messaging apps like WhatsApp etc which are flooded with real-time messages from cricket fans, franchise, players and teams. Many teams also run social media contests during matches to keep the audience engaged.
The game experience in my view has to go immersive way. Virtual Reality is an exciting technology and with inbuilt VR modes on mobiles and VR headset devices, it has already set a new trend in the broadcasting and sports arena. Cricket fans can now virtually experience the ongoing 2020 IPL live match as if they are physically present in the cricket stadium! With the futuristic potential that VR has, it can bring on a major revolution in itself! Beyond that. Lets wait, watch & enjoy. Super over coming soon.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.