Working as a manufacturer and supplier of fiber optics for broadcasting, we have a unique perspective as to what may happen with sports during this pandemic.

It is no secret that the world is starved for sports entertainment now that most live sporting events have been cancelled or postponed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Manufacturers and users of tactical fiber optic cable assemblies and SMPTE cable assemblies are just as anxious to start broadcasting again. This blog will explore how sports and traditional broadcasting are intertwined.  Also, we will discuss what sports entities are doing to stay relevant during lockdown – from esports to quarantine videos to charity work. Finally, it will extrapolate to what the “new normal” of sports broadcasting will look like once restrictions have lifted.

Bringing sports to your television is changing, but you can always rely on fiber optics to deliver the signal

Sports and Broadcasting

Even before Coronavirus, there was movement to “cut the cord” in the US – to switch from traditional cable and satellite services to streaming services. One of the key anchors of the traditional broadcasting media has been sports. Major networks sign multi-billion-dollar deals with leagues while smaller, regional cable stations often sign deals with individual teams. The exclusivity of these deals and control over content exercised by the leagues have kept the bulk of programming to cable and satellite services. Tactical fiber optic cable assemblies and SMPTE cable assemblies are the backbone for the broadcast of this content.

This isn’t to say that leagues and teams haven’t noticed the uptick in streaming services popularity – they certainly have and have worked to offer multi-screen streaming services in the form of league passes. Pay a fee and you can watch all the football, baseball, basketball or hockey that you want. The Coronavirus Pandemic has accelerated the need for leagues and teams to beef up their streaming content and stay relevant in the minds of their audience and perhaps even reach new audiences. Fiber-to-the-Home networks have been integral in providing the bandwidth needed for users to consume content, regardless of the service used to provide that content.

Staying Relevant

Now that sports are on hold throughout most of the world, the appetite for sports content has become ravenous. The ratings for the NFL Draft, held virtually for the first time ever, and “The Last Dance”, the Michael Jordan documentary on ESPN prove that sports still serve as a welcome respite and distraction in difficult times. These large-scale sports productions are few and far between, though and sports entities – leagues, teams, athletes, commentators and coaches – still have media obligations to satisfy and a professional need to stay relevant.

Many of these entities are turning to competing in simulated environments – esports. The racing world was quick to latch onto this idea with Formula 1, Supercars Championship, and NASCAR all holding simulated competitions broadcast through streaming media. Formula 1 is using EA Sports’ F1 2019 to run a Virtual Grand Prix Series featuring F1 drivers as well as esports personalities. NASCAR and Supercars Championship are both running events that feature head-to-head competition.

Other leagues have caught on as well – NBA, NHL and FIFA are all turning to esports to bring content to viewers. The NBA and NHL are using video game counterparts to “play” season games and those games are being broadcast on regional sports networks. FIFA is hosting a 128-team charity tournament that will be broadcast through a variety of streaming services. Meanwhile, many athletes, commentators and coaches are taking to social media to share inspirational messages, funny moments and everyday experiences while they cannot be on the field. Here is one of my favorites:

BBC Sports Broadcaster Andrew Cotter Calls ‘Game of Bones’ Between His Dogs

All this crossover could lead to a more symbiotic relationship between traditional broadcasting and streaming services, with sports being the catalyst. Establishing a link to younger viewers through esports and streaming services, sports can help to bring some of those viewers over to traditional broadcasting services and vice-versa with older viewers; essentially expanding the viewership for both forms of content delivery and addressing the need for sports to reach younger and more diverse audiences.

The “New Normal”

As this piece is being written, the biggest topic in American media is reopening as Coronavirus stay-at-home orders are being relaxed. How will reopening affect sports? As restrictions lift, golf courses are among the first recreational sporting venues to start opening. In Florida, the WWE was deemed essential and allowed to resume live broadcasts from their training facility in Orlando. In North Carolina and South Carolina, NASCAR was given permission to run events as early as May 17th.

These events will have no spectators, a recurring theme throughout all planning when it comes to resuming sports in a post-lockdown environment. This presents a unique opportunity for broadcasting companies to be creative with how they capture events. SMPTE cable assemblies are versatile and allow for a myriad of camera angles. Tactical fiber optic cable assemblies extend the area that you can cover with one broadcast truck.

It’s important to note here that the primary concern among all involved (including this blog writer) is the health and safety of competitors, officials, coaches, spectators, broadcasters and all support staff for anything that will constitute the “new normal”. All public-relations messages from teams, leagues, broadcasters and networks, that I’ve seen, feature a statement expressing a commitment to that health and safety.

Logically, NASCAR and the PGA will be the first to explore a return to competition. Both events are prime social-distancing scenarios. Golfers are spread out on holes measured in the hundreds of yards. Racers are separated by their vehicles and are typically covered head-to-toe in protective clothing. Tactical fiber optic cable assemblies and SMPTE cable assemblies are integral to capturing these events.

The need for live spectators in these sports really has more to do with generating revenue for the venues than any real advantage for the competitors – a cheering crowd can be distracting to a golfer approaching a shot and even though I have no first-hand experience in a NASCAR vehicle, I can’t imagine the racers can even see or hear the crowd while concentrating on keeping control of a race car at 170 to 200mph.

How these sports handle their return to competition as well as how they perform from a business standpoint will help to inform other leagues that want to get started. MLB is looking to start up again in late June or early July. Plans are still forming, but one idea that is getting some traction is to split the league up into three region-based divisions: East, Central and West. Another is to play the season out in the spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona. The NBA wants to finish its season, but no plans are in place yet. The main concern is how to make sure athletes, coaches, trainers and officials stay healthy when competition resumes.

Tactical fiber optic cable assemblies and SMPTE cable assemblies will be an increasingly-important element of the “new normal” as broadcasters do what they do best – give us the welcome respite and distraction of sports. Stay healthy and stay safe and we’ll explore the “new normal” when the time is right.