The history of sportscasting: An Australian perspective

Bruce Hume, Broadcast Director at Switch Media looks at the past, present and future of Sportscasting

This is contributed piece from Bruce Hume, Broadcast Director at Switch Media It covers his thoughts and experience in the delivery and consumption of sports broadcasting, often known as sportscasting, from an Australian perspective.

Up until only a few years ago the only way to enjoy sports was to go to the game or catch the live broadcast on the telly or radio. Many of us will remember days of analogue broadcast recorded on VHS which allowed us to catch up or even relive moments. If you were lucky enough to have a VHS, it might have had a timer recording. Setting these things up was like using a rudimentary digital alarm clock from Casio. There certainly was no EPG to schedule the recording.

A decade or so later came the Personal Video Recorder (PVR), a pretty revolutionary device. With the ability to leverage the TV Guide, users could simply set up recordings via the remote control. Recording video to relatively small video sizes and USB thumb drive support, we saw users share recording games with mates and possibly online – somewhat illegally. Starting to see the demand for online viewing rights, holders would often make short highlight packages as part of online coverage. These took the form of short, very low-res highlight packages available as QuickTime or alike. 

In a huge moment for Australian TV we saw Foxtel launch a 20-channel subscription service in 1995, and over the next few years the advancement and development in broadcasting was pretty powerful. FoxSports and other sports channels, continued to increase viewing options with a considerable drive for better viewer experiences.  

From 2000 onwards

Over the noughties things really began to advance and we saw internet video start to take shape. Smart web integrated PVRs allowed user remote access to video content away from the home. The first technology was TV2Me, followed closely by the more accessible Slingbox. Slingbox was developed by a couple of big sports fans who wanted a way to catch up on their team games while travelling outside of the local broadcast region. These guys made a killing out of out “placeshifting” as they got around the rights issues.

Importantly TV Networks sat up and listened and “TV Everywhere” was born. This securely delivered live streaming content and gave viewers a new platform to watch live sport online. TV Everywhere gained considerable traction in the USA during 2009 when ESPN360 contracted with ISPs to allow their customers access to online ESPN content, delivering a new way to make the most valuable of their content available via their online platforms. [image_library_tag 4c516655-62f1-4320-a728-97474bc913be 640x404 alt="the-epsn360-web-ui" title="the-epsn360-web-ui" width="640" height="404"class="center "]

The EPSN360 Web UI

Here in Australia there were a couple of key services around the same time; ABC launched iView in 2008, and Austar’s companion subscription service brought AUSTAR Anywhere. While not delivering live sports, these services were major catalysts for change in user behaviour around the consumption of TV online.

So it was all about DVRs, hard drives, media players and catch up viewing. Advancements in technology also brought better broadband capability, Wifi, social media, smartphones and tablet devices… what a decade! 

Sportscasting since 2012

Things only got more impressive over the next few years. In 2012 came the tipping point, with the ongoing advancement of technology and improved connectivity on all levels, in the shape of the London Olympics. With the Summer Olympics as the highest watched and highest grossing of any sports event, big budgets meant amazing projects. NBC Olympics Live Extra in the US, and Foxtel Olympics Apps in Australia, were examples that changed the game.

Try to ignore the gratuitous advertising in this video, but this clearly shows what NBC delivered: