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A major breakthrough in augmented reality for live sports broadcasting

Journal Article from Supponor

Mon 07, 02 2022

Tell us about the tech breakthroughs that led Supponor to be able to deploy this multi-area, live virtual advertising solution for ISG for Lega Serie A matches and the Supponor AIR platform.

UK-based Interregional Sports Group (ISG) and Supponor have combined with Lega Serie A to scope, build and deploy the most ambitious and advanced integrated virtual media technology project ever attempted in live sports broadcasting.

Known commercially as Supponor AIR™, this new technology platform integrates powerful augmented reality overlays with traditional broadcast quality solutions. This dramatically enhances the value of media and marketing rights for mass-audience sporting events for sports rights holders, their brand sponsors and broadcast partners. Supponor AIR™ drives the exponentially growing commercial value of TV visible signage during live broadcast of sports events. It offers a fully software-based end-to-end solution, integrated downstream from the production workflow and operated completely remotely.

Simon Burgess, joint CEO of ISG
“This deep collaborative partnership with Supponor in the optimisation & deployment of this advanced technology has enabled ISG to achieve what would have been unthinkable and impossible no more than 12 months ago. In these strange times, not all news is about crisis management, this is a huge positive, a massive game changer for the commercial sports industry.”

Supponor AIR™ technology builds on the strong heritage of Supponor DBRLive, widely adopted for over 10 years in top-tier live sporting events. Supponor AIR™ uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to deploy virtual advertising on any surface, in any sport, and in any weather condition. Now commercially and technically proven, Supponor AIR™ provides leagues and clubs with a flexible and powerful marketing tool to continue positioning themselves at the forefront of technical innovation to dramatically increase their commercial inventory and provide sponsors and brand partners with targeted and global reach into local markets.

When delivered remotely, Supponor AIR™ requires no physical integration with the live broadcast production and virtual system operations no longer take place at the venue, and instead can be delivered from a different location, or even different country, regardless of the contribution and distribution format (e.g., satellite, fibre, IP). The insertion of the virtual advertising and the creation of as many virtually modified feeds as required for international distribution, can be enabled fully downstream from the live broadcast production, working on both clean and dirty program contribution feeds.

This revolutionary new AI supported platform operates out of the new Serie A International Broadcast Centre (IBC), just outside of Milan, Italy. The Serie A IBC is one of the most technically advanced and complex broadcast centres in the world. From there, over 100 technicians and production personnel produce all live matches and archive remotely all the Serie A TV, radio, web via 4k production from stadiums across Italy connected via optic fibre. Deployed in record time, the centre was operational from commission to going live for the first game of the season in approximately 18 weeks. ISG's team operates, integrates, and produces virtual goal mats, virtual perimeter VLED, virtual centre circle mats, Virtual 'bench/dugout’ and some bespoke additional virtual media for all 380 championship matches a season, including Coppa Italia draws. 

Luigi de Servo, CEO of Lega Serie A
“This is a real world first, as we launch one of the world’s most advanced broadcast centres, and as Serie A continues the development of its media division…We build upon our previous six years of successful partnership with ISG; launching the most exciting & ambitious virtual media project in broadcasting history. This initiative unlocks the potential for all 20 clubs in our league, generating commercial opportunities in different markets and regions across the world. We are confident that ISG and Lega Serie A will continue their strong union for many more years to come.”

Give us a brief history of Supponor

Supponor was founded in 2001 as a pioneer operating at the intersection of technology and commercial opportunity in live sports marketing. Through continuous innovation, the company has continued to grow to become the market leader in delivering virtual replacement technology of TV-visible signage for real-time broadcast and streaming of in-venue sports advertising. As a pure-play technology solutions provider, Supponor has over 15 years of experience in research, development, testing, integration and commercial deployment.

Supponor has commercially deployed its virtual advertising replacement solutions at hundreds of live broadcast events across 10 major broadcast territories in Football (LaLiga, Bundesliga, Serie A, The FA), Hockey (NHL), Motor Racing (F1), American Football (NFL), Basketball (NBA) and other Tier 1 Sports.
Supponor is based in London and Helsinki, with additional presence in Barcelona, Köln, New York and Australia, and is management owned and backed by leading VCs, strategic partners and institutional investors.

Supponor’s technology is based on 100% proprietary, and wholly owned IP which has been developed in-house by the Supponor R&D team in Europe over the past 20 years.

James B Gambrell, CEO Supponor
“Through continuous innovation we have established ourselves as trusted partners to deliver market leading virtual advertising solutions that maximise returns for rights owners, brands and broadcasters in top tier sports around the world”

What’s next for Supponor?

We aim to support the delivery of virtual advertising or signage solutions for any rights owner, in any sport, on any surface, anywhere and at any time.

Therefore at Supponor the next driver is to continue delivering our proven broadcast quality solutions but at a huge scale. Scale to us concerns production and distribution. In production, scaling will relate to the sheer number of events we will be delivering effectively and efficiently for partners across the globe. We will achieve this using multiple methods as we have always done to support the working practices of our partners, but as the industry itself transitions, we will have an increasing focus on centralised, remote and even cloud based operations, the latter already an area in which we are seeing exciting progress. Similarly, on the distribution side, we are already seeing increasing demand for more output feeds. Technology is opening up opportunities to deliver ever more increased personalisation in both linear broadcast, utilising cost effective, high quality and resilient point-to-point (PTP) delivery over the internet, but also within the exploding OTT and D2C live sports market, which can be either rights owner operated or pure play OTT sports aggregators, where hyper-targeting and almost individualised personalisation becomes a reality.

Our focus has always been on partnerships, but even with this primary focus we realise that with the opportunities ahead of us we need resources, so over the course of this financial year we plan to double our global headcount to support the rapid increase in the number of events Supponor is delivering and to support further expansion in Europe and rapid growth in the Americas, Australia and Asia.

We fully expect to continue our growth from an average of 100 events a year 2 or 3 years ago, to over 1,000 in 2021/22 to an already planned 2,500+ in 2022/23 and onward to 5,000 events a year within the next three years.

James B Gambrell, CEO Supponor
“This is a remarkable time for Virtual Advertising and for Supponor, as we continue to transform the market with our highly disruptive technologies and solutions. We have been a trailblazer in the development of innovative, software-based, scalable Virtual Advertising solutions and this is what has helped us record such great market success. As the market transforms, we will be scaling our business to support the growing market opportunities as we grow and consolidate our market leadership position within Virtual Advertising.”

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