Remote productions a win for Kiswe
The way TV networks have produced programming through the coronavirus pandemic has led to speculation that some of the changes that enable remote productions could become permanent.
Tech company Kiswe Mobile pioneered a cloud-based technology that can allow networks to produce events remotely — essentially bypassing production trucks or studios where it’s impossible for producers and directors to maintain social distancing standards. Kiswe has seen its business grow significantly during the coronavirus pandemic.
“All the software that you have, all the mixing, all the graphics, all of that stuff is now fundamentally done in the cloud,” said Kiswe CEO Mike Schabel. “It’s moved it from a hardware-based, room-based approach to a completely virtual approach for doing live sports, live content and archive.”
As sports have ground to a standstill, Kiswe said that over the past four weeks it has seen a 30-times increase in the number of events it produces. The company uses its tech to produce virtual events, like the Tour of Flanders bike race from earlier this month. It used its tech to help produce studio shows remotely, like NBA TV’s “GameTime.” And it’s helped provide fresh commentary on classic games, as it did with MLS earlier this month for the “MLS Classics: Remix.”
“We can give a little director’s cut and provide some behind-the-scenes storytelling about what went on with each of these,” Chris Schlosser, MLS senior vice president of media, told my colleague Mark J. Burns recently.
When sports finally do come back, Schabel predicted that networks and leagues will have to become more cost conscious, which will lead them to rely more frequently on remote productions. Even before the pandemic, some networks dabbled with remote productions, sometimes keeping their announcers in a studio in their headquarters and away from the arena. They typically would call smaller games from remote locations.
“We’re getting to the point where the executive producer doesn’t have to sit on site,” he said. “It will be liberating to have the executive producer sit at home. Where you apply that is going to be a business decision. This wouldn’t put people out of work. This would actually create more work and more content, because networks would need more executive producers. They will use them more efficiently than traveling.”
The question is whether networks and leagues will trust cloud-based technology when live games finally come back. Kiswe’s Schabel is not predicting that production trucks or production studios will become obsolete any time soon. But he believes leagues and networks will grow comfortable enough with the technology to use it more frequently.
“We have a camera that is a constant, and we have a consumer that is a constant. What does that middle look like?” Schabel asked. “In the past, that middle was a highly structured, well-defined machine with lots of layers — satellites, broadcast trucks. This has opened eyes that that middle layer can be supported in the cloud. It is camera to cloud to remote camera to consumer. Does that work for 100% of the use cases? No. Zero percent? Also no.”
The development of cloud-based production services will give networks and leagues more flexibility, Schabel said. He predicts a hybrid system where they are both used for a significant period of time, something that would turn out to be a big win for Kiswe.
“We’re at the tipping point for a transition,” he said. “It was always 100% truck. Networks and leagues now see that this other approach is a high-quality, broadcast worthy approach. … Once you’re starting to accept a new way, then what do you do with it? That’s how we’re starting to see some exciting things.”