Pro football is a game of numbers — and not just yards. For leagues, franchises and media companies, numbers reflect victories, such as the numbers of subscribers, advertising revenue and fan ages.
Lately, those numbers show losses:
- Although the average price of a 30-second Super Bowl advertisement doubled over the past decade to $5.25 million, NFL ratings among millennials declined 9% in a single year (2016-2017).
- Traditional football broadcasters such as ESPN have been losing both subscribers and average daily audiences every year for the past decade. Those losses are particularly high among men 18-49, an age range that includes millennials. Amazon, Facebook and Netflix are among the new breed of media companies expected to bid for NFL rights starting in 2021. That puts enormous pressure on CBS, ESPN, Fox and other traditional broadcasters to quickly figure out how to reverse those trends so they can afford to retain their rights.
- Millennials have surpassed baby boomers as the largest adult demographic, which means football needs to provide innovative fan experiences that resonate with a key audience whom advertisers want to reach.
Those trends were playing out long before COVID-19, which created a new set of challenges. For example, teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs have significantly reduced seating to achieve social distancing. With more fans staying home, the reduced gate and concession revenue makes pro football even more dependent on broadcast contracts and TV advertising.
Revolutionary New Fan Experiences with 5G
5G mobile technology offers hope with multigigabit speeds, single-digit millisecond latency and other advanced capabilities. 5G is ideal for demanding applications, such as live, ultrahigh-definition game video.
ORBI recognized 5G’s potential for providing fans with exciting new viewing experiences that boost ratings, subscribers, ad revenue and more. The Berkeley, California-based startup developed the world’s first football helmet with six 360-degree video cameras shooting in 8K at 60 frames per second (fps).
The ORBI 5G Helmets enable fans to experience the game from the player’s perspective. Each ORBI 5G Helmet uses the Telit FN980m 5G data card to stream the six cameras’ footage to a remote server. Artificial intelligence then stitches the feeds in real time into a single video that then can be delivered to audiences through broadcast TV, streaming services and virtual reality (VR) headsets. (Watch a demo here.)
The ORBI production systems can support all 22 players’ helmets during a game. That lays the foundation for a variety of new, value-added services to attract and retain subscribers. For example, fans could have the option of switching between their favorite players’ helmet feeds.
“Skycams brought us closer to the football players in the mid-2000s, and fans loved it. Today, Skycams are ubiquitous in football games. However, to compete for the attention of a broader audience, broadcasters need to provide even more intimate and immersive experiences.”
Iskander Rakhman, CEO at ORBI Inc.
Imagine being able to experience Super Bowl LIV from Patrick Mahomes’ point of view — live in 8K video at 60 fps — on TV or a VR headset. The ORBI 5G Helmet is the only commercially available headset that enables those kinds of revolutionary fan experiences.Iskander Rakhman, CEO at ORBI Inc.
The Telit Difference
ORBI chose the FN980m 5G data card after its design partner, Rhonda Software Ltd., recommended Telit.
The Telit FN980m enables ORBI and its clients, such as media production companies, to take advantage of the 5G networks currently installed at nearly half of all U.S. NFL stadiums. In 5G mode, it provides downlink speeds of up to 5.5 Gbps and uplinks of 2.7 Gbps. In stadiums that haven’t been upgraded to 5G yet, the FN980m provides 4G LTE downlink speeds of 2.4 Gbps and uplinks of 211 Mbps.
Featuring the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X55 5G Modem-RF System, the FN980m supports all major sub-6 GHz frequency bands, giving ORBI 5G Helmet users maximum deployment flexibility. The FN980m supports the Qualcomm® QTM525 mmWave antenna module for near-the-ground, low-power indoor and outdoor applications, as well as the Qualcomm® QTM527 mmWave extended-range antenna module for high-mount outdoor applications.
“Telit had a suitable module earlier than other vendors, and their timeline for developing and bringing it to the market suited us. Also, because they were very friendly and open to working together, they were able to quickly provide development samples.”
Iskander Rakhman, CEO at ORBI Inc.
The Telit-powered ORBI 5G Helmets are already winning accolades.
Bionic Buzz stopped by CES 2020 and shared, “The result is the best viewing experience for the fans. Smooth as silk with real-time live streaming through 5G or Wi-Fi directly from the football on 8K, 60 fps video ready for TV in real time.”
ORBI Prime is a fantastic product that goes beyond human sight and takes immersive video to the next level, made possible by packaging the best technologies together with great design and engineering. ORBI, Primax and Socionext are using panomorph technology to deliver true first-person perspective video for outdoor enthusiasts.Alessandro Gasparini, Immervision Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer