Technology in Rugby

August 12 2022


AI unmanned camera
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Could Unmanned AI Cameras Be the Solution to Clubs Providing Live Streaming: A Look at a Saskatchewan Start Up Company



Live streaming of matches has been an issue in BC Rugby leagues, particularly the BC Premier which should be setting the standard as the top amateur rugby competition in North America. The problems in implementing live streaming in a consistent manner across the BC Premier have been cost and manpower. The industry standard cost for live streaming a match is $500. That includes providing the camera(s), computer, internet access, mics/mixers and technical expertise. The club still has to provide commentators if they want play by play on the match, which is essential in providing a quality live stream. The alternative is to provide an in-house solution operated by technically astute volunteers, experience has shown this is not going to happen on a consistent basis.

There is a solution that may be feasible to implement in the BC Premier. That solution involves installing permanent unmanned AI cameras at the BC Premier venues. These software driven cameras are smart enough to follow the action, panning back and forth across the field. As programming becomes more sophisticated, they'll be able to recognize specific situations to zoom in on. The cost and technical expertise to install such a system is unlikely available to most amateur clubs, a professional installation including camera and computer could be around the $20K mark.

Fortunately there's a start up company out of Saskatchewan, Home Team Live, that has developed a system aimed at the Canadian amateur sports market. Their background is hockey which is where they started, they've moved over to baseball and soccer and are now interested in the rugby market. I talked to one of their product specialists and took a look through their highlight videos, the potential is exciting. They're willing to absorb the cost of installation at a venue with the hope of regaining that back through viewer subscriptions. Not only are they willing to absorb the initial setup cost but they'll get involved in discussions with the Municipal Parks Boards to facilitate installation of the equipment when the club doesn't own the venue.

The potential for clubs and rugby is exciting. They can program the cameras to turn on and off based on the club's schedule, the video is archived also for later viewing. So you could have the cameras turn on Saturday morning at 11:30am to start recording for the first club match, and turn off at 4:30pm after the 3rd match of the day. Also for Sunday minis, if parents/grandparents wanted to subscribe and watch, the club could schedule the cameras to turn on and record. There would be no need for a volunteer camera person to setup and record. If clubs wanted to provide live stream commentary the company provides mics to access the unmanned camera/computer.

Their subscription model is $15 a month but they're willing to discount a September to May, nine month lump sum payment. Then there's revenue sharing on the live stream advertising that clubs can add to the stream.

Potentially if the system were adopted by numerous clubs, on a Saturday you could watch or rewatch one of many Premier games from your device. You could even be at one game and check in on the games at other connected venues. Friends and family from around the world could watch the match, if subscribed, as could MLR scouts.

The Home Team Live crew are in conversation with the BCRU but clubs can also check into it individually. My contact was Eric Anderson and you can reach him at eric@hometeamlive.com to get more details.

Sample soccer video from Home Team Live YouTube channel (note camera performance in daylight and under lights)

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