Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

Tech

Pixellot’s AI-automated cameras will be used for NBC Sports Next’s SportsEngine Play streaming service.

As part of the partnership, Pixellot will equip sports venues with their AI-powered cameras at no cost to make live streaming for youth and amateur sports more accessible.NBC Sports Next/Pixellot

NBC Sports Next-owned SportsEngine has partnered with AI camera solution Pixellot to offer free, automated streaming to youth and amateur sports venues in North America.

Sports facility operators will receive the Pixellot hardware so that all of their competitions can be streamed through SportsEngine Play, the subscription streaming service that launched in October. There are three tiers of offerings: a free, ad-supported option; a premier version that removes ads and includes highlight clipping features; and an all-access tier with access to a library of masterclass videos from Olympians and other star athletes. Venue operators receive a share of revenue generated, so the addition of Pixellot streaming has upside with no expenses.

NBC Sports Next SVP & GM Brett MacKinnon said streaming is rapidly becoming a “must have” in youth sports, yet the marketplace remained fragmented.

“No one was really bringing together a 360-degree, 365-day value to that youth sports household,” he said, “and so what really brought this together was a common vision that you could create a one-stop streaming solution.”

David Shapiro, Pixellot’s President of North America, likened the scope of the deal to the company’s watershed partnership with PlayOn! Sports and the NFHS Network. That agreement was first signed in 2017 and dramatically accelerated in 2020.

“When Covid hit, the NFHS Network decided to give our technology away for free, and over a 12-month period, we went from streaming roughly 30,000 games a year with them to streaming a million games a year,” he said. “It just completely changed the high school sports landscape and streaming around it. So for a long time, we’ve been looking for a partner in the youth sports landscape to try to replicate that same thing, to really change the market here.”

Shapiro added that, about seven years ago, it became the norm to have streaming for all competition in college athletics. It’s now commonplace in high school. And the trickle-down trend to youth is starting to take place now. He noted that Pixellot has 35,000 installations globally, of which 70% are in the US. High schools are the leading driver of that with fewer than 1,000 in youth sports venues to date. SportsEngine and Pixellot aim to install at least 1,000 new units in this first year of the partnership.

Sports facility operators will receive the Pixellot hardware so that all of their competitions can be streamed through SportsEngine Play.NBC Sports Next/Pixellot

Operators will also receive to some of Pixellot’s analytics platform, with additional features available as a premium add-on. Most notable of the early adopters is LakePoint Sports, the giant sporting complex in Georgia, which previously installed competitor PlaySight’s technology across its campus before now switching to Pixellot.

This collaboration with NBC Sports Next will also be a catalyst for Pixellot to create more of what it touts as Smart Sports Cities, in which a high concentration of systems will cover all local sports. The first such deployment was in Chartres, France, and was followed later last year by Lake Forest, Ill.

“This idea with SportsEngine is to use them to go roll out these smart cities all over the place because it just lowers the barrier to entry,” Shapiro said. “People don’t have to come up with the money or tax dollars to fund it.”

SportsEngine and Pixellot have worked together periodically in the last five years — “small starts and some early wins,” MacKinnon described it — while imagining what a larger-scale investment might look like. NBC Sports Next previously acquired Rapid Replay, a graduate of the Comcast NBCUniversal accelerator program, which became the foundation of its video strategy that now gets enhanced and expanded with Pixellot.

“Many years of discussions on those topics got us to a point where we felt like, if we can align not only our product capabilities and technology capabilities but also start bringing together our sales and marketing efforts in an aligned way, that would be not only just a really compelling offering, but it would make it much easier for decision-makers and buyers in youth sports,” MacKinnon said.

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