ESPN's 'Around The Horn' will soon include augmented reality from Vizrt

ESPN is set to integrate augmented reality into Around the Horn starting November 5th.

Originally published by Forbes.

Around the Horn will celebrate its 16th anniversary on ESPN on November 4, but on the following day the show will debut an entirely new look.

While there is a saying in life that when “something is not broke, don't fix it,” fans’ viewing habits and broadcasters’ expectations have changed significantly since Around the Horn hit the airwaves back in 2002. To capture and maintain a viewer's attention is a constantly evolving process, and it is with this in mind that ESPN has decided to make large-scale changes to one of its most popular shows.

The visual upgrades to the show will feature new augmented reality and brand-new graphics that include animations, as well as a new logo and music for the show. Below is a clip from ESPN about the new look from Around the Horn as well as an advanced preview of what the new augmented reality technology will look like on the air.

To get this technology ready for on-air use, ESPN worked with the DCTI Technology Group to create a fully integrated, three-dimensional environment. This will allow the panelists, who are spread out all over the country, to have a new kind of interaction that has, to this point, been limited to the show’s host, Tony Reali, interacting through one-dimensional video conferencing.

The network also worked in conjunction with Norway-based broadcast company Vizrt and will utilize Mo-sys camera tracking technology to allow the panelists to appear in studio with Reali, giving the show a completely redesigned look.

“Augmented reality is something we’ve wanted to try for years. A show with an impeccable scoring system and an immaculately wielded mute button just begs for that type of total immersion. The technology of this studio will take the video-game element of Around the Horn to the next level while also enhancing the debate and interplay of our panel,” said Reali, who has hosted more than 3,300 shows since being named to the role in February 2004. “I’m also looking forward to the new touchscreen console and moving around a bit, which will add to the pace and energy of the show.”

 

John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal spoke with ESPN Production’s senior director of original content, Alex Tyner, and learned that while these changes have been in the works for the past two years, the technology in 2016 was not ready for on-air use at the time.

“Two years ago, the proposed changes made too much use of the virtual technology,” Tyner told Ourand. “It was a little too far-flung. And really the goal was always like at the core it’s got to be about Tony and the four people. It has to be about their relationship. We can’t get caught up in the virtual world and getting pulled away and all this stuff.”

While ESPN has overhauled its content strategy and look over the past few years, it has been less visually apparent to the viewer compared with the changes the network is planning for Around the Horn. It will be important for ESPN that these sorts of changes lead to strong results as the company has had a tumultuous recent history, with viewers continuing to cut the cord in record numbers.

The influx of social media and new apps has fundamentally changed how a vast number of sports fans receive and view broadcasts and game highlights. These changes in viewing behavior led to layoffs of approximately 150 staff members last November as well as the departures of a number of high-profile personalities to other networks.

One of the ways ESPN has combated the rising number of consumers switching away from traditional cable providers was launching its own standalone streaming service, ESPN+. The results so far have been positive: It has gotten over one million subscribers in the first five months of the offering.

While the technological changes to Around the Horn won’t alter the show’s core format or the focus of the programming, they offer an interesting new look at where television studio shows might be headed in the future. Grabbing the attention of the sports fan on television has been an increasingly difficult proposition in recent years, and undoubtedly many will be watching to see if these new augmented reality changes by ESPN move the needle and attract new viewers, not only to the show but to the network as a whole.

Read the original article from Forbes.