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Silver Spoon’s Partnership With Fox Underscores The Enhanced Role Of Augmented Reality In Televised Sports

As it relates to the sports industry specifically, it’s been said numerous times since the outbreak of the global pandemic by various sports executives that one of the few silver linings resulting from our spring of sports suspensions will be a faster adaptation and implementation of technology to enhance different aspects of our sports consumption experience.

Including the televised experience, which is where a company like Silver Spoon steps in.

Silver Spoon is collaborating with Fox Sports to bring innovation to the MLB viewing experience using real-time, 3D augmented reality (AR). Using Unreal Engine as the basis of their pipeline – which is the real-time platform behind the popular esports game Fortnite – Silver Spoon utilizes their expertise in motion capture, animation and camera tracking to develop a virtual crowd application which makes the viewing experience at home appear more visually similar to what we are used to.

“We were connected through our relationships with technology providers that Fox was already working with,” says Laura Herzing, Silver Spoon’s Executive Producer. “Our virtual crowd platform will allow Fox to place realistic crowds and other AR elements within MLB stadiums, enhancing the viewing experience.”

With well-established relationships within broadcast technology having previously worked with networks such as ESPN and CBS Sports before their MLB turn with Fox, Silver Spoon sees the adoption of AR into live broadcasts as having much longer reach than virtual crowds alone. “Augmented Reality is just that”, Herzing continued, “it is meant to enhance the reality of a viewing experience, not detract from it. AR enhancements, incorporating real-time information, viewer input and sponsored elements, will continue to be part of sports broadcasting long after fans have returned to venues.”

AR indeed has been on the forefront of discussions among sports executives at many of the sports business conferences I attended prior to the pandemic. Why?

  • AR enhances fan engagement, which boosts fan loyalty, which in turn boosts future willingness among consumers to spend money on the product;
  • AR attracts younger fans in particular, whose seemingly diminishing attention spans demand innovative presentation modalities;
  • And attracting young fans is the future lifeblood of all professional sports leagues, with arguably a greater importance to capture in the sport of baseball given its comparative loss of younger fans relative to other sports like basketball and soccer.

Companies like The Famous GroupNexus Studios, and others in an ever-growing competitive sports tech landscape join Silver Spoon in this fascinating arms race of ways to devise the most colorful yet useful technological enhancements which maximize fan engagement while capturing the attention, imagination and passion of younger fans.

Without being a distraction.

As Fox Sports Exec VP and Head of Productions & Operations Brad Zager told Sports Business Journal in a recent interview about their partnership with Silver Spoon, “What we’re going for is normalcy and authenticity. We’re not trying to fool anybody. If there’s a few seconds where we can make it feel like a Major League Baseball stadium, that’s what we’re going for.”

On a day where yet another MLB team is facing positive Covid-19 test results and 20% of games scheduled are postponed for virus-related reasons, this certainly is anything but a normal MLB season.

But companies like Silver Spoon underscore a silver lining to the pandemic’s impact on sports.

Sports tech will evolve faster than it otherwise would have, producing long-lasting and positive impacts on our sports viewing experience.