TAYLOR’S TAKE ON THE WEEK IN SPORTS TECH: From startups to streaming, sports tech innovation will be front-and-center at the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.
NBC announced this week that it will use 106 cameras to broadcast Super Bowl LII at the high-tech U.S. Bank Stadium, including 20 pylon cameras and two “SkyCams,” which provides a Madden-like view from above. NBC used it earlier this season and this is the first time dual SkyCams will be used during a Super Bowl broadcast.
NBC, which will bring more than 500 staff on site for the big game next week in Minneapolis, is also using 264,000 feet of camera and microphone cable and seven 4K UHD cameras this year.
You can stream the game for free at NBCSports.com; at NBC.com, and with the NBC Sports app. The live stream will also include 10-plus hours of pre- and post-game coverage.
Yahoo is also streaming the Super Bowl for free via the Yahoo Sports app thanks to Verizon’s new deal with the NFL.
Next week the NFL is also hosting its third annual “1st and Future” event, which gives sports tech startups a chance to pitch their ideas in front of a panel of judges that this year includes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBC Broadcasting & Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy, and others.
The winning company will receive $50,000 and two Super Bowl tickets. You can watch the pitches live online starting at 7 a.m. PT on Feb. 3. Read about last year’s winners here.
Here are this year’s participating startups in their respective categories:
Advancements in Protective Equipment
Exero Labs — Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Impressio Inc. — Denver, Co.
VyaTek Sports, Inc. — Cave Creek, Az.
New Therapies to Speed Recovery
Cartilage Repair Systems LLC — New York, NY
EyeGuide, Inc.— Philadelphia, Penn.
RecoverX — Mountain View, Calif.
Technology to Improve Athletic Performance
Aladdin Dreamer, Inc.— Paradise Valley, Ariz.
Curv.ai — Toronto, Canada
Xensr, Inc. — Green Bay, Wis.
By the way, I’m headed to Pittsburgh for a month. Expect some sports tech coverage — there is concussion research going on at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as some local startups doing cool sports-related innovation. I’ll also check out my first NHL game — go Penguins?
Highlights from the week in sports tech
- Bill Gates and Roger Federerare getting together on the tennis court again.
- NBA outlined some stipulations for its participation with legal sports betting — the league wants 1 percent of every bet made on its games.
- ESPN is exploring a sale of FiveThirtyEight, the geeky data-driven site launched by Nate Silver.
- More ESPN: The company this week announcedFirst Take: Your Take, a new show that will stream on Facebook Watch.
- U.S. ski and snowboard athletes are using virtual reality from STRIVR to help train for next month’s Winter Olympics.
- The PGA Tour is streaming action from the 16th hole at the Waste Management Open in virtual reality.
- The XFL is coming back — I’ll be interested to see how Vince McMahon uses new technology, whether during games or with streaming.
- Bleacher Report CEO Dave Finocchio talked to Recode about how his sports media site shifted from Facebook to Instagram. He discussed Facebook at our Sports Tech Summit last year.
- Fanatics will allow fans to exchange jerseys if a player is traded to another team. What does this mean for Rep the Squad?
- The Atlanta Falconsreduced the price of concessions items — and saw higher revenue.
- The New York Times also looks at how America’s sports stadiums are moving downtown.
- Arsenal inked a first-of-its-kind sponsorship deal with CashBet, a U.S. cryptocurrency company.
- The World Cup will feature a video assistant referee, or VAR, for the first time, which creates more potential sponsor dollars. Meanwhile, a French league terminated its goal-line technology contract.
- Esports news: T-Mobile is sponsoring the Overwatch League; ELEAGUE inked a streaming deal with Twitch; and Unikrnlaunched a radio show.
- DraftKings released a new fantasy football game, Showdown, which you can play during the Super Bowl.
- Russell Wilson is promoting his new startup, TraceMe, at the Pro Bowl.
- There are some interesting name options for Seattle’s potential new NHL team.
- Members of the U.S. militarywere able to watch NFL playoff games last week despite the government shutdown.
- College tennis teamswill be using more video replay assistant technology as the Intercollegiate Tennis Association tests PlaySight’s PlayFair system.
- Greenfly, a startup co-founded by former MLB player Shawn Green, raised a $8.5 million round this week.
- ShowerPill, a startup co-founded by former NFL player Justin Forsett, will be featured on Shark Tank on Sunday.
- Nike and PlayStationdesigned a basketball shoe together.
What to watch this weekend: Pro Bowl is Sunday at noon PT on ESPN; Warriors vs. Celtics, Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on ABC; No. 2 Virginia at No. 4 Duke, Saturday at 11 a.m. on CBS; Tiger Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open on CBS (if he makes the cut); and the Australian Open wraps up this weekend on ESPN.
Thanks for tuning in, everyone! — Taylor Soper
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The Patriots have had Super Bowls decided by David Tyree’s helmet, Malcolm Butler’s sure hands, and of course, Tom Brady’s right arm. But there’s always the chance that the outcome of Sunday’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles could be determined by a yellow flag flopping onto the field.
The seven-man officiating crew for Super Bowl LII will be led by Gene Steratore in his first Super Bowl assignment. Each referee in Sunday’s crew was rated in the top tier of their position. All seven have playoff experience and at least 15 years on the job.
Instead of working with his regular season crew, Steratore will lead what the NFL hopes is an all-star assembly: Roy Ellison (umpire), Jerry Bergman (down judge), Byron Boston (line judge), Tom Hill (field judge), Scott Edwards (side judge), and Perry Paganelli (back judge).
Ellison is the only member of Sunday’s crew that worked with Steratore during the regular season. Steratore, who has been an NFL referee since 2006 and officiated two conference championship games, was in the spotlight in December when he used an index card to measure a first down during a Cowboys-Raiders game.
Steratore has also played a notable role in the league’s never-ending debate over the definition of a catch, ruling that neither the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant nor the Lions’ Calvin Jonson completed the process of making a catch.
According to ESPN, Steratore’s crew was tied for the second-most flags per game (17.1) in the regular season. They called 43 fouls for either defensive pass interference, defensive holding, or illegal contact, which was the fifth-highest total in the league. (The Tom Brady/Brandin Cooks pass-interference machine has a good chance to keep pumping out flags on Sunday.) But referees have called far fewer total flags in the postseason than they did in the regular season, with the average penalties dropping from 15.8 per game to 9.5 per game in the playoffs.
In Steratore’s 23 games involving the Patriots, the team has received 49 percent of the penalties, according to the Washington Post. But the other six members of his crew have all worked in games where the Patriots received the majority of the calls. If the Patriots win, expect the conspiracy theorists who believe the Patriots are benefitting from a pro-New England bias to get even louder.
Philadelphia has gone beyond scouting New England’s offense or defense in preparation for Super Bowl LII. Eagles coaches have shown players video-cut ups of calls Steratore’s crew made so that they know what to expect on Sunday.
“There’s always a fine line in this game between what’s valid and what’s not,” Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks told ESPN. “But at the end of the day, that’s the ref’s call.”
If the officials do their job right on Sunday, a ref’s call won’t decide which team lifts the Lombardi Trophy.
TOPICS:Super BowlSuper Bowl LII
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