The PTO has made another stellar addition to its team as Christophe Balestra joins the organisation as Chief Technology Officer.

As the coverage of the PTO 2020 Championship at Challenge Daytona showed, integrating tech such as live leaderboards makes a huge difference to the excitement of an event. With the news of bringing Balestra on board, the PTO is signalling its intention to really up the ante in terms of live-action storytelling.

For those whose triathlon proclivities mean no room for the world of videogames, Balestra was previously co-president of Naughty Dog, a first-party games developer for Sony Entertainment Network known for franchises such as Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted and The Last Of Us.

As well as having worked on some of the most critically acclaimed, technically advanced and most ambitious character-driven games of the last 20 years, Balestra is also an avid triathlete as his Instagram account can attest. He’s completed numerous Ironman and 70.3 events as well as working on passion projects including the fittingly named The Obsessed Triathlete results site.

“Triathlon is a sport that is perfectly suited to the innovations in sporting broadcast technology,” said Balestra. “Triathlon is driven by immense amounts of data and has the personalities and sporting drama that when properly presented to an audience, makes for an engaging and thrilling experience.

“Each Championship calibre race will have numerous storylines driven by professional personalities and the performance data which drives their tremendous competitive accomplishments. Whether it is Lucy Charles-Barclay setting another record in the swim, Lionel Sanders pushing new limits on the bike, or Gustav Iden pulling away from two-time Olympic gold medal winner Alistair Brownlee on the run, our goal is to implement and deliver the technological innovations now available so fans can be riveted by truly compelling broadcast products over numerous platforms.” 

Bringing Tech Innovations To Triathlon Coverage

Balestra’s first big challenge will be to utilise the latest technology to showcase the PTO’s flagship Collins Cup event, which is set for 28 August. With a multi-race team-based format and captains directing the action, there should be plenty of data and action to provide entertaining coverage.

“Today’s sports broadcast market is very technology driven and fans consume live sports products in a myriad of different ways,” said PTO executive chairman Charles Adamo. Our mission is to bring to the sporting audience exciting and compelling broadcasts of the greatest athletes in the world.

“With the addition of Christophe to our team, we now have proven technology expertise from an industry known to be at the forefront of innovative narrative driven entertainment who will be able to accelerate our path as we put on display the inspirational performances of our PTO Professionals and showcase their talents to the world.”

So what sorts of technology might we see Balestra bring to the world of triathlon in his new role? Here are some of the innovations that are being introduced to sports broadcasting.

We could see advances in virtual sets with LED video walls and augmented reality on-screen graphics allowing immersive commentary set-ups and interactive analysis. Augmented reality could also make its way into live broadcasts – for example by projecting draft zones or highlighting athletes and overlaying their data.

As 5G becomes ever-more ubiquitous, the opportunities for real-time streaming grow. This would allow broadcast directly from cameras, easier access to multi-camera setups and perhaps, in-time, even 8K resolutions to catch every bead of sweat in outstanding detail. Meanwhile, the latest tech to smooth jitter and secure streams would increase the fidelity of event coverage being beamed from around the globe.

“Triathlon is a sport that is perfectly suited to the innovations in sporting broadcast technology”

Christophe Balestra

Some of the latest advances have come from the COVID-accelerated development of tools to put together network-quality programming remotely. Not only is this ideal for covering a series of triathlon events taking place in different countries, but cost-savings could make more high-quality productions viable, getting the sport to more fans – existing and new – than ever.

As technology evolves there could be more opportunity for fans to interact with broadcasts whether through streaming reactions, engaging with polls or even betting on outcomes. Multi-device broadcasting could also mean the ability to select cameras on handheld devices for a secondary view of the action – such as on-bike cameras.

While these are purely speculative uses of sports broadcasting tech, Balestra joining the PTO puts the organisation on track to elevate triathlon production to highlight the excitement of swim, bike, run events – and the athletes who do battle in them.

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