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ESPN acquires virtual insertion provider Vistas Unlimited

Looking to further enhance and monetize its sports broadcast in new and interactive ways, ESPN has acquired technology development company Vistas Unlimited, located in Plano, TX. The network said its acquisition of Vistas Unlimited would augment ESPN’s use of virtual technology across its multiple platforms. Although no financial terms were disclosed, both parties said that under this agreement, ESPN it will continue to employ a majority of Vistas’ current staff.

Chuck Pagano, executive vice president of ESPN technology, said the team that is joining ESPN brings a wealth of knowledge in developing cutting-edge virtual components that enhance fans’ enjoyment of a game telecast.

Vistas Unlimited’s technology delivers virtual insertions of ads or graphics during live TV broadcasts. These “VDI insertions” are still and moving broadcast and video images created through a system of computers, signal processors, telemetry encoders and software. VDI insertions often appear during the real-time transmission of a TV broadcast and are made to look like they are part of the natural environment.

With this technology, Vistas Unlimited can create new advertising opportunities for sponsors without physically altering the environment being televised. Vistas Unlimited has developed the video processing and insertion of optimal putt paths for the Golf Channel on many of its PGA and LPGA broadcasts. The company worked on the development of a “blue line” — a virtual line on the green showing the path the ball would follow on its way to rolling into the cup. After the ball is hit, the viewer can watch it follow or veer away from the blue line.

The network has been developing and using virtual technologies of its own and with outside help. For example, ESPN has continued to jointly develop and implement EA Virtual Playbook with EA SPORTS, after first showcasing it in 2008.