The Panasonic KAIROS production switcher allows students at the University of Southern California to learn on professional-grade broadcasting equipment.

May 23 2023

Broadcasting Solutions Help Esports Programs Showcase Talent

Audiovisual technologies allow colleges to stream competitions and offer learning opportunities for students in a variety of fields.

The University of Southern California has the top-ranked game design program in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. But until recently, most students had nowhere to play. The only exception was its esports team, which practiced in a small, closed area. So, when USC’s Learning Environments department stumbled upon an underutilized space in the basement of Leavey Library, it decided to put it to use as an esports arena and a classroom.

Initially, the department thought the space could be used by gamers, game designers and computer science majors. Then it added a livestreaming production room, which could be used by any number of departments to render film. It created a production suite for TikTok and YouTube videos, and added an audio studio for podcasts.

“We wanted to get more into emerging technology, so we got a hologram machine, added a nonfungible token creation space and an NFT art gallery with 3D printing and large format printing,” says Learning Environments Director Joe Way.

“We realized every time we did something that there was a way to take one more step, to serve one more student and one more interest,” he says. “It’s really an opportunity to create an immersive and collaborative environment for all of our students.”

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Like USC, which opened its Digital Creative Lab this spring, colleges around the country are finding that esports facilities are for more than just gamers. The behind-the-scenes audiovisual and broadcasting work that brings the competitions to life has become as popular as the games themselves.

“We want to prepare our students for the workforce, and that means creating a sandbox within which they can participate,” explains Raj Singh, manager of learning technologies design and engineering at USC. “Our cinema school, our journalism school, they have broadcast-tier production studios, so when students go to work for companies, it’s an easy transition. We wanted that same experience. Having a space like this gives them the opportunity to hone their craft and take it to the next level.”

Some schools have esports majors, but students interested in the production side can come from a variety of fields, including business, engineering, IT, communications and broadcasting. They learn not only how to produce competitions but also how to manage and market them, says Singh. They can also showcase their work to viewers and companies that visit schools.

Indiana’s Ball State University opened its esports center in April 2021, more than five years after its student-run esports program began. “A lot of schools are developing esports programs because it’s in vogue,” says Dan Marino, Ball State’s esports director. “But as you start to dig deeper, there are more tangible benefits than just the fact that it’s a new shiny program to add to your campus. It’s an equalizer in that it can bring in people for an immersive learning opportunity who otherwise wouldn’t participate in traditional sports.”

READ MORE: University libraries are evolving to support future needs.

Universities Go Big to Create High-End Broadcast Production Facilities

The University of Akron has 6,500 square feet of space for esports, including a viewing lounge, a broadcasting area and a competition arena, but in 2017, when it was among the first schools to begin building esports facilities, there were few resources available.

“It was a lot of trial and error, a lot of learning by doing,” recalls UA Director of Esports Nate Meeker. “Now there are tutorials that make it a lot easier.”

The center of any esports program is the gaming equipment — high-end computers and consoles such as the Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation — but broadcasting and production equipment is equally essential, he adds. UA uses Corsair Elgato cameras, lighting and gaming broadcast cards.

WATCH: USC's Joe Way discusses the formation of the university's Digital Creative Lab.



On the networking side, UA uses Arista switches. “For esports broadcasting, it’s really about how fast the upload speed is. The closer you get to a gigabit and over for upload speeds, the better your overall experience is going to be,” Meeker says. “Then the higher capacity of your network in general can allow you to pass more signals back and forth between the connected PCs.”

Ball State, named 2022 EsportsU Collegiate Community of the Year by Collegiate Sports Management Group, has a 3,600-square-foot esports facility. Its production room and central production area are outfitted with a two-stripe TriCaster control panel, a sound mixer and Audinate’s Digital Audio Network Through Ethernet (Dante) connectors for its audio and production communication.

The university uses the Network Device Interface open protocol, “so it’s all wireless through IP,” explains Marino. Dedicated broadband internet supports the broadcasting and production “and gives our students uncontested bandwidth when they compete in matches so they don’t have to worry about people watching Netflix.”

USC wanted a production system that was fully flexible and would allow them to switch, route and accommodate any need, so they partnered with Panasonic to implement its KAIROS production switcher. “We’re proud to say that we’re one of the first higher education institutions in the world to have it,” says Way.

LEARN MORE: Consider what type of esports program your university is building.

The network in the new facility was designed from the ground up with Audiovisual over IP and boasts the largest AVoIP deployment in the world running on a production network. Each jack has an uncapped 1 gigabit throughput. USC uses the SMPTE ST 2110 standard for uncompressed video that can go up to 3 gigabits per second. It uses Dante to switch and route everything via the Dante domain manager server and uses the Crestron VC-4 virtual control platform to control each endpoint in the room over IP.

Panasonic and Canon cameras face the students, who use Dell Alienware computers and Spectrum’s Shoutcaster Station gaming table. Gameplay is broadcast onto a 16-foot Sharp NEC Direct View LED wall that serves as the focal point of the room. The space is also Zoom-enabled so activities can be viewed remotely and anybody in an offsite location can participate, whether for teaching, learning or collaborating, says Singh.

Adjacent to the gaming lab is the Digital Creative Studio, where the Crestron DM NVX AVoIP encoder/decoder broadcasts games to digital signage displays outside the space. Students can also livestream esports events on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch, Amazon’s livestreaming service. “Panasonic KAIROS is a broadcast-tier switcher, so it could be broadcast out to any production studio,” Singh says.

Prepare for Change in the Quickly Evolving World of Higher Ed Esports

While PCs and consoles have traditionally dominated esports, mobile esports has been gaining steam, says Lewis Ward, research director of gaming, esports and augmented/virtual reality at IDC. Another emerging trend among major esports game developers has been cloud-based production facilities to stream regionalized content throughout the day.

“It isn’t just about esports; it’s also about people playing the game or covering the teams or getting into sponsorship deals,” explains Ward. “At the end of the day, you have to generate X number of hours for that window. You have to fill it with something, and there’s going to be a lot of need for talent to do that.”

One of the biggest challenges in esports is that it’s always changing. “There’s always going to be a new title or something new that needs to be adapted to. That can be tricky, especially in the realm of education, where most things are static in nature,” says Meeker. “Esports is dynamic, and you need someone who’s able to find different ways to engage students because what you do one year is not going to work the following year.”

It’s worth the effort, adds Singh. When people dismiss esports as kids playing video games, he points out that gaming industry revenues surpass Hollywood. New games generate billions of dollars. “It’s everything that you associate with the broadcast world, but bigger,” he says. “It’s not a choice at this point. You have to offer these services.”

532 million

The number of people who watched esports in 2022

Source:, “Esports Ecosystem in 2023: Key industry companies, viewership growth trends, and market revenue stats,” Jan. 1, 2023
Photography by Matthew Furman

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