ESPN has acquired technology development company Vistas Unlimited, Inc., located in Plano, Texas. The acquisition will augment ESPN’s innovative use of virtual technology across its multiple platforms. Under this agreement, ESPN will continue to employ a majority of Vistas’ employees.
“This acquisition represents ESPN’s dedication to staying at the forefront of innovation and technology development,” said Chuck Pagano, executive vice president, ESPN technology. “The team that is joining ESPN brings a wealth of knowledge on developing cutting-edge virtual components that enhance the fan’s enjoyment of a game telecast.”
Vistas Unlimited developed computer technology that delivers virtual insertions (VDI® insertions) during live television broadcasts. With this technology, Vistas Unlimited created new advertising opportunities for sponsors without physically altering the environment being televised. In 2008, Vistas Unlimited was honored with the George Wensel Technical Achievement Award at the 29th Annual Sports Emmy Awards. This honor was for Vistas Unlimited’s development of the video processing and insertion of optimal putt paths for The Golf Channel on many of its PGA and LPGA broadcasts. Vistas 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 addition of Vistas Unlimited is part of another year of growth and innovation for ESPN’s technology team. Recently, ESPN announced the launch of ESPN 3D, the industry’s first 3D network, following a successful 3D telecast in September 2009 of the USC at Ohio State college football game. That production was ESPN’s first 3D telecast distributed to fans in more than two years of testing. In October 2009, ESPN opened its Innovation Lab at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. The lab provides ESPN a real-world testing ground to continue developing new ground-breaking on-air products. Additionally, ESPN has continued to jointly develop and implement EA Virtual Playbook with EA SPORTS, after first showcasing it in Fall 2008.