ESPN Acquires Vistas in Effort To Speed Virtual-Technology Development

ESPN took its commitment to next-generation technologies to the next level with the acquisition of Vistas Unlimited, the Plano, TX-based company that provides virtual-graphics insertion technologies. The move will speed technology development for the network, allowing it to bring innovations to viewers faster than ever.

“We have such a backlog of ideas from the content side, and, with all of the events this year happening around the same time, like the NBA Finals, World Cup, and Summer X Games, this gives us more bandwidth,” says Anthony Bailey,  VP of emerging technology for ESPN.

Vistas won the George Wensel Technical Achievement Award at the 2008 Sports Emmy Awards for its insertion of optimal putt paths on The Golf Channel. The acquisition marks the first time ESPN’s technology division has acquired a technology provider (the digital-media side of the house has made similar acquisitions). Vistas Unlimited has ended all of its contracts with other clients although The Golf Channel is still using Aim Point.

“We’re trying to own as much intellectual property as we can and are trying to be smart in terms of paying third-party fees,” says Bailey. “They’re a small company with good, smart people, so it makes sense to bring them in-house and own the IP.”

The majority of Vistas Unlimited employees will remain in Plano, but a few will move to Orlando, FL, home of ESPN’s Technology Center.

“In the virtual-graphics realm, their people working with ours will build some really cool products,” says Bailey. Projects include developments for golf and baseball, and the hope is that the first fruits of the acquisition will get in front of viewers in time for the British Open.

“This acquisition represents ESPN’s dedication to staying at the forefront of innovation and technology development,” says EVP of  Technology Chuck Pagano.  “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.”

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