ESPN Acquires PVI Technology

ESPN has acquired the bulk of intellectual property rights held by PVI Virtual Media Services from Cablevision. PVI made its mark by developing the yellow first-down line that appears in all football broadcasts, while capabilities also include virtual product placement.

ESPN will hire most of PVI's staff, including engineers, working at its base in New Jersey. PVI has also developed applications in the field of interactive TV and 3D graphics.(ESPN has a fledgling 3D network.)

Separately, some of PVI's technology has been sold to an undisclosed other party.

In sports, PVI technology allows for the virtual placement of an ad on the field in a football broadcast or behind home plate during a baseball game. Also, in-game stats about a player's performance can pop up on the screen during a game -- an opportunity that should become even more important as interest in fantasy sports grows.

PVI has deals with ESPN, but also competitors such as CBS College Sports, Fox Sports Net and the Big Ten Network.

Chuck Pagano, an ESPN executive vice president, stated: "PVI has developed some of the television industry's leading virtual content, and now the addition of their engineering team will help ESPN continue to invent ... production enhancements."

The virtual product placement option has applications in scripted TV -- allowing a network to insert a Pepsi bottle, for example, on the counter in a scene, which has already been shot.

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