How Skycam Works

A Celebrity Camera

Skycam mostly gathered dust until the XFL debuted in 2001. The XFL was an offshoot football league launched by Vince McMahon, of World Wrestling Federation fame. With Skycam, the XFL immediately had a fresh, dynamic look that set games apart from traditional football game broadcasts.

Although the XFL shuttered after just one season, the NFL took notice of the extensive Skycam coverage. Starting in 2002, Skycam became a staple of Sunday Night Football, and since then has been used for all sorts of events.

Winnercomm bought Skycam in 2004. And in 2009, Outdoor Channel Holdings (which operates The Outdoor Channel) purchased Winnercomm. The Skycam patent expired in 2004, so other companies have developed competing products, such as CableCam. Because Skycam was first and most famous, though, many people refer to all cable-mounted camera systems as Skycams.

Regardless of the brand, these cameras aren't cheap to deploy. Setting up Skycam costs tens of thousands of dollars. That's why you most often see Skycam coverage during major events that are sure to draw a large number of viewers (and thus, revenues to help pay for the Skycam).

Now the system is used often for the Olympics, college football, NFL games and NASCAR and IndyCar races. It's also seen plenty of action during NBA and NHL games, as well as golf. Deep-pocketed musicians use Skycam for concert coverage, and all sorts of directors want Skycam as they shoot feature films.