Evolution of Olympics broadcast coverage from Russia to Rio

Olympic SVG 300

Technologies, workflows and connectivity are changing the way European broadcasters approach Olympic Games coverage and the options they now have when it comes to planning production bases and number of personnel involved. How did broadcasters cover the Sochi 2014 Winter Games and what lessons can be learned in planning for Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018?

This session was moderated by Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director at Sports Video Group. He started by asking Sotiris Salamouris, Head of Engineering and Technical Operations at Olympic Broadcasting Services what were the key innovations and takeaways from the Sochi Games. “I think the main difference was this was the first Winter Games for the mature introduction of our web-based Multiplatform Distribution System (MDS). We provided world feeds that were carried pretty much 100% live from the Games — this was a package of seven channels in total, including our Olympic News Channel.

“It enabled rightsholders around the world to pick up our signals in a very efficient manner – which for a Winter Games was extremely important,” said Salamouris. “You have Northern countries in a position to do very good coverage themselves with their own editorial, but now we [could reach] a big part of the world audience which in previous Winter Games really did not have the same kind of content availability. This was now possible and it created a tremendous difference, we believe, in the presentation of the Games to a world audience. That was probably the biggest difference compared to Vancouver 2010.”

Introducing Richard Morgan, BBC Sport Chief Engineer, Kerschbaumer reminded the audience what a tough act to follow London 2012 was for the British broadcaster. How could Sochi measure up to the size and scale of London Olympics coverage? “Sochi was very different to London for us obviously, for all sorts of reasons, including scale and location,” agreed Morgan.

“Our workflow for this Games was very different in that we had major venue presentation working through the mountain broadcast centre then working through the IBC down at Olympic Park, then working back to the UK and then working up to Manchester. So the workflow was very concatenated in terms of the broadcast chain. For London 2012 we were all on-site, with one big combined operation.

“The distributed nature for us was not very different to how we did Vancouver. It was still a split site, but the world of multiple feeds gets ever-increasingly complicated. At London there was a big expectation on us to do four HD streams, various platforms and we managed to get all the content out live onto IPTV — but the financial and distribution pressures were challenging. Sochi was a different model, more complex in some ways and simpler in others.”

Olympic challenges for Sweden and Norway
Dag Larsson is Head of Product Management at Viaplay Sweden, a standalone OTT service owned by Scandinavian broadcaster Viasat. Christine Espeland is Head of Olympics for TV2 Norway and her colleague Jens Knudsen is Senior Director Sports at TV2 Norway. What linked the Swede and the Norwegians on this SVG Europe panel was that they were commercial broadcasters taking over Olympics broadcasting rights from public broadcasters – SVG Sweden and NRK Norway.

“With Viasat we had the Olympic rights in Sweden for the first time – it has been owned by the public broadcaster SVG for as long as you could ever remember,” said Larsson. “So a quite opposite angle from the BBC, obviously.

“We were excited to have this opportunity. We used OBS and had six world channels plus an additional twelve HD-SDI channels coming in through fibre to our playout in Stockholm. It was a big big challenge to deliver all of this in terms of our streaming, something like 65 channels going out covering 95% of the Games. For small broadcasters like us it’s a challenge, not least bringing it to the web and ‘productifying’ it – how do we take the best elements of TV, and how do we do in terms of rich functionality?

Read the full article on SVG Europe.




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