FIFA TV, HBS Ready for World Cup Kickoff
The internal team at FIFA TV, Host Broadcast Services (HBS), and a legion of freelancers are putting the finishing touches on production workflows for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and Jörg Sander, director of the FWC 2014 project at HBS, says that everything is looking good from a technical standpoint with less than 24 hours to go until kickoff.
The focus is now is to make sure that host operations within the International Broadcast Center located in Barra da Tijuca are operating completely as soon as possible, that the rights holders are settled in and ready to go by this weekend, and that the match and ENG operations across the country are ready for action.
“With respect to the IBC, I can definitely say we are ready and formally opened,” says Sander. “Now it is just about the teething problems that always occur prior to a big event.”
The IBC, which measures 55,000 sq. meters, comprises key facilities for the event, including master-control room, central equipment room, production center, production-control room, and quality-control room. More than 85 broadcasters will call it home during the tournament, making use of 17 TV studios, more than 70 miles of primary and secondary cable, 350 40-in. HD screens, and a 6,000-sq.-meter satellite farm. Built in less than five months, it is located at Riocentro, to the west of Rio de Janeiro (about 10 miles from the Estadio do Maracana) in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood.
The 2014 World Cup will be more than just a big-screen experience in the living room. Rights holder around the globe have also embraced the multi-screen offerings that FIFA TV will be providing, ensuring that fans who might not be able to get in front of a TV screen to watch their favorite team will be able to do so via a PC, tablet, or smartphone.
“We have 38 clients in total that have booked more than 120 individual services in 60 territories,” says Stefan-Eric Wildemann, manager, sales and distribution for FIFA’s TV Division. “Some of those are live stream, some are the multi-angle service and there are many that will use the white-label app or the web player.”
Much has changed since 2010 with respect to the multi-screen experience, not the least of which is the launch of the Apple iPad, the explosion in smartphones and the Apple iOS and Android platforms, and the expectation of most sports fans to have access to sports content anytime, anywhere.
But the biggest change has been the acceptance from and interest among rights holders.
“The sale of the digital rights and related services has been beyond our initial expectation,” adds Wildemann.
The pre-tournament version of the app is now available and a version with live matchcast data will be available by June 11. Final app and Web player testing have been conducted to ensure that everything is fully operational by the time June 12 rolls around.
How many football fans ultimately get engaged with the app and Web streams depends on a lot of factors not the least of which is whether or not the rights holder within a country is pay TV or over-the-air. In Germany, for example, public broadcaster ARD is offering the app for free and without advertising.
“We think it will be a major success especially in markets like Germany. Overall the initial number [of downloads] in Germany, Latin America, and the Netherlands are really good and they’ll get better once the World Cup has begun,” adds Wildemann.
As for social media, the different solutions offer full integration with the major social media networks. For example, multiple Twitter feeds can be editorially selected and streamed to the fan. “We know that social is an important place to support activities from FIFA’s licensees. The white-label services allow for video deep-linking from and to the social platforms, so users can select a thumbnail and publish it onto their Twitter, Google+ or Facebook account ,” explains Wildemann.