BBC prepares for the first 24/7 World Cup

“We are going to see the BBC’s television coverage of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil increase by around 50 per cent in terms of hours broadcast compared to the previous tournament in 2010.” That’s the prediction of Phil Bigwood, the BBC’s executive producer for football. “Not only that, with all the multimedia opportunities that are available under our contract with FIFA, fans will be able to keep up with the action on the radio, internet, tablet and mobile phones – wherever – and whenever – they want.”

And that action will go far beyond the actual matches themselves. Bigwood reveals plans for highlights packages, press conferences, team training, in-depth archive and much more will be on offer 24/7 across various BBC platforms throughout the four and a half weeks of the event.

“FIFA and HBS have really upped the offering this time around. They will have over 40 ENG crews on the road. One will be with each team, and there are nine feature crews providing stories from around Brazil. They will help provide extended promos, player interviews, preview programming as well as a host of other content. And the BBC will make full use of that material to satisfy the fans back in the UK – whenever they want to view or hear it.”

Dedicated studio space

Speaking for the first time about the BBC’s plans, Bigwood explains that the bulk of the television programmes will be hosted from Brazil itself. “With all the financial and logistical challenges of a tournament in such a vast country, FIFA decided to build a block of 10 studios in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. HBS (Host Broadcasting Services) will provide the raw space, connectivity and power, but each broadcaster with a studio facility will bring in its own staff and equipment.  This is a collaboration which is very welcome and one which has helped us to overcome various obstacles.”

Bigwood explains that space around the studio building is limited, with a main road running through the site, so no outside broadcast units are permitted. As a result, temporary cabins will be used to house the production and engineering galleries. “Our equipment was shipped out a couple of weeks ago, and our main studio set is currently being built in Germany.”

The final programme mix will be handled by the temporary gallery, combining the four presentation cameras, radio cameras, beauty shots as well as the 16 ‘live’ match feeds available from FIFA for each match. The BBC’s graphics will be synchronised with the host match feed, while the clock and unilateral presentation graphics will be added independently. Also for the first time at a World Cup augmented reality graphics will be fully utilised.

“For England games we are allowed to employ our own ISO cameras for personality match coverage, flash interviews and stadium presentation activities,” states Bigwood. “in order to do this we will either use FIFA’s ‘new’ two camera facility with connectivity or a local SNG truck.”

Compiling the content

The BBC’s editing facilities will be mainly located at the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) at the Rio Centro exhibition complex in the Barra da Tijuca area of Rio de Janeiro. This location is FIFA’s technical hub and key distribution point for the world’s broadcasters. The numerous feeds will arrive at the IBC and editors will also have access to material from the various location crews that has been stored on HBS’s own media server, known as FIFA Max.

From the IBC, both completed programming and additional material will be fed back to the UK for broadcast and to BBC Sport’s facility at MediaCity in Salford.

“All of our Red Button services and streaming will come from Salford,” says Bigwood. “And there will be a great deal on offer for which there simply isn’t enough time during the television coverage. Most of our live TV programming will start from 15 minutes to an hour before kick-off depending on the game involved. But there will be more happening before that time that viewers can watch via other platforms.”

The FIFA match feed will begin about 70 minutes prior to the start of each game.  This will allow fans to absorb the atmosphere through helicopter shots, team arrivals, preview material, crowd shots and so on.

“Our streaming capability means that we can offer viewers extended video and audio coverage, archive footage, enhanced data and the ability to interact with social media. Our new digital proposition allows us to do so much more than on previous occasions.”

Bigwood concludes: “There will be so much material available for this World Cup  – 24 hours a day – and we aim to give our audience access to as much of it as possible.”

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