Bundesliga, Sportcast see growth in popularity

By Birgit Heidsiek

Sportcast, the 100%-owned subsidiary of the Deutsche Fussball Club (DFL), is in the midst of another successful season as the host broadcaster for Germany’s Bundesliga. And the production continues to see increased demand from broadcasters around the world to not only broadcast matches but also create additional content around the matches.

In Germany, main rightsholders Sky Deutschland and ARD take the primary match production feeds, but others in Germany — RTL, ZDF, ProSiebenSat 1 — and international broadcasters are increasingly turning up with ENG crews for interviews with players, coaches, and more. Dubai Sports Channel is present more frequently and Eurosport is a common broadcaster at the Bundesliga matches.

“For soccer highlights like Bayern Munich against Borussia Dortmund there are up to a dozen requests for interviews from the various broadcasters,” notes Sven Bennecke. “We try to make everything possible. It depends on the size of the stadium if that works out.“

According to the contract that Sky and ARD have closed with the DFL, they get the basic signal from the OB units. The typical production requires 11 cameras: eight hard cameras, one super-slow-motion camera, and an ENG unit on a tripod behind each goal.

“The viewing angle of Camera 1 needs to be to the extended line of the halfway line because that is the camera that shows 70%-80% of the match,” says Bennecke. Camera 2 follows the action in a similar manner to Camera 1 but has a tighter focus for close-ups and player reactions.

Other close-ups and headshots are captured by three cameras along the sidelines. The super-slow-motion camera is in the middle of the sideline. And the cameras behind the goal provide an important angle as well, offering perspective for seeing tactical decisions on the pitch.

Besides the basic signal, Sky also has a second OB unit with up to three cameras. The ARD, meanwhile, has booked an editing station, where they produce their game report for the “Sportschau.”

All of the games have been produced in HD since 2007, and they are also archived in HD at the new Deutsches Fussball Archiv (DFA).

“We were very lucky because FIFA and HBS had already predetermined to produced the FIFA World Cup in Germany in HD during 2006,” adds Bennecke. “Therefore, the German OB-van providers already had the HD equipment available, and Sky was the only broadcaster who transmitted in HD.”

About 2½ hours of content is created for every match and is stored in the archive. Over the course of a season, that means 612 matches from the first and second Bundesliga are added to an archive that already has more than 45,000 hours of content. That massive amount of content, dating back to 1963, includes everything from Super 8mm to 1- and 2-inch tape and Digital Betacam.

“Sportcast was the technical supervisor for the setup of the archive,” says Bennecke, “and we had a group of students who worked for almost two years tagging the material we acquired from ARD and ZDF.”

In addition, Sky broadcasts one soccer match in 3D per month. “The hype [around 3D] started at the FIFA World Cup 2010,” he says. “When the season 2010-11 began, Sky and the Liga total! [competition] already asked for a weekly soccer match in 3D.”

Although the 3D hype has abated a bit, the goal at Sportcast is to have fair deals with the OB companies so that they can have the financial resources to invest in new technologies.

“For us,” adds Bennecke, “it is the quality that comes first.”

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