Despite condensed timeline, Australia’s Network Ten aims for gold in Sochi
Most rightsholding broadcasters have years to prepare for the Olympics, with many deals finalized nearly a decade before the Games take place. Network Ten, on the other hand, found itself on a much tighter timeline when it officially acquired the Australian rights to the Sochi Games in last May — less than nine months before the Opening Ceremony.
Nine Network and Foxtel came out of their combined 2012 London Games effort in the red, making the rights to Sochi Games a tough sell to Australian broadcasters and pushing back the normal rights-acquisition timeline. However, once Ten finally secured the rights in May, its technical- and production-operations team was able to work quickly to create a cost-efficient production model that relied heavily on its robust broadcast infrastructure back home in Melbourne.
“Since we came in late, we were able to secure an area here at the IBC that was built as a studio but wasn’t taken [by a rightsholding broadcaster], so we have been able to build that into our [broadcast-operations center] here,” says Philip Seale, technical manager, sport, Network Ten. “It has been a very quick run-up, but everything has gone well here so far.”
Network Ten is providing Australian viewers with 360 hours of live, free-to-air coverage on TEN (its primary SD linear network) and ONE (its HD linear network, supplying 24-hour Olympic coverage). In all, Network Ten is delivering 550 hours of Sochi television coverage, as well as streaming eight dedicated feeds — the six OBS-produced MDS (Multichannel Distribution Service) feeds and simulcasts of Ten and One — on its Website tenplay.com.au.
A direct line to Melbourne
Seale and his team have been equipped with nine redundant paths from Sochi to Melbourne and four return paths. Using that total of 18 circuits, Ten is delivering a variety of feeds to Melbourne, including the six MDS feeds and those from its studio in Olympic Park, its commentary platform at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, and a roving RF camera in the Olympic Park.
“We have nine redundant paths, but we are using them as 18 circuits, and then, if something is critical, we back it up and run it twice,” says Seale. “For example, we are sending the MDS back twice because we do not want to lose those [feeds]. It gives us a little added security.”
Along with all this video, Ten is also sending the BDF (broadcast-data feed) to assist with archive and EVS storage.
“We have no storage or archive here,” he adds. “Everything we get that we want to keep we send back to Melbourne. That is how we designed it, and we feel it’s worked out great.”
Given a diminutive footprint at the IBC and robust connectivity to Melbourne, Ten elected to build out a scaled-down operation in Sochi. The 85-member crew on-site comprises nine ENG teams shooting on Sony XDCAM: five for sports and four for news. Both the news and sports departments have been equipped with one Dejero portable video-over-WiFi/cellular systems for newsgathering operations. With the exception of a small Avid Media Composer NLE setup and a few editing laptops in Sochi, all postproduction and features editing is completed in Melbourne.
In addition, Ten has built out its own four-camera studio atop a TV tower in Olympics Park looking out on the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Serving as the home of Sochi Live hosted by Mel McLaughlin, the studio, which was built in Melbourne and shipped to Sochi, is equipped with two standard studio cameras, a small jib, and Q-Ball camera with a locked-off wide shot.