IMG set to celebrate Trans World Sport milestone with 1500th episode

Dominican republic runners Fany Chalas Frías and Marleni Mejai featured in one TWS programmeDominican republic runners Fany Chalas Frías and Marleni Mejai featured in one TWS programme

Dominican republic runners Fany Chalas Frías and Marleni Mejai featured in one TWS programme

There are relatively few programmes that can claim to have reached episode 1,500 in an unbroken run. Yet the week of 25 January will see the IMG-produced Trans World Sport (TWS) reach that milestone.

The show was conceived by Mark McCormack. The founder of IMG wanted his company to produce a sports anthology show with a broad international appeal, along the lines of ABC Wide World of Sports. McCormack believed that Trans World Sport was the perfect product to sell to the burgeoning satellite TV market which was about to explode at an unprecedented rate.

“The programme launched on 5 May 1987, and has been in continuous production every week since that date,” explains series producer Matthew O’Callaghan. “Since its very first show, Trans World Sport’s objective has remained the same; to bring its viewers the best, the most interesting and most informative stories from the world of sport.”

All-encompassing coverage

O’Callaghan states: “No territory has been outside the show’s field of vision as it has endeavoured to bring viewers not only the top names and events, but also the off-beat and esoteric. Trans World Sport’s mantra has always been that there is no hierarchy in sport. What happens in La Liga has always been as important as what takes place at the Bog Snorkelling World Championships.”

The original idea was obviously attractive to broadcasters. In those early days around 30 countries opted in to the programme. That number has steadily increased until now, with about 80 channels regularly showing the 49 minute programme. IMG also produces a shorter, 26 minute monthly version, for Inflight. In all, the global audience is upwards of 300 million.

There are two English-speaking narrators of the show, Bruce Hammal and Sue Carpenter. However, with so many countries taking the programme, non-English speaking broadcasters voice the show in their own languages for the local audience.


The programmes are compiled at IMG Studios, the company’s London-based broadcast centre. “Trans World Sport is produced by a team of 15 people,” reveals O’Callaghan. “These include producers, editors, camera operators, and post production staff. There are six assistant producers who travel around the world filming sport content for the show. So, for example, one of them may go to Papua New Guinea for two weeks and film six different features. Then they return to London and edit the material over a couple of months for inclusion in various shows. The content of each show is decided by the series producer.”

Although dedicated crews create most of the content, there are occasional contributions from freelance staff or sporting federations.

Once back at base, the material is ingested by Viz Ardome – part of the Vizrt Media Asset Management family – and stored and tracked utilising a Nesbit Library system. Editing is carried out using IMG’s Avid system.

“Perhaps one of the biggest technological advancements we have seen since TWS was started has been the introduction of non-linear editing,” comments O’Callaghan. “It enables us to make the most efficient use of time in compiling a programme that has so much content.”

Once assembled, the programmes are distributed using FTP and satellite play-outs.

Obscure opportunities

So with the whole world of sports from which to choose, what does O’Callaghan see as some of the most obscure that TWS has covered? “Oil wrestling in Turkey, Genna – an ancient Ethiopian form of field hockey, bow and arrow darts in Papua New Guinea, and the Alaskan sport of knuckle-hopping would be my choice.”

He goes on to explain some of the milestones in the evolution of the programme. “Trans World Sport introduced the Copa America and the African Cup of Nations to screens at a time when coverage of football, let alone other sport in Africa and South America, was unheard of. The programme has visited sports arenas across the world, not to mention a few royal palaces. Fijian chiefs, Rwandan presidents, Prince Albert of Monaco, and members of the UK Royal family have all appeared on the show. Some of our early scoops included features on a 14-year-old Tiger Woods, and another that included a 12-year-old Venus Williams and her 11-year-old sister, Serena. In fact, TWS is granted exclusive access to some of the world’s biggest stars, partly due to the fact that they had been profiled when they were in their early teens or largely unknown. The uniqueness of TWS is there to be seen in every show we produce.”

Spanning the globe

Series producer Matthew O’Callaghan (left) takes a break from filming bow and arrow darts in Papua New Guniea with the Mud Men of Papua New Guinea.

Series producer Matthew O’Callaghan (left) takes a break from filming bow and arrow darts in Papua New Guniea with the Mud Men of Papua New Guinea.

O’Callaghan goes on to say that production has now encompassed every continent. “We’ve been to Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. We are one of the few TV shows to have been invited back to North Korea and we sparked a near riot when we turned up to film a local rugby league game in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, such was the excitement of the crowd. In fact, we’ve been to 193 out of 206 IOC nations and we’ve covered all the sports, major and minor, known to mankind.”

The current list of sports runs to several hundred. Major Series on the sporting scene have been produced from South Africa, the Old East Germany and Soviet Union. Trans World Sport cameras have been white water rafting down the Zambezi, perched precariously atop Mount Kiliminjaro, and soared in a hot air balloon over Jordan’s Wadi Rum.

“We have covered hundreds of different sports and filmed with a countless number of World and Olympic champions. Over the years, Trans World Sport has built up a huge and loyal fan base right across the world, not to mention one of the richest sports archives in the TV industry. We continue to go to places that other shows wouldn’t even consider. We’ve just returned from Somalia, where we were the first crew to film on the streets of Mogadishu using a tripod in over 20 years.”

He concludes: “The philosophy of TWS has always been quite simple: If it’s important in world sport, it should be in the programme.”

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