London 2012: the game changes here

Next summer’s Olympic Games in London will be “a watershed point for digital Olympics,” according to Ciaran Quinn, director, strategic business development, Deltatre. Quinn, chairing the IBC Conference session Digital Olympic Games, pointed out that London 2012 producers will have to address platforms that didn’t figure in anyone’s business plans even as recently as a year ago.
As a result, second screen tablets, a hot talking-point of IBC 2011, have had to be factored in with unprecedented swiftness, with traditional and connected TVs and smart mobile devices completing the lineup of new technologies – alongside traditional TV coverage.

The BBC in particular has its work cut out for it. Quite apart from the Games itself, other major live UK events next year will include New Year’s Eve fireworks in London, the Flora London Marathon, the arrival of the Olympic torch, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 European football championships. Add in the small matter of London’s analogue switchoff in March/April, and it’s clear that digital content delivery will have to step up to the mark as never before.

Tim Plyming, digital project executive, BBC London 2012, estimated the BBC will deliver over 2,000 hours of content over the 16 days of the Games, with over 24 simultaneous streams in HD on the event’s peak Saturday. And to ramp up the pressure, the Corporation will also deliver more than half the events over IP – no mean feat for a company traditionally used to owning its transmission path.

An as-yet-unfinished example of a visual navigation centre interface for Olympic viewers was briefly shown, and plans were confirmed for the BBC, in partnership with Olympic Broadcast Services and NHK, to show some of the Games in Super Hi Vision. Three large cinema venues throughout the UK will treat up to 200 viewers to a big-screen view of the action in what remains the biggest and best visual format on the planet.

Some in the industry voiced concerns about potential bottlenecks in the broadcast pipeline, with many thousands of hours of high-definition video simultaneously in demand. So far, broadcasters remain confident they can meet the demand not only for traditional broadcast footage, but for on-demand action, stats and data and the social networking apps so crucial to the second screen experience. If London 2012’s technical grasp can match the scope of its creative reach, the 2012 Games could potentially change not only special event broadcasting, but the broadcasting environment as a whole.

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