SBS Reaps Rewards of South Korea’s Medal Take at London Games

South Korea finished fifth in the total medal count at the London Games, the highest the nation has finished since hosting the Games in Seoul in 1988. Thanks to a triumvirate of broadcasters led by SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) at the IBC in London, South Koreans were able to watch the majority of these medal-winning efforts live, despite a hefty time difference between London and Seoul.

“There is an eight-hour time difference, but we are trying to do as much live broadcasting as we can,” SBS Coordinating Producer Sangwoo Kim said last week in London. “Korean audiences are so good at keeping up on the Internet and [mobile] devices, so, if we don’t do the live broadcasting, audiences already know the result, and that is not good. Korean audiences are very sensitive to live vs. non-live, so we try to deal with that.”

A Tricky Rights Situation
In 2006, SBS outbid fellow terrestrial broadcasters KBS (Korean Broadcast System) and MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corp.) for the rights to all Olympic Games from 2012 through 2016 with a $72.5 million bid. Previously, the three broadcasters had formed a consortium to obtain the rights, in accordance with South Korean federal law, which states that television stations must provide universal access to major sports events. Nonetheless, SBS served as the lone Olympic broadcaster at the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010, after failing to reach a sublicensing agreement with KBS and MBC.

In London, however, SBS was able to ink deals with KBS and MBC to sublicense coverage of the Games. Although SBS is responsible for producing event coverage and delivering the OBS-provided Multichannel Distribution Service (MDS) feeds back to Korea, both KBS and MBC established facilities at the IBC that bookended the SBS operation.

SBS On-Site at IBC
SBS delivered 12-14 hours of linear TV coverage each day from London, as well as streamed live feeds online, and carried the OBS-produced 3D Olympics coverage.

The majority of its overall Olympics production was housed on-site rather than in Seoul. SBS transmitted all 10 MDS feeds back to Seoul, as well as all highlights and news packages over a fiber uplink provided by Korean Telcom outfit LG U+.

With the exception of commercial insertion and some additional graphics, almost all of SBS’s production workflow took place at the IBC (a marked departure from most other broadcasters at the IBC, which chose to leave the bulk of their operations at home).

SBS had five EVS XT2 media servers at its disposal, as well as four Apple Final Cut Pro and two Grass Valley EDIUS non-linear–editing suites at the IBC. Despite being thousands of more miles away from home compared with Beijing, that complement is more than double the EVS and edit-suite complement SBS rolled out for the 2008 Games, which is shared the rights with KBS and MBC.

“We do almost everything here,” says Kim. “About three out of five people [working on our Olympics production] are here. We have no unilateral cameras, so we take the feeds from OBS and transmit them live to Korea. And some we record, do the voiceover, and then send. It is a very big operation for us here.”

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