SportTech 2019: Covering the ICC Cricket World Cup on TV and online

On the eve of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Sunset+Vine chairman Jeff Foulser and director of technical operations Mark Dennis talked the SportTech 2019 crowd through the TV and online production plans for the tournament.

The 12th edition of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup is taking place in England and Wales between 30 May and 14 July. Matches are being played across 11 venues with responsibility for the host broadcast feed coming in-house for the first time.

The ICC is working with its global production partner Sunset+Vine, the London-based production company, to make this happen.

“Previously, Star India did [the host coverage],” explained Foulser (pictured below, middle) who, like his company, has a long association with the sport of cricket.

“Star India is the ICC’s global license holder. But the ICC has done what a lot of federations have done and are thinking of doing which is take control of their pictures and the distribution of them.”

“We have a very hard working team. Every single cricket playing country has provided staff to work on the coverage this year. They have two hard months ahead of them, keeping us on the road.”

All the other rights-holding broadcasters, including Sky Sports in the UK, sublicense from Star. Each broadcaster has the option of taking the world feed and then doing its own unilateral coverage or taking an entire match programme including pre and post-game analysis from Sunset+Vine.

“It [is a model] that has developed over the last few years,” continued Foulser.

“We provide a programme which enables broadcasters to sit on it from start to finish. We come on air 30 minutes before the start of play, with a pre-game show, we go right the way through the first innings, we go through the mid-innings break, non-stop plus commercial breaks and then we come off air after the presentations and a wrap [at the end].

“For broadcasters that don’t want to spend a lot of money, and just want to sit on a decent product, they can tap into ICC TV and get the whole thing, soup to nuts.”

While some will take this option, Star TV will have a presence on site at the matches and will use remote production to add to its output. Sky Sports will take Sunset+Vine’s production apart from England games where they will put a “wrap around it,” said Foulser.

Match coverage

The tournament coverage is based around a mobile modular set-up rather than using an OB fleet and a central hub.

So, unlike many major sporting tournaments, that means there is no international broadcast centre (IBC) for the host broadcaster or rights holders.

The action is being captured by mobile flypack systems provided by NEP Broadcast Solutions.

“A lot of time was spent working how to best cover 11 venues in terms of budget, efficiency and crew welfare,” said Dennis (pictured, left).

“People might be surprised to see flypacks but it’s the way we work with the ICC and ICC TV. It’s also a long tournament and you don’t want to burn your crew out.”

In total, to cover all 45 matches there will be six flypack systems, one OB unit and five technical teams plus four production teams.

33 cameras will be used to cover each match. Included will be Buggy Cams, drones, super slo-mo, ultra-motion, Hawk-Eye and Stump Cams. Spidercam will also be used at some venues where logistics allow.

“We shouldn’t miss any of the action,” said Dennis knowingly.

For the first time, the production team will also make use of the Piero graphics analysis system, Motion Impossible’s Agito modular dolly (pictured, below) and player tracking.

To add some additional drama to the Umpire Decision Review System, a 15-second graphic countdown clock will be shown on-screen and in the ground.

Perhaps surprisingly, there is no requirement for Ultra HD however.

“It wasn’t deemed necessary yet,” acknowledged Dennis. “But it is certainly something that as we progress we will continue to access.”

Distribution, connectivity and crew

As the action is captured, the world feeds will be sent to Sunset+Vine’s facility in Hammersmith where highlights will be cut, remote logging will take place and clips packages will be produced and provided to the OBs.

Star India is the distribution partner for the event. It will look after venue connectivity and the world feed via satellite and fibre. TATA Communications is the main backbone provider, supported by NEP Connect.

The Motion Impossible Agito dolly captures action during the warm-ups on the first day of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Picture courtesy of AE Graphics.

The facilities and technology partners for the Cricket World Cup are Hawk-Eye Innovations, BatCam, Motion Impossible, NEP Broadcast Solutions, NEP Connect, CricViz, AE Graphics and ChyronHego.

All the service contracts are with the ICC rather than Sunset+Vine.

Of course, it’s not just about technology. There is no shortage of people involved in the broadcasting of the Cricket World Cup.

537 crew will make use of 35 different schedules, eat 13,800 meals and take up nearly 15,000 hotel room nights. 16 nationalities are represented.

“The unsung heroes are the production managers and the support team,” suggested Dennis.

“We have a very hard working team. Every single cricket playing country has provided staff to work on the coverage this year. They have two hard months ahead of them, keeping us on the road.”

Digital and social

The digital output from the Cricket World Cup is also crucial for both the ICC and Sunset+Vine.

The host broadcaster will be working with the ICC on getting digital event content onto social platforms and will be producing a short pre-match Facebook show and a post-match YouTube show for each game.

“You’ve got to embed the digital aspect into your core production,” asserted Dennis.

“Whenever we get a new contract now we don’t design the traditional TV system and then plug digital elements into it. We think about how everything needs to work.”

“For broadcasters that don’t want to spend a lot of money, and just want to sit on a decent product, they can tap into ICC TV and get the whole thing, soup to nuts.”

“The digital side is important for us and the ICC,” added Foulser.

“They are saying that the numbers will be as big for digital usage as for live. Each time India plays there will be upwards of 150m people watching on TV in the Indian sub-continent. These are big numbers.”

The ICC has partnered with ITN Productions to provide in-play clips and match highlights for each fixture across its digital and social platforms as well as its digital clip licensees. The London-based production company is ingesting the world feed and creating bespoke in-match content within minutes of the action taking place and then making it available around the world.

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 starts today (30 May) at the Oval in London with England vs South Africa.

SVG Europe’s SportTech 2019 took place at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on 22 May 2019.

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