SuperSport, SABC Send Olympics Home to South Africa
Despite being located more than 10,000 miles south of London, satellite-TV provider SuperSport and South African Broadcast Company (SABC) reveled in the fact that they were able to deliver the Olympic Games live to South Africa during normal viewing hours, thanks to an almost nonexistent time difference.
In order to serve this primetime audience back home, SuperSport and SABC shared a small location at the IBC, but, like so many other broadcasters at the London Games, both elected to leave the bulk of their technical and production operations at home.
SuperSport Boasts Big Sub-Saharan Footprint
SuperSport represents the largest pay-TV satellite provider in all of Sub-Saharan Africa, making its Olympics coverage about much more than just the 100 or so South African athletes on hand in London.
SuperSport delivered 24-hour coverage to four HD channels (eight in total because each channel was downconverted and distributed in SD as well) across the African continent. In addition, SuperSport delivered an HD and SD Portuguese-language Olympics channel (for viewers in Mozambique and Angola), regular news updates to its Blitz channel, and live-streamed its SuperSport Gold channel on SuperSport.com.
“We are lucky in South Africa because we are only one hour ahead of London, so it’s brilliant for us,” Alvin Naicker, head of productions, SuperSport International, said during the Games last week. “Our live viewing ends around midnight, and then, between 1 and 9 the next morning, we air either [packaged] content that we didn’t show or cut-down versions of high-profile events.”
Throughout the 17-day event, SuperSport delivered all 10 OBS-produced Multichannel Distribution Service (MDS) feeds — complete with OBS’s English commentary —to its Johannesburg broadcast facility. Each of the four SuperSport channels is populated with live coverage from these 11 feeds, as well as several newsmagazine programs and live updates.
“All the feeds go back into Johannesburg, where we have a massive setup with our executive producer and the rest of our team monitoring everything coming in,” Naicker said. “We basically just have a management team here monitoring the feeds, so there isn’t really much in terms of customizing the Olympics feeds. It is all happening back in Johannesburg.”
Four ENG crews equipped with Quicklink transmission systems were on the ground in London to collect content and build packages for the Blitz news channel and to interconnect live coverage on the four main channels.
“All four ENG teams have Quicklink software on their laptops,” said Sifiso Mbambo, executive producer, SuperSport International. “So they can cut the story right on their laptops and send it out.”
The SuperSport workflow is dramatically different from what it was in Beijing four years ago, when the satellite broadcaster was just getting its HD service off the ground.
“In Beijing. we were part of a larger consortium [of rights-holding broadcasters],” said Chevani Singh, manager of external productions for SuperSport. “We were just launching HD, so it was very different. We would switch the feeds [on-site] rather than taking the feeds right from OBS. And we had no editor and only two ENG teams. This is a lot more advanced.”
SABC’s Three-Fold Coverage
SABC, which had about 30 staffers in London, aired live and taped coverage of the Games on all three of its TV networks in South Africa. SABC1 covered live and delayed coverage of soccer and basketball. SABC2 carried a daily review show called Hello London, a nightly live-updates show called Good Evening London, and an extended overnight highlights show called London Uncut. SABC3 focused on the tennis action, which aired in highlights packages until the semifinals, with the matches were shown live.
“Most of the stuff that we send out of here is edited and ready to go on-air, but the rest is done [in Johannesburg]” said SABC technician Khutso Matlala. “We have more than 100 athletes here, so the [Games] are very popular back home. Athletics and swimming and, surprisingly, rowing have been our big sports.”
The South African public broadcaster transmitted all 11 English-language MDS feeds to its Johannesburg headquarters via a Globecast fiber uplink.
It also had three on-site ENG teams that cut packages on two Apple Final Cut Pro edit suites at the IBC. This ENG material, along with interviews from SABC’s mixed zones, was delivered to Johannesburg three times a day over the fiber uplink.