Tackling 2015 Rugby World Cup: How Host Broadcaster ITV is planning its coverage

Contested every four years, the Rugby World Cup tournament was first held in 1987. The winners are awarded the William Webb Ellis cup – so named after the Rugby School pupil who, at least according to legend, invented the game by picking up the ball during a football game and running to the goal. It would be fair to say that remains some dispute about the veracity of the story.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC) will be hosted by England from 18 September to 31 October. A number of venues around England will be utilised – and, by special dispensation – the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

The last RWC in 2011 was played in New Zealand and it was immediately after that tournament that the 2015 Host Broadcaster, ITV, started preparations for coverage of the upcoming event.

“We made sure we had a good look at the Sky NZ Host Operation during that tournament and learnt as many lessons as possible,” states Roger Pearce, Technical Director, ITV Sport. “We have covered RWC since 1991 so we have a lot of experience in delivering the event, but the pace of technical change since our last Host experience in 2007 has been enormous.

Planning process

Pearce reveals that a great deal of interaction has taken place between the various organising parties in order to generate the best coverage: “World Rugby, England Rugby 2015 (ER2015) and IMG all have a say in the host coverage and operational activities at the venues. We have been involved with detailed planning and surveys for over two years. The production values are of the highest order and have evolved constantly since the last RWC to allow us to use the latest technology to enhance the coverage.”

It is anticipated that around 150 hours of live rugby will be broadcast on ITV and ITV4. According to Pearce, the biggest challenge is servicing 48 games at 13 venues for both Host and ITV coverage. “This is a huge logistical undertaking. We are using more than 1500 staff over the six weeks of the tournament. Technically, the delivery of both Host and ITV feeds and communications is very complex due to the variety and number of venues required for the whole tournament. We have been working closely with our supplier, SIS Live, to create a high quality and robust delivery network by fibre, satellite and microwave.”

That number of host venues has been a challenge because of the variations in the available facilities. In particular, cabling has been an issue that has required careful planning. Although most of the larger venues are already cabled, the smaller grounds will be wired specifically for the event by ITV.

A number of those venues are grounds where normally football, rather than rugby, matches are staged. And at those locations, specific challenges have to be met.

“Facilities at football grounds are obviously optimised for coverage of that sport. Some camera positions for rugby coverage have taken time to get in place and we are required to support new operational areas such as the coach boxes and dressing rooms.”

OB provision variety

Pearce reveals that OB facilities for ITV’s domestic coverage will be provided by Arena utilising three to four units across the event. Telegenic, NEP Visions and CTV are providing the Host OB facilities, with two to three units being used by each company to service the workload – which can involve up to eight games over a single weekend.

“We have been planning with all OB suppliers in detail for over a year and they have all done a great job in coping with the inevitable changes and complexity of the operation.”

As far as the numbers of cameras used in each game is concerned this is determined by a grading system determined by World Rugby. For some games, 27 cameras will be in use, while for those considered more crucial the specifications call for as many as 40 cameras.

“We will be employing Spidercam at Twickenham and Millennium Stadium, ref cam, dressing room, coach box and TMO (television match official) at all games. In addition, there will be a variety of specialist positions such as railcam, corner flag cam and touchline runners across the event.”

Up to four Slo-Mo and two Hi-Motion cameras will be deployed, according to the game specification.

ITV personnel

“We will be using the services of four directors across all games,” says Pearce. “These will be backed by a team of talented and experienced EVS operators and producers to enable the best clips to be made available quickly for replays.”

He continues: “We’ll have a pitch view studio at all main presentation sites, but we will be able to present live from pitch-side, as well. This is a completely separate production operation, including director and producer, from the match coverage.”

He explains that the ITV operation is completely separate to that which involves of Host Broadcaster. “We have to treat ITV in the same way as any other Rights’ Holding Broadcaster, even though we are the same company and production department. That works very well, of course.”

Craig Doyle and Mark Durden-Smith will be presenters for the tournament. Joining them as studio pundits will be Jonny Wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Robinson and the coach who led them to the last England victory, Sir Clive Woodward.

In the commentary box will be Nick Mullins, Miles Harrison, Jon Champion, Martin Gillingham and Simon Ward, plus co-commentators Geordan Murphy, Scott Hastings, Shane Williams and Ben Kay.

Delivery to RHBs

The International Broadcaster Centre for the tournament is being provided by IMG at its Stockley Park facility in west London.

“We will be offering pre- and post-match interview facilities via the world feed. In addition, Rights Holding Broadcasters (RHB) will have access to our ISOs at each venue,” reveals Pearce.

Alston Elliot is providing both the ITV and Host graphics. They form part of the Tournament Information Service delivery which brings together live match data and archive storage to provide a fast and – just as important – consistent data and graphics service to all media platforms. Opta provides the on-screen live data, while the reference and archive data comes from World Rugby. The on-screen graphics style is designed by ITV in accordance with the tournament organisers’ guidelines.

IMG and Alston Eliot will be creating multi-language graphics feeds at the IBC for delivery to the RHBs.

“The live multilateral run order does not require edit facilities. However, all feature material is being produced at IMG in the normal way for such high profile events.”

Pearce says that ITV is offering RHBs the option of utilising kit from its resources, if required. “They can also bring in their own equipment to service their own needs. With both options available, these facilities are similar to most major sports events to allow flexibility to suit the production plans and budgets of the various RHBs”.

As far as second screen facilities are concerned, ITV is providing a dedicated website for the duration of the tournament.

According to ITV director of sport, Niall Sloane, a Rugby World Cup hosted by England is a once in a generation event. “It’s our privilege as the exclusive television broadcaster to bring viewers the full impact of all the action and emotion throughout what we hope will be an unforgettable tournament,” he comments.

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