UEFA EURO 2016: TF1 outlines coverage plans and gears up for 4K broadcasts
France’s biggest terrestrial broadcaster, TF1, will be showing 22 matches to its audience during the UEFA EURO 2016 championships, including the opening game between Romania and Deschamps’ team at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on June 10. But it will not be airing the final, which will be broadcast on rival channel M6 on July 10.
Both commercial broadcasting groups share rights to the competition as they have been doing for the previous two Euros, and this time M6 won out on the final, even if it will be showing only 11 games in total. To be able to see all the matches, viewers will have to be beIN Sports subscribers; the Pay-TV operator has acquired the rights to all 51 games by shelling out a massive €60 million, and is hoping to reach the 3 million subscriber marker, up from its current 2.5 million, during the competition, according to French press reports.
TF1 may be disappointed to miss out on the final, but it will be hoping to make the best of the opening match, which includes the broadcasting of the EURO 2016 opening ceremony. “We are really pulling out all the stops out on the opening game. We will install 14 of our own cameras in addition to the UEFA setup. This is our most important package for an international football competition of this kind since the 2006 World Cup,” said Martin Tzara, TF1 production manager for the Euros.
The cameras, which include a steadicam, will be used during, before and after the match coverage, as well as at half-time. Among the 14 cameras specified, a HF portable camera will be placed near the official tribune, in order to get interviews of celebrities and officials who will be attending the match. “We will have between 70 and 80 members of crew, including journalists, around the stadium. But that does not account for all the people at our headquarters in Boulogne and inside the fan zone,” said Tzara.
The TF1 infrastructure for the following games is not totally set in stone yet, and Tzara observes, “we are not ruling anything out for the June 15 game between France and Albania in Marseille. We will see if we can increase our setup for that match.”
Paris fan zone
The broadcaster is currently still negotiating with UEFA about a camera location in the Paris fan zone. The 130,000 square metre fan zone will be located on the Champs de Mars, under the Eiffel Tower, and can welcome up to 92,000 fans. It is equipped with one of the largest wide screens in the world (420 square metres), with eight other screens dotted around the area. To help avert any terrorist attack or bomb, the site is kitted out with 40 surveillance cameras.
For Tzara, the strict rules enforced for the competition are part and parcel of this kind of broadcast. “We adapt to it. It can be a little frustrating at times because we are the host nation but we can’t complain because we have a fair deal. And many of the TV directors chosen by the UEFA for the competition have worked or are still working for TF1, so we are very familiar with their style and what they do.”
TF1 will have a small studio setup on the pitch itself which it will use to make the first short post-match interviews. “Contrary to all the competing broadcasters out there, including the French ones, we have a deal with the Fédération Française de Football, which has been ongoing for many years. It gives us great access to all the gaul players,” said Tzara.
TF1 will also show interviews of players from other nations and has agreed to subscribe to a centralised EVS server-based configuration where images of and interviews with most of the players will be stocked and shared by broadcasters across Europe. “The idea is to help reduce the number of broadcasters on the ground. Finding room for all of them is a big headache at each international competition of this kind and it is also [a] very costly affair for the broadcasters involved. Remote production and shared resources is a way to reduce those costs.”
4K and virtual reality
Five of the matches on TF1 (and only three on M6) will be produced and aired in 4K on pay-TV operator Orange’s new set-top box, which was launched on May 19, just in time for the Euros. “This is a big step for us because we are still testing the format. We carried out some 4K tests during the friendly game on April 29 between France and Russia, including [with] HDR,” said Tzara.
The EURO games that will be shown in 4K are the opening game, the four quarter-finals, the two semi-finals and the final, which will therefore be exclusively available to Orange subscribers in the new format.
The friendly match between France and Russia was the last to take place in the Stade de France before the Euros and was also a testing ground for VR. The match was shot in UHD 360° and could be watched by viewers with VR headsets. It involved a broader number of companies including Harmonic, Keepixo, VideoStitch, AmpVisual TV, Digital Immersion and TF1’s main partner for the trial, Viaccess-Orca.
If such an experiment cannot, understandably, be repeated for the Euros, TF1 has not totally given up on VR for the occasion. Its post-match magazine, produced in its headquarters in Boulogne, will include some form of augmented reality, although Tzara won’t reveal more at this stage. “It’s the first time we [have done] anything like this and we may be able to use similar technology afterwards on our weekly football mag, Téléfoot,” he concluded.