What to expect in Brazil: an inside look at 2014 World Cup with FIFA, HBS, Sony, and TV Globo

With the London Olympic Games now in the books, the next gargantuan sports-production undertaking on the horizon is the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. At IBC2012 on Saturday, leaders from FIFA, Host Broadcast Services (HBS), Sony, and TV Globo took the stage during a conference session moderated by SVG Europe’s Ken Kerschbaumer to give attendees a look  at what to expect in Brazil 22 months from now.

Brazil presents a monumental challenge for FIFA and HBS, with the latter producing its fourth consecutive World Cup for FIFA. Not only is Brazil the largest country to host a World Cup since the U.S. in 1994, but the nation also faces a variety of hurdles, including delayed venue construction, security concerns, and a lack of broadcast infrastructure.

“People always say ‘are they ready’ or ‘will they make it,’ but we are confident that they will finish all of this in time,” said Niclas Ericson, director, TV Division, FIFA. “We hope to have six venues ready for the FIFA Confederations Cup next year, so it’s looking very good in terms of preparations.”

The lack of broadcast and production infrastructure in Brazil is the most significant obstacle for HBS to overcome. According to Jose Manuel Fernandez Marino, director, news and sports engineering, TV Globo/Brazil, the number of HD OB trucks in Brazil can be counted on two hands, presenting a unique challenge for HBS in producing 64 matches and thousands of hours of programming from across the country. As a result, HBS has elected not to use OB trucks for the majority of the productions, opting to build out production facilities instead.

“It is clear that we are not going to produce the matches with OB vans right now,” said HBS CEO Francis Tellier. “There is no benefit anyway because there are no OB vans in Brazil. They are so far away that we cannot roll the OB van from one venue to another. Anyway, our setup is so big that it doesn’t fit into an OB van. We are going to have kits fixed at the stadium.”

HBS has faced this type of challenge before, of course, after producing a successful World Cup in infrastructure-challenged South Africa. Therefore, the production model is actually quite similar to 2010 with a few slight increases in resources. Venues will go from 10 in South Africa to 12 in Brazil, two cameras will be added for a total of 34 (as well as additional super-slo-mos, ultra-slow-mos, and SpiderCam aerial systems), ENG crews will go from 10 to 12, and the staff will be increased from 2,600 to 3,000.

The multiscreen and multimedia efforts launched by FIFA, HBS, and many rightsholders in 2002 came of age two years ago in South Africa and will continue to evolve in Brazil. HBS will take a four-screen approach to producing and distributing the content, delivering it to television, computers, mobile devices (handhelds and tablets), and giant screens for public viewing.

“It is stating the obvious that FIFA World Cup 2014 will be a fully multiscreen event,” said Tellier. “We are actually not doing much new because we did it already [in the past]. That is what we did for World Cup 2010 and even when we started doing the World Cup in 2002 we were doing that.”

Sony made a big splash at IBC2012 on Friday with the announcement that it will provide the bulk of the HD OB facilities and technical crews to HBS for the 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup Production. Sony will provide production facilities at all 12 venues in Brazil, eight sets of mobile-production equipment, and eight operations crews to HBS. In terms of gear, the supplier will deliver 340 HDC cameras (including 72 super-slo-mos), 48 switchers, 816 monitors, 12 Containerised CARs, and 280 staffers on the ground.

“We are delighted to be playing an even greater role in the next World Cup than we did in 2010,” said David Bush, director, marketing, Sony Professional Solutions Europe. “It’s a massive project, and we will have plenty of [technology] and hundreds of people on the ground in Brazil.”

In addition to providing production technology and services, Sony’s Hawkeye sports-officiating system is one of two companies selected by FIFA as finalists to provide goal-line technology at the 2014 World Cup. Although all four panelists were mum on the controversial subject, they did confirm that the system would give the official a goal or no-goal determination within one second of the play.

One big question has yet to be answered: will the tournament be produced in 3D? Although the return of Sony as a technology partner (Sony partnered on the 2010 3D production) points in the direction of yes, FIFA has yet to determine whether the event will get the 3D treatment.

“We have still not made any decision beyond the 2D basic production,” says Ericson. “But we are working with the various stakeholders and discussing with our rightsholders what they want to see. Of course, we are also having the discussion with Sony and HBS. We will need to go through everything and make the decision from FIFA’s perspective what [formats] we will want in 40 or 50 years.”

TV Globo, Brazil’s primary broadcaster and the largest broadcaster in Latin America, will also play an integral role in creating the 2014 World Cup. The network will provide comprehensive news coverage of not only the tournament itself but also its affect on the country and any breaking news during the tournament.

“After 64 years [since Brazil hosted the World Cup], we like to say football has returned to its home,” said Marino. “Of course, the expectation of our viewership is very high, and we hope to live up to that. In terms of news coverage, we have a very diversified culture, and there are a lot of differences between the regions, and that is something that we will explore during our newscasts.”

TV Globo still has a long way to go before the big event, however. It is in the process of hiring and training hundreds of new workers and is also completing the migration of its newsrooms from SD to HD. In addition, TV Globo’s “Project 50K” is currently under way in an effort to increase the penetration of DTT throughout the nation. TV Globo must also supplement its multiplatform distribution infrastructure in order to service multiscreen delivery throughout the nation.

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