Live from Rio 2016: Match TV Keeps Russian Viewers Tuned In to Olympics
Russia’s Match TV, an over-the-air public sports channel, was launched last November and while it may be a rookie when it comes to an Olympic Games the production team of 130 people have managed to overcome a number of obstacles to deliver coverage that has more than satisfied Borislav Volodin, Match TV COO and head of Olympics production.
“I’m happy with the way they have produced the coverage and an event like this is very hard because there are no weekends during the Olympics,” says Volodin. “You show up every day at 7 a.m. for the production and then at night you have meetings planning the next day and then the next day you start the cycle all over again. But we’re very close to the finish and we’re going to finish this marathon with a great result.”
While today the Match TV team is ready to cross the finish line it was only a few weeks ago that the team didn’t even know if there would be a marathon to run as the Russian team was at the mercy of the IOC as to whether any of the athletes would even be here. Disciplinary action related to a doping scandal threatened to keep the entire Russian Olympic team home, all while Match TV had equipment on the way as well as travel and production plans.
“We were nervous as one month before the games and we still didn’t really know our future,” says Volodin. “We had to prepare for this event but at the same time watch the news. It was a hard time for us but we are happy with the way it worked out and it gave the Russian team another motivation and they have actually won more medals than they were supposed to win.”
That success on the field of play, and the presence of the majority of the Russian athletes has made a difference back home as well.
“TV and sports are intertwined and the ratings depend on the athlete’s success,” says Volodin. “More medals mean more ratings so we’re happy with the good results for the team.”
The Match TV production team is working out of a 400 square-meter space in the Olympic IBC that makes the most of tight quarters and produces five channels of coverage for Russian viewers back home. There are four pay TV channels that offer scheduled live event coverage of interest to Russian viewers and also the main Match TV channel that makes use of a studio located within the IBC.
“We do up to 10 news updates during the day that last from three to 10 minutes each,” says Volodin. “We invite the athletes to come in for interviews and about 30 have visited which is nice because it brings them closer to our viewers.”
Like many of the broadcasters at the Olympics Match TV is making use of TVU Networks bonded-cellular transmission technology. There are seven news correspondents roaming the Rio area for live updates from various events (the network also has 11 mixed zone positions) and the TVU technology removes the need for costly SNG equipment.
“It makes our production more mobile and the technology has been good not only for us but all the broadcasters that are here,” says Volodin.
The backbone of the network’s production is the OBS VANDA package of 55 feeds with audio and video. The channel has 21 commentary positions at venues and also five off-tube studios in the IBC in case the commentators cannot get out to the venue.
“Having those 21 positions helps transfer the atmosphere directly to the audience,” says Volodin. “We also have five commentary cameras so the announcer can do a stand up from the venue.”
The 130 people on site are making use of 21 tons of equipment that were shipped over from Russia. All of it is owned by Match TV and Volodin said it was a challenge for the engineering team to make everything fit into such relatively tight quarters.
“We have much more equipment than some of the other channels so we have to be very efficient with the space,” says Volodin.
The facilities include one main control room for the Match TV channel and four smaller control rooms for the pay TV channels. The VANDA package allows the production teams to have access to the camera feeds that cover the Russian athletes that are of most important to viewers back home.
“We want to show the domestic athlete and have an opportunity to program the channels the way we want and OBS has been very helpful,” says Volodin.
One piece of unique technology the team is using is Media Office, a Unix-based asset management system that was created for the Sochi 2014 Olympics. It allows editors and producers to search for material that might be related to an event or athlete. Also on hand are seven Avid editing systems for creating highlights and feature stories.
“We haven’t used it at Match TV before and we’re happy with the system as it has been updated to meet our needs,” says Volodin.