Live From Rio 2016: Matt Millington, Head of Digital for OBS, on the Power of the OVP

The Olympic Games attracts not only a wide range of nationalities and athletes but also a wide range of broadcasters, some looking forward to a day when 8K HDR is the norm and others simply trying to manage the transition to HDTV. That disparity is why Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) does everything in its power to make sure new service offerings are as easy to deploy as possible.

That’s one of the reasons OBS is once again offering the Olympic Video Player (OVP), which is designed to make it easy for rightsholders to deliver digital content to web browsers, tablets, and phones. Rio 2016 is the first Summer Olympics to have OVP available as a service (it debuted at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014). Not only does it offer live content, complete events on demand, and highlights, but it also offers in-depth statistics and more. For example, while watching coverage of the golf events, a user can access a digital scorecard for golfers and click on birdies or eagles to bring up highlights from a hole even if the coverage never made it to air.

The OVP is also available in a white-label service so that all a rightsholder has to do is lay in some channel or network branding.

“Some of the rightsholders are passive and happy for us to do everything. For six of the rightsholders, we look after their service and give them a neutral view of the action,” says Matt Millington, head of digital, OBS. “Other rightsholders are more proactive and manage their own home pages, videos, commentaries, and news stories, with larger teams creating extra content.”

All live sports sessions are passed through to the OVP. The broadcast data feed is used to ensure that the stream starts and stops at the correct time because sometimes an event will start later than anticipated because of prior competition, etc.

OBS Head of Digital Matt Millington inside the OVP production area.

OBS Head of Digital Matt Millington inside the OVP production area.

The production team for the OVP is an example of lean-and-mean, with eight producers, three EVS operators, and a technical team of about six people cranking away on the service and also leveraging the content-creation power of the entire OBS organization.

“Given the high number of mobile devices that are using the OVP, everything is available in short-form highlights, as the Olympic News Channel team is creating more than 1,300 highlight pieces,” says Millington. “So our team will look at those, add a thumbnail, and make it available to viewers.”

Prior to joining the OBS team, Millington was the BBC producer in charge of streaming the 2012 Summer Olympics to viewers across the UK. It was a high-pressure post that pushed the limit not only of the BBC team but also of the entire industry, setting a new bar for digital engagement and helping put digital services into the spotlight.

“I have been working in digital for many years. When I first started, digital were the difficult ones banging on the doors of broadcasters, asking if we can use some content; we were seen as a bit of a pest,” he recalls. “Now things have changed, and we are seen as an integral part of everyone’s workflow, and we rarely run into any resistance. We have the cooperation we need to make sure the content available from the broadcast is in the right format and content structure for digital playout.”

Millington notes that the philosophy of the streaming effort considers two kind of viewers. First, there is the need to meet the demands of the aficionado who wants not only all the action but also the hard data and plenty of stats.

“But then,” he explains, “for many viewers, this will be the first time they are watching a sport or the first time they have watched it in four years. So we make sure we cater to both audiences. We have all the extra information for the aficionado but also present it in a user-friendly way that makes sense to a newcomer to the sport. And we have sport guides to explain a sport to those who are new to it.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit of streaming complete events is that the production team involved with the primary broadcast-TV window has more flexibility in storytelling.

“They no longer are under the same pressures to offer all of the content on one or two channels,” says Millington. “And, when there is a clashing event, they can tell the viewers to switch over to online or the app to watch an event while the broadcast can focus on gold-medal performances.”

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