ARD and ZDF join forces for Olympics online

By Birgit Heidsiek, SVG Europe German correspondent

The German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF will make common cause for their online offer for the Olympics Games. In addition to their extensive reports on the Olympics in their main programmes, the two networks will provide German sport fans with up to 60 hours live streams from London on the Web, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, and also via hybrid broadcast broadband TV.

Walter Johannsen, head of the sports team at the ARD, says the online offering will help deliver a wealth of Olympic events that otherwise would never be seen by viewers.

“Even if we are 15 hours on the air, we can’t cover all the highlights,” he explains. “The online streaming gives us the opportunity to report extensively about sports that we could cover before only with some clippings.”

German viewers will become their own programme director as they select their favoured  sports and events. And for the first time, ARD and ZDF will offer parallel live streams on up to six channels, adding 900 hours of coverage. The various live streams will be available at the same time at as well as at

Furthermore, the main programmes from ARD and ZDF are also going to be streamed live on their respective Websites.

“Our offer provides the audience with a variety of programmes that it never had before,” emphasises Johannsen.

The editorial staff of ARD and ZDF plans to produce commentary for about two thirds of the coverage from London and then split responsibilities among the two networks based on who is on air.

ARD and ZDF also offer a time shifting procedure for any stream, allowing pause, fast forward, and rewind. And highlights of the Olympics coverage will also be available on and after the events.
For the encoding of the live streams the NDR has adopted two different processes. Flash-based users will receive content via HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) while Apple iOS users will receive HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) content.

The technical requirement for acceptable quality is a DSL connection with a data transfer rate of at least 2 Mbps. The live streaming will also be offered for speeds as slow as 512 kbps.

“It is impressive and we are delighted to see how seriously ARD and ZDF take the growing public demand for the Olympic Games,” concludes Michael Vesper, general manager of the German Olympic Sports Confederation. “The record numbers of TV and Internet transmissions deserve a gold medal.”

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