Live from London: EBU Marks End of Standard Definition for Sports Coverage
The London 2012 Olympic Games will be remembered for a number of landmark sporting events, but, in broadcasting terms, it is significant as the point where the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) says goodbye to standard-definition transmission for all major sports coverage.
This is the result of long-term investment in the EBU’s Eurovision satellite and fibre networks. Because of this, more than 70 member broadcasters holding rights to the Games are able to take feeds from the 12 HD multilateral signals available. Each member has also been given “up to” eight MPEG-4 decoders for the best possible transmission quality.
Eurovision network director Graham Warren calls the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games “a milestone in the live-sports-transmission industry”. He adds, “This is a turning point for Eurovision and the beginning of the end of standard definition. Until now, we have always provided parallel SD and HD signals, but this is the first big event where we have focused all our energy on HD alone.”
The EBU is providing 12 simultaneous multilateral and three unilateral transmission feeds for approximately 13 hours a day during both Games, operating from facilities taking up a square kilometre of the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) in London. The Union also has reporters, commentators, and technical crews on site working with member broadcasters.
In addition to the conventional broadcast feeds, the EBU has established the Common Broadband Video Platform (CBP) for free-to-air video coverage to Internet users across Europe. Simulcasts of the main broadcast feed are being supplemented by special live feeds, with every medal event available as video-on-demand. Viewers can interact with other fans using social media on the CBP. More than 30 live simulcast transmissions will provide approximately 7,500 hours of coverage, with 1,600 hours through specific Olympic feeds.
The EBU has also increased its general sports-broadcast portfolio by agreeing to an exclusive “multi-year” partnership with European football body UEFA to provide “live, global audio-visual transmission services”. This includes all Champions League and Europa League games from 2012 to 2015 and the European national matches of the qualifying rounds of Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.