Saturday, 22 September 2012

BBC Olympic Games Coverage ...


I recently went to a lecture at the British Library given by Dave Gordon, Head of Major Events for BBC Sport, on the Transmission and Viewing of the Olympic Games ...

BBC Coat of Arms
"Nation shall speak Peace unto Nation"

Having the Olympics in London gave the BBC a huge opportunity to showcase their work to the world, yet we, the audience, had a huge expectation ...


... we would want to have the possibility to watch every venue (40+), every event start to finish, every session, every sport, every aspect, every day – so not a moment could be missed ...


... they had all the strands of the Beeb to consider – Radio, TV, World Service, local tv stations too – then the 24 digital streams going out with 2,500 hours of coverage – at Sydney ... the BBC only had 300 hours of coverage on BBC 1 and 2 ....


British Library: sculpture -
Sitting on History
.... here they also had to make arrangements with Sky, Virgin and the Beeb Facebook page ... there was BBC Twitter (which was monitored 24/7) ...


... of course they had to stick to programme listings ... and there were the big screens around the country, allowing the community to come together during the Games, torch ceremonies, etc etc


Then we need to remember the other events that were going on around Britain during this year, the different audiences who needed to be catered for – Children’s TV (CBBC), local tv and radio stations ...


CBBC Website
CBBC had its own website, children’s story recording, the torch route, Blue Peter (the flagship children’s tv programme) ...


The Torch Relay was broadcast from a converted horsebox,  which  followed the torch all the way around its 70 day route ... 8,000 miles, 66 evening celebrations ... and more.


Torch Relay Horsebox - BBC 
The Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival ...  what an array of artistic, musical, architectural, literary et al events – the “Pentathlon of the Muses” ... all needing to be taken into account in the scheduling.


Then there’s the normal BBC scheduling of their regular programmes that needed to be taken into account.


The BBC Proms had to be catered for ... the annual 8 week (mid July – mid Sept) Promenade Concerts predominantly at the Albert Hall, but with events being staged around Britain – including tie-ins with the Olympic theme.


Now I’m re-reading this ... what an amazing quantity of broadcast coverage ... standard broadcasting, digital opportunities, not forgetting radio, nor more importantly the social media aspects, journalists working in the field ...


... then there’s the technology we expect now – all the interactivity ... the ‘extra’ slots, the ‘see it again/play it again’, the alarm calls for specific events, all the stats ...

Adding Cables
And I don’t understand that last paragraph at all really!  I hear the word “smart” bandied around ... and I guess that’s what technology is ... who does the glueing I’ve no idea!!


The International Broadcast Centre at the Park was the size of 5 jumbo jets and is provided by the host broadcaster, whose parameters are set by the International Olympic organisation to ensure there is neutral coverage of all events for all broadcasters, which the BBC then customised its coverage for the British audience.
International Broadcasting Centre in
June 2011


The BBC is decentralising from London and BBC Sport was one of the departments scheduled to move .... conveniently this happened in the 2012 summer!? 


The heart of the BBC Sports’ web operation, Olympics news coverage and distribution was now located in the north of England at the new MediaCityUK in Salford (just outside Manchester).


MediaCityUK
Still the BBC Olympic Studios had to be at the Olympic Park ... so they hired 18 reusable shipping containers at a cost of £2.50 per day!!  This had been tried out for the Football World Cup 2010 in Cape Town – so the BBC reused that studio, customising it as necessary.

Radio 2 also broadcast from one of the containers ...


c/o The Metro - Lund Point and the
unfinished Olympic Park in 2011
The BBC rented vacant areas of the top five floors of the 22 storey tower block, Lund Point, with views across east London and into the Park as a base for their Olympic and Paralympic coverage:


... BBC News and the BBC World Service used this space ... they built a studio on the roof, accessible via laddered scaffolding, to which ‘everyone’ climbed!


There were commentators at every sport – whose commentary and feeds  were available for other countries to tap into ...

 Each day the BBC1 was allocated to the Olympics and its events ... BBC3 opened at 9.00 am (instead of 7.00pm) – all the BBC Parliament bandwidth was transferred to the BBC3 transmission.


White Water Canoeing at Lee Valley
A nation was united:  28.7 m of us watched the opening ceremony, 27.3m of us watched the closing ceremony ... their target audience for Beijing was 75%, this year the target was 85%, but 91% was reached.

They took stats of everything, and are still evaluating those ... fully researched ...


Sport-On-Line reached 24million, while their mobile reach was 12million ... for breaking news, results, video, audio and analysis ....


The advent of Digital gives us, the audience, (seemingly) a never ending choice ... as well as High-Definition Television (HDTV) providing a resolution that is substantially higher than standard ...
Hadleigh Farm in Essex - Mountain Biking


... to which we’d all been subscribed to in the digital roll-out, the south-east being the final region in May of this year – new tvs or converter boxes being required ... and retuning, while it was all fine tuned.  I only use the basic tv set up – so am not aware of all the ‘goodies’ available – I’ll get there!!


Then Dave Gordon gave us an idea of the future for TV ... in about 20 years a much more interactive system, when the resolution would be sixteen times greater than today – Super Hi Vision tv screenings would be wall size.

BBC boxes!

The BBC had to work with all organisations to ensure they meet their public service charter ... so BBC Sport is looking at the lessons learnt from the Olympics and readying up for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014 ...


... they thought they might have 3,000 schools participating in the Olympic coverage – but it was 5,000 schools from around the world ...


The IOC has a Youth Olympics every four years (winter and summer) following the style of the Olympic Games ... the next one will be in 2014.


After Sydney 2000 there was a pile of letters to answer ... at London 2012 the BBC receive instantaneous feedback and need to react accordingly ...

Portland, Dorset - Olympic Sailing venue

They have social scientists on board to monitor, help with planning, scheduling and generally study society and human behaviour ... so improvements can be introduced.


The BBC had first call at the London Olympics, but usually get preferential treatment at Olympic Games due to the BBC’s worldwide coverage ... there is a lot of give and take amongst broadcasters during these international events – there is very little in-fighting.


The BBC is a broadcaster ... not a narrowcaster – and for the not so popular events they would include extra coverage within other programmes: the sport would get coverage, yet the probably tiny audience would have a sampling of the British aspects to the sport, but the sport and its successes would be highlighted elsewhere – eg in the One Show, or on Breakfast TV ...


Olympic Village
During the Olympic and Paralympic Games – the newly gained British expertise was being tapped into by the Brazilian authorities – for their Olympics in 2016 and the 2014 football World Cup ... and the BBC would be at the forefront broadcasting these events to its UK and global audiences.


Looking back on the talk and giving myself a better idea of the challenges the BBC and broadcasters face – it has opened my eyes as to how much is involved in just getting the sport into our sitting rooms, cars, mobile phones, high streets etc ... and the BBC costs us just 40p a day for all the pleasure and information it gives us.  There are no adverts - bliss!


BBC Sport covers a vast array of events, is constantly evaluating itself, has a global scrutiny going on – for the Olympics by the IOC, other events by the various sporting bodies  - the BBC values its position in global broadcasting ... while the British public have a first rate reputable broadcaster ... which cannot allow itself to be seen as biased in any way.

Look at what can be achieved with a few boxes!

The logistics of it all is immense ... the technicians, the electricians, the camera crews, the artistes, the journalists, backroom boffins and administrators, the actual broadcasting – all has to be assembled, co-ordinated,  scheduled ...

... and that was just BBC Sport ...

This is a piecemeal post – but gives an overview of what goes on behind the scenes in getting any sporting event broadcast ... it was an interesting British Library event ...


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

26 comments:

Mike Goad said...

All that. Simply amazing. Quite a production feat, I'm sure.

Ellie Garratt said...

I can not begin to imagine what a mammoth task it was. Amazing.

Shirley Wells said...

It really is amazing. I used to work for the BBC so had a little understanding of what went into the outside broadcasts, but it always amazes me to see a sporting event brought to us so seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly. We rarely think of the logistics.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I think the utilisation of the red button helped a lot, being able to choose what you were specifically interested in. It's got to have been the most comprehensive coverage of an Olympics ever, just because of the rise in associated technology. How perfect it was all in place for London!

Deniz Bevan said...

Wow. I might have thought of the logistics of organizing staff to cover a wide range of events, but I hadn't thought of half those other matters. So much work and organization and detail!

Susanne Drazic said...

WOW! So much behind the scenes stuff that the viewer doesn't know about.

Inger said...

I wish we could forward this post to our presidential candidate who was so insulting while visiting London for the games.

I hope I can catch some of this on BBC or BBC America.

You know when I lived in London, there was not one tall building there. Looking at some of the city coverage during the games, they looked strangely out of place to me.

Julie said...

It's really something how the UK came together for this event, obviously a huge success! I can't even begin to imagine organizing any of it, kudos to all who pulled it off.
This was fun to read, even though I didn't understand a bit of that one paragraph either LOL.

Chuck said...

Hilary, that was a massive read on a massive undertaking. Truly impressive to me was the 91% "participation" of the country. That is what the Olympic spirit is all about and London along with the whole country should be proud of this.

Your articles as always are simply fascinating and full of information most people don't really know.

I learn from you.

Bob Scotney said...

I agree that the BBC coverage was first class. Did he have much to say about the BBC's 'routine' coverage of sport where for many years it has been losing out to commercial TV, Saturday afternoons used to be a time for watching sport now we get ex footballers chatting in a studio telling where a goal has been scored.
Plaudits to the BBC for big events but even some of those have deteriorated due to naff presenters.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Mike - and add in all the other events the BBC have staged this year - it was very interesting to hear about the coverage for this.

@ Ellie - like you .. I'm bewildered with all the scheduling.

@ Shirley - interesting that you worked for the Beeb and have some insight - your comment is so true - it was seamless and seemingly effortless - and we don't think of the logistics behind the scenes - great aspects.

@ Annalisa - I hardly used the red button - I just wanted to watch and not constantly interrupt myself ... that was the thing I found frustrating about the red button ... but if I'd wanted to watch one of the minority sports - then I'd have used it no doubt.

We were so lucky the Olympics were in London ... and that technology had moved on so much - we could see all the events if we wanted to .. London was the perfect decision.

@ Deniz - I was surprised when I heard his talk .. or as you say put it all together in my head - we know about aspects, but quietly forget about all the work and organisation and detail (as you say) going on behind the scenes.

@ Susanne - so true .. it was WOW!

@ Inger - he was very rude unfortunately. I'm sure the BBC will release (as too Channel 4 for the Paralympics) some general packages of the Games' coverages .. I hope so.

I see under the Wiki page for BBC America that it broadcasts other broadcasters programmes - but more under the general entertainment/ discovery genres and News. No mention of the Olympics ...

I can't remember London from my early years - all the buildings looked tall .. but the Twin Towers in New York had just been built .. and we had the ghastly estate 1960s blocks .. one you can see in the post ... they were further out from central London.

The planning of these new towers tries to leave vistas of London icons free .. ie St Paul's Cathedral ... the Shard (our new tallest building - in Europe too) - rockets upwards ...

Building these towers must be possible now due to new developments, lighter materials etc ..

London must change ... sadly!

@ Julie - we certainly enjoyed all the goings on in London and at other venues during 2012 .. a taxi driver said that he hardly worked during the Olympics, but had enjoyed the Games. Very few tourists in central London - brilliant out at the venues ..

@ Chuck - appreciate your comment - I write because they're things that interest me - and I learn as I write ... so am always delighted to know others enjoy them: thank you.

I think we are proud .. but have dropped back into normality - rather dull! compared to all that's been going on.

Many thanks to you all - lovely having you here and enjoying these posts ... cheers and enjoy your Sundays ... Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob .. he didn't go into specifics much - and there might have been more in the Q & A, but I'd gone for my train at that stage ...

I'm sure the other channels pay for their sport on a competitive basis .. where the Beeb is guaranteed certain events that are considered British - ie Olympics, Jubilee Pageant - which was awful in its reporting, the camera work was probably fantastic .. if someone up there had given us anything but rain! Wimbledon, Cricket - til it went commercial ...

I can't remember what the terminology is for the 'standard' events that will 'always' be covered by the BBC ..

They are better at it ... but if other broadcasters aren't given a chance - Channel 4 wasn't that bad for a first off during the Paralympics - though I do dislike adverts!!

I think that's probably the cause ..

Being a presenter is a lot of hard work, and homework before the event absolutely essential - so apparently missing from the lightweight presenters in the Jubilee.

Thanks Bob for raising some queries ...

Cheers good to see you - Hilary

Donna Hole said...

So great that you are involved in all this Hilary. So good that your are involved so intimatey ins an auspicious social event. I hope all goes well.

.......dhole

Adura Ojo said...

Hi Hilary,

Good to see the BBC getting better and moving with the times. They did a great job with the Olympics and the BBC I-player is so popular. It's a positive step that Aunty is becoming more cost conscious too. Perhaps I won't mind that licence fee I shell out every year now.

Botanist said...

Thanks for the insight, Hilary. The logistics of this event are truly scary.

This is probably the most significant thing I miss since moving from Britain to Canada.

This side of the pond, we are constrained to what the big North American networks are prepared to pass on. I think "narrowcasting" is an apt term to describe it. And don't get me started on adverts. The opening and closing ceremonies were almost unwatchable due to frustrating interruptions every few minutes. Nothing is sacred here, other than the Great God of Commerce. :(

I would happily swap a hundred channels of commercialised "choice" for just a couple of quality, advert-free, channels any day.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's an amazing amount of coverage and all thanks to technology.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

The logistics are staggering! Your country did a great job.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Donna - thanks .. I just took advantage of staying in London to listen to the talk by the BBC head of sport. Sadly I wasn't involved .. but I watched!

@ Adura - how lovely to see you again .. it looks like the BBC have to be at the forefront - their Olympics coverage was amazing wasn't it .. and the i-player seems to be really good - giving us choice when to watch.

The licence fee seems reasonable when its set out like this - and this is just one event - doesn't it .. like you - I won't mind the licence fee now.

@ Ian - great to see you too .. and thanks for the thumbs up for this posting.

I don't like watching other country's tv .. I just like my own little world of no adverts, or occasionally watching something with ads when I want to!! So can quite understand your frustration ..

And I can see your point .. there's a lot of 'drivel' on tv now-a-days - fortunately we do have some good programmes over here ... I'm glad to say!

@ Alex - I thought you'd understand somewhat more than many of us! All thanks to technology ... you're right there.

@ Susan - the BBC did get the Olympics right, and Channel 4 didn't do a bad job for their first really big event ... we did have adverts - but that's the nature of the beast .. ie Channel 4.

Thanks so much .. glad you enjoyed the post .. cheers Hilary

Ciara said...

I love the fact that BBC is becoming a household name even in the USA. What an amazing job!

joylene said...

My dad passed on in 1983. He loved technology. Sometimes I wonder how he'd react to all these changes. Probably quite comfortably. But it does make you wonder where they'll go to next. I can foresee a TV where you can touch the screen and zoom in or out. We'll watch the Olympics in 2030 and be able to touch the athletics and say "Good Luck" and they'll hear it in a small receiver in their ear. Okay, that might not work. I'm suddenly imagining 2 million viewers whispering to some poor smuck.

On another note. I watch PBS because it's mostly British films and series and without commercials. Last night was Wallander. Next week it's UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS. I love George Bently and Rebus and Sherlock. Yay, BBC.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ciara .. that's great that it's a name you recognise - and presumably watch at times.

@ Joylene - it would be fascinating to talk to your father now, and hear his reaction to all the things that are going on. I might be around to watch the Olympics in 2030!! I hope so ... no I don't think touching the athletes is such a bright idea through the tv - though we have adverts like that ...

All those series you mention are excellent aren't they .. Wallender -I love, never really got into Upstairs Downstairs, the others yea!! I love the documentaries - not sure if you get those ...

Enough of thinking what tv I can watch - there's always so much to do!! Cheers to you Ciara and Joylene .... Hilary

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,
Ah yes, the BBC's coverage of the Olympics was pretty expansive. Although I did note that quite often the 24 dedicated extra Olympic channels were not working properly.
Still, compared to the dreadful coverage by NBC in America, we got an exceptional deal.
Of course, we have to have a licence to watch the BBC. I phoned the licensing section when I first moved here and asked if I had to pass some kind of test to get a licence. Strangely enough, the lady laughed at me :)
Cheers,
Gary

Karen Lange said...

Hilary, I think your blog has officially been named one of the great resources for writers and bloggers. :) I always learn new and interesting things! I cannot fathom the amount of work all the events across the pond involved. Boggles the mind!

Thanks, as always, for a lovely post.
Have a great week,
Karen

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Gary - not having access to all the channels I wasn't sure if everything was functioning correctly. But as you say - the American coverage was disappointing to put it mildly - more so the Paralympics .. which was practically zero.

That woman must have had a heart attack and your query must still be keeping her entertained! Now it does me too ...

@ Karen - that's wonderful .. thanks so so much!

Delighted you enjoy the posts - and I was pleased I could get up to London for this talk - I knew it would interest me .. and anyone who comes over to read ..

There's been so much going on here - still is!

Thanks Gary and Karen - great to see you .. cheers Hilary

Mark Koopmans said...

Wow,

I grew up with the BBC with Grange Hill and Swap Shop... how things have changed :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark .. life has sure changed from basic black and white (my era) .. to the technologies we have today - it's incredible isn't it.

Cheers Hilary