IBC Report: BBC and NBC Offer London Olympic Highlights

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The combination of shared moments of events and the ability of viewers to pick and choose their own moments will be a template for sports broadcasts for years to come, said the BBC director of sport Barbara Slater in an IBC debrief of the London 2012 Olympic coverage.

"It was the most extraordinarily successful and complex event ever transmitted in the U.K.," Slater said.

Slater's mission was to "never miss a moment" and through the BBC's three main networks, as well as 24 streamed services, radio networks, websites, and news programs, she -- and the BBC's audience -- were highly satisfied with the result. 

"Just remember, in 2005 when we started planning there were no tablet devices, less than half of U.K. viewers were digital, and Facebook just embryonic," Slater said. "There was no such thing as Twitter!"

The BBC covered some 1500 hours of Beijing's Games, but this year's total exceeded 2500 hours. Viewing numbers were extraordinary, as were video requests, and website page views.

"The on-line and streaming coverage threw up some extremely interesting facts, with remarkable audience levels (half a million viewers) for Taekwondo and Modern Pentathlon events," Slater added.

Almost 25 million unique browsers accessed the BBC Sport website in the U.K. across the first full week of the Games, with an unprecedented reach of 22 million for red button requests. Some 75 million video requests spanned the BBC Sport website and iPlayer.

NBC's Darryl Jefferson (director post production and highlights factory) also helped raise emotions in the room with his U.S.-focused show-reel, assembled from NBC's greatest-ever Olympic effort. Jefferson said his team paid particular attention to core metadata this year.

"We dare not underestimate the importance of metadata. Without it we could never have hoped to identify footage and files. They could have been lost forever," Jefferson said.

Adding to NBC's complications were delays on satellite feeds to and from London, onward to its 30 Rockefeller Center facility in New York City, then further to key technical locations in Stamford, Connecticut; Hialeah, Florida; and Denver, Colorado.

"Our numbers were quite amazing," noted Jefferson. "Ratings were enormous, and we achieved 1.5 billion page views, up 300 million on Beijing. It was the biggest digital event in American TV history.

"We launched the new NBC Sports Network -- which put out roughly 60 hours of new coverage a day, in addition to our other networks. Connectivity between U.S. and London was incredibly complex. We threw out the old tape library and went to a file-based system to stream over 3,500 hours of competition live. There were more digital streaming paths between London and the U.S. than ever before.

"Previously, we had to re-build and re-think every time we built a content factory for each Games, but this will become our system for Stamford and our workflow for future Games."

NBC had a huge presence in London, taking up more space in the International Broadcast Centre than OBS and the BBC combined. It put 2,800 people on the ground in London, plus 700 in New York, delivering an all-file-based transatlantic workflow. About one-third of the equipment it assembled for London will move on to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, another third will be used in Stamford, and the rest returned to vendors or hire companies.

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