Royal Wedding Coverage Will Marry Online and Broadcast

The Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton on 29 April in London is reckoned to be the biggest media event in history, with a predicted global TV audience of 2 billion, plus an estimated 400 million participating online. That should make it the most-viewed event in the history of broadcast and online video. (See the chart at the end of this article.)

Coverage of the event will be led by UK news broadcasters BBC, ITN, and Sky News, which will pool resources to deliver a host feed. The BBC is in charge of the 20+ cameras inside Westminster Abbey, the only units permitted where the ceremony will take place. Hundreds of other cameras will be positioned along the route of the carriage as its processes the 1.2 km from the Abbey to Buckingham Palace.
All of this is reminiscent of 29 July 1981 when Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer drawing a worldwide TV audience of 750 million.

"Thirty years on and we can contrast the huge leap in communications media between then and now," reflects Gannon Hall, former Kyte COO and now EVP of Global Marketing at KIT digital KIT Digital.  "The scale, the media delivery, the user experience are all transformed."

KIT Digital is one of the principal media companies at the event organizing video feeds to numerous web outlets and devices.

"There's a dynamic, sweeping broadcast coverage of major events including the revolutions in North Africa and how consumers want and can receive coverage instantly, in some cases setting the news agenda by tweets and mobile video," Hall says. "KIT Digital is involved in some way or other with aspects of media content creation, management, and delivery and we realized that the Royal Wedding was going to be covered by multiple clients using multiple aspects of our technology portfolio."

For instance, three of KIT's outside broadcast (OB) trucks, built by Megahertz, the UK-based OB and systems integrator it acquired last September, will be deployed by Associated Press on the ground to collect HD footage.

KIT's content services team will take that footage as well as the raw satellite feed from the host broadcast and edit it into 2-4 minute segments. The clips are localized with translation (in up to 15 languages), and transcoded in real time with associated metadata and bespoke voice-overs as required for output as VOD to an array of media partners including AP, Reuters, Disney, ABC, Getty Images, and MSN. The clips will also be delivered to an online marketplace for any station. KIT is also providing a live stream using CDN services from Akamai, Limelight, and others.

"We are not only writing the script and performing edits; we are providing a player for AP and others to display the content on their portal and also to syndicate that to other online publishers," says Hall. "It is a customizable service for media companies to brand the feed with their graphics and logos. We can also socially enable the feed with built-in social sharing to Facebook and Twitter."

KIT's content services teams are based in Stockholm and Cairo, legacy of its purchase of Swedish mobile TV company Kamera in 2008.

Although the event itself, including the hour-long ceremony, will last less than two hours, broadcasters are planning day-long coverage with online participation central to their strategies to build and win ratings.

Sky News and CNN for example are streaming live and VOD highlights to their iPad, iPhone, and Android apps. Sky News will also edit UGC content gathered from across the UK on the day into a program (Your Royal Wedding) to air in the evening.

An estimated 8,000 TV and radio journalists and technical staff from around the world will be covering the wedding on the ground on 29 April. Some 140 OB trucks will be corralled in a broadcast hub in Green Park (which separates Buckingham Palace from Westminster). Temporary presentation studios will built at Canada Gate, adjacent to the park.

U.S. broadcasters are showing intense interest with CNN is supplementing its London bureau with 50 additional staff and NBC basing 50 of a rumored 300-strong contingent at the central London headquarters of ITN which contains studios, edit suites, and a production base to provide content for shows including its flagship shows Today and Nightly News.

NBC and Germany's ZDF, Australia's 7 Network and Network 10, and Canada's CTV are each reported to have each paid up to £200,000 to access ITN's feed of the build-up and ceremony, over which they will lay graphics and commentary.

Coverage of at least some of the ceremony in stereo 3D was lobbied for and seriously considered for inclusion in the Abbey but in the end Buckingham Palace opted against it.

Sky even filmed a mock wedding with the two leads played by stand-ins and offered a 3D demonstration at the Guards Chapel in Windsor to persuade the Palace to no avail.

According to Sky News' Royal Wedding executive producer, Kate McAndrew, "They decided that the 3D camera was going to be too big for the Abbey and they felt there was not a good enough trade off considering, in their view, that the audience for it was too small."

Another source suggests that the proposed position of the 3D rig was in direct conflict with the seat of a guest king and that the protocol of replacing them was too undiplomatic to contemplate.

The lack of 3D, even buildings covering the procession, is a shame especially since the 1954 Coronation was captured in part in 3D using twin film cameras, creating a remarkable archive.

Global Viewing Events

2011 Marriage of Kate & William: +2.4 billion (estimated - incl 400m online)

2011 Super Bowl: 111 million viewers

2010 Chilean Miners Rescue: 1 billion

2010 FIFA World Cup: 700 million

2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony: 1 billion

1983 Last episode of M-A-S-H: 106 million (TV)

1981 Marriage of Charles & Diana: 750 million (TV)

1969 Apollo 11 Moon Landing: 600 million (TV)

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