London Olympics Satellite Preview: The First ‘Truly Digital’ Games (Part 1)

[Satellite News 06-05-12] Broadcast networks, satellite operators and technology developers are gearing up for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, set to commence at the end of next month. The past few Olympic Games have served as a showcase for the broadcast and satellite industries’ progress in technology and efficiency. This year’s games should be no different, as HDTV continues its renaissance and 3-D TV tries to take advantage of a much-needed opportunity.

           
The U.S. 3-D and British Multi-Screen, Freesat Breakouts
 
In the United States, NBC Universal plans to provide 5,535 hours of coverage for the 2012 London Olympics across NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo, NBCOlympics.com, two specialty channels and its first-ever 3-D platform. The unprecedented level surpasses the coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics by nearly 2,000 hours.
In the Olympics’ host country, the BBC plans to make 24 HD-quality live streams available to cable and satellite providers for the duration of the event. The network has promised viewers that they would be able to watch every Olympic sport from every venue via electronic program guide channels or the BBC Red Button on Sky, Virgin Media and Freesat.
   “BBC One and BBC Three will remain the flagship channels for the Olympics,” BBC London 2012 Director Roger Mosey. “But, as the London 2012 Olympic Games will be the first truly ‘Digital Games’, we wanted to offer an unprecedented amount of live sporting action to the widest possible audience through these 24 live streams, giving vastly more choice than ever before.”
   Sky has said that it will offer the live streams via the Red Button, but also broadcast them as channels on its EPG platforms starting July 24. The free-to-air channels will be available to any Sky subscriber, including customers of Freesat from Sky. The HD versions will be available on any Sky Plus HD box and not require a subscription, said Sky Spokesman Stephen van Rooyen, adding that viewers will need an HD-ready television to access programming.
   “We believe that the best way to watch the Olympics is in glorious HD as it offers viewers the best possible viewing experience and, supported by Sky Plus, the flexibility of watching the action at a time that suits our customers,” Van Rooyen said. “We’re delighted that every single Sky home will have the opportunity to enjoy unprecedented coverage of the biggest UK sporting event in a generation.”
   Freesat Managing Director Emma Scott said her company’s subscribers would be able to see the 24 BBC Olympics channels in SD or HD depending on their receiver equipment. “We’re totally delighted to be able to offer Freesat viewers these great BBC HD services. It is going to be an amazing summer of sport and the London 2012 Olympics in HD will truly be a sight to behold,” said Scott. “This is the latest great example of the quality and choice in TV programs available to Freesat customers, all subscription-free.”
 
NovelSat Takes EBU, Newtec Takes ASBU
 
The European Broadcast Union (EBU) selected NovelSat’s NS3-powered NS1000 and NS2000 satellite modulators and demodulators to distribute news and sports content within its global network and transmit live images from the 2012 London Olympics and the UEFA Euro 2012 football championship.
   The EBU’s decision to choose NovelSat came after technology analysis and comparative evaluation of available solutions, according to EBU Director of Networks Graham Warren, who said the Novelsat equipment backward compatibility with DVB-S2 was considered a plus for its transitional period.
   "One critical task in maintaining the EBU’s leading market position is the need to reduce the cost of services provided over the EBU network,” said Warren. “Our users’ demand for higher bandwidth is always increasing and the NovelSat solution allows us to substantially increase our payload bandwidth without increasing our satellite resource costs.”
   “Sport is the avant-garde of television that constantly pushes the performance envelope of HDTV, 3DTV and newer technologies,” said NovelSat Chairman David Furstenberg. “When we started working with a pioneering sport broadcaster of the stature of EBU, we wanted to make sure that our NS3 line of products met all the highest standards.”
   To the south, the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) selected Newtec to upgrade its members’ infrastructure. The contract gives Newtec the opportunity to bring the first fully HD Olympic Games to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  The Olympic content will be injected into the central archive of the ASBU’s Newtec-built Multimedia Exchange Network over Satellite (MENOS), allowing members to access the content at a later time and eliminating the need for each member to individually archive all feeds.
   The MENOS multimedia network was officially launched by ASBU in January 2009. ASBU Director General Slaheddine Maaoui said the capability provides significant cost reductions and operational streamlining. “The Olympic Games have always been major milestones for us, for the introduction of new platforms, technologies and services,” said Maaoui. “London 2012 will be the first HD Olympics for many of our members, together with comprehensive MENOS simulcast, content archiving and playout.”
 
SES, Eutelsat Providing Operator Support for New Delivery Methods
 
FSS operator SES was chosen by the BBC to support BSkyB’s coverage of the London Olympic Games with 48 channels in HD and SD. The Eurosport Group also selected SES to deliver live 3-D broadcasts of the Olympics across Europe via the Astra satellite system.
   SES said the 2012 Olympic Games in London would be broadcast live on the Eurosport 3D channel from the Astra satellite located at the 19.2 degrees East orbital slot. The event will be transmitted by a transponder formerly utilized for analog transmissions in Germany.
   “Making high quality 3-D sporting events available to a wider audience and producing compelling 3-D content will help spur the growth of the 3-D industry,” SES Senior Vice President of European Sales Norbert Hölzle said in a statement. “We are proud that SES satellites will be used by our long-standing partners to deliver live action from the London Olympics this summer.”
   In Poland, leading DTH platform N gave details of its coverage plan for the London 2012 games. N COO Christian Anting said his company would provide the most extensive coverage of the Olympics in its market.
   N will transmit than 100 hours of HD and 3-D coverage with the help of its satellite broadcaster Eutelsat. The platform will deliver volleyball, handball, basketball, football, boxing, tennis, swimming and gymnastics events to Polish audiences. N is sharing the Polish broadcast rights with Eurosport and TVP.
   “No other platform in Poland can offer consumers this level of Olympic Games coverage and we’re bringing it to them in high definition and 3–D,” said Anting.

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