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Canada’s Broadcasters Prepare for Challenge of Vancouver 2010

By | February 1, 2010

      One of the major events in 2010 is the Winter Olympics, in Vancouver in February. The global spectacle will boost the local economy and make Canada the focus of global media attention during February.

      Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, a unique relationship between leading media conglomerates CTV Inc. and Rogers Media Inc., will provide coverage. “A consortium of this size has never been put together to something like the Olympic Games. It really makes it a challenge. We are doing the Games in 22 different languages and the Opening Ceremony in 13 different languages. There are lots of logistics and organization taking place,” says Keith Pelley, president of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium.

      Via Satellite talks with Pelley and Curtis Skinner, the consortium’s director of engineering, about the broadcasting effort behind the event.

      VIA SATELLITE: What are the major technical issues?

      Pelley: It’s just the size and logistics of it. You have five networks that are hosting live on site and that are each approximately doing 20 hours of coverage a day. When you break it all down, there are 1,400 people working on this. As far as technical challenges, it comes down to preparation and planning and we have been doing this for the last two years. We are fully engaged with the International Broadcast Center to ensure by the times the Games come, we are up and ready to go. In the last three-to-four months, we created a full mockup of our entire production system in a warehouse just outside Toronto where we brought all of our engineers in and our technical people.

      VIA SATELLITE: How important is satellite and satellite-based technologies in the delivery of such an event?

      Skinner: We are mainly using a fiber transport stream. We are using satellite as our backup. We are taking our five primary signals and putting them all together in a single stream using MPEG-4, and then we are sending that back to our home networks. We also have a couple of satellite uplink trunks. They will travel around Vancouver and will be used to backhaul contribution content backed-up from the IBC. Telesat is providing our full time backup.

      VIA SATELLITE: What are the bandwidth needs?

      Skinner: Our main fiber path is an LC48, which is about 2.5 gigabits per second of bandwidth. In that, we have all of our transmission signals and our return signals back. The rest is all of our data stuff. We do a lot of file transfers from our Toronto offices, as we are supporting a lot of networks. We have 14 signals going back to Toronto, then we have signal coming back from Toronto. We are attempting to feed 11 networks. In the IBC in Vancouver, there will be seven control rooms and six studios. There are a couple of other remote studios and control rooms as well. We have 22 edit suites to edit all the content. We are trying to create a whole network facility.

      VIA SATELLITE: How important is HD coverage?

      Pelley: We are shooting everything in HD. That is the norm now. There are 12 TV networks. There are only 650 competition hours, but there will be 2,300 hours of HD coverage. I think the real advancement comes with online. We are working with Microsoft for our video player. This will be HD-quality, and we are going to stream every single second of the Games live online. We will stream five of the networks online as well as every single international feed online. There will be between 12 to 14 streams going at once. This is where the Games have really advanced.

      VIA SATELLITE: How will you make sure the event is successful from a broadcast and media standpoint?

      Pelley: With the integration of the multiple platforms that we have, it is unbelievable. I say, we are not a TV company anymore, we are an integrated media company with non-traditional assets. We are showing the Games in theaters and public venues. We are far more than a television company.. It really is a watershed moment for Canadians. I am convinced these will be the most experienced Games in the history of Canadian television.

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