By: Ken Kerschbaumer, SVG Editorial Director
Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 6:39 pm
Preparations for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil have recently made headlines with some high-level disagreements on the amount of progress that has been done with respect to infrastructure and stadium improvements. But for Arnaud Le Mintier, FIFA, head of broadcaster services, the focus is squarely on figuring out what sort of services FIFA and HBS, which provides the technical backbone for the World Cup coverage, will deliver to rights holders.
While he may not know the final mix of services that will be available to rights holders one thing is certain: expectations are high for the level of excitement that a World Cup in Brazil will generate.
“Every World Cup is obviously different and they are all unique, so it is difficult to compare,” he explains. “But that being said, when it comes to Brazil expectations are high because football in Brazil is more than a game. It’s a way of life.”
The 2010 World Cup was watching by more than 160 million Brazilians and Le Mintier says only China had more viewers. “But what is remarkable is that is 80 to 85% of the population and we think that number will be even higher in 2014,” he adds.
The odds are also strong that the energy in Brazil will translate to higher ratings around the world. Brazil is two hours ahead of viewers on the East Coast of the United States and only three hours behind viewers in Europe, providing a unique opportunity to schedule a match that could be seen live by huge audiences in both nations without fans needing to cut out of work early or get up at 4 a.m.
“The preparation for the World Cup began a long time ago, even before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa,” says Le Mintier. “It’s very important that we insure the host country delivers the technical infrastructure we need to operate our productions.”
The International Broadcast Centre for the World Cup will be located at the Rio Central Exhibition Center, about 15 kilometers inland from Copacabana Beach. The 12 venues around the country will be connected via fibre and work has already begun to make sure telecommunications will be stable well before the event begins.
“We will also have a dedicated power supply and FIFA and HBS have been working with the local organizing committee to deliver that,” adds Le Mintier.
Next year’s Confederation Cup will be a major test of that infrastructure. The Cup brings together the six champions of FIFA leagues around the world along with the defending champion Spain and the host nation Brazil and is a major event for FIFA.
“But we can also use it to test the infrastructure and the venues,” adds Le Mintier.
It will also signal the beginning of the final phase of World Cup preparation that, ultimately, will see the production staff grow from a team of 20 people to more than 2,500.
“Brazil is 24 times the size of Germany [which hosted the 2006 World Cup] and seven times the size of South Africa [which hosted the 2010 World Cup],” adds Le Mintier. “So the challenge is not only to cover what happens at the venue but all around the country.”
So what can rights holders expect in the way of services? HBS had dozens of ENG crews in South Africa that would follow the teams, shoot feature stories, cover press conferences, and more, allowing rights holders to more easily base their operations at the IBC. The same will hold true again for Brazil.
“We will cover the pitch but also want to capture what is happening around the teams, host cities, and all around the country,” explains Le Mintier.
And in South Africa more than 60 HBS staffers were dedicated to producing content for mobile devices. In 2014 odds are strong that the mobile staff will be larger and creating more and more content for a rapidly expanding viewer base.
“We need to provide content for devices and tables to that the consumer who is on the road can watch it all day,” adds Le Mintier.
One question mark does remain: 3D. In 2010 HBS produced 25 matches in 3D, setting a new high-water mark for 3D production. But it is still unclear to what extent 3D will be in the mix in 2014.
“We are monitoring the development of 3D in sport and we will talk to the key stake holders and then make a decision,” says Le Mintier.