Delivering the 2012 Olympics Games to viewers around the world

Monday, November 12, 2012

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Demand for global distribution resulted in Intelsat utilising approximately 500 MHz of bandwidth for full time and occasional use services. This supported approximately 50 channels with 15,000 to 20,000 hours of coverage over a period of approximately three weeks.

Satellite solutions have demonstrated once again during this year’s Games.  Jean-Philippe Gillet, Regional Vice President, Europe & Middle East for Intelsat investigates their reliability and efficiency and how they adapt to meet the continuously evolving needs of broadcasters 

Much has changed since the 1968 Mexico Summer Olympics - the first Games to be broadcast to a television audience around the world. The size of the audience, the number of broadcasters and the amount of content transmitted has grown dramatically over the last four decades.

The Seoul Games in 1988, for example, were broadcast to 3 billion people.  In Sydney, in 2000, the audience reached 4 billion and broadcasters deployed more than 40,000 hours of coverage provided via ten Intelsat satellites. In Beijing, in 2008, more than 25,000 hours of coverage for rights and non-rights holders were made available to a staggering 4.7 billion people. 

London 2012 has set a new benchmark, with a record number of hours provided by broadcasters and a reported audience of 4.8 billion viewers. This growth was driven in part by an explosion in online consumption via mobile devices, marking a new era for Olympic broadcasting. With a global audience enjoying the action across diverse platforms, this truly was the multi-platform Games.

A multi-screen experience: New challenges for broadcasters
The expansion of cable, DTH and IPTV networks meant that viewers could see coverage across multiple TV channels, often in HD. In countries with advanced broadband networks, viewers received access to content via PCs and mobile devices, both live and on a VOD/replay basis. 

This multi-screen approach provided a new way of following the competitions – allowing free access to individual sporting challenges, without viewers having to depend on transmissions at fixed hours on traditional TV channels. In the UK alone, according to the BBC, 12.5 million smart phone and tablet users requested video streaming during the Games. BBC data showed people taking advantage of the multi-platform coverage and moving across streams to check-out a host of different events. 

Broadcasters and programmers were under pressure to meet the expectations of viewers and had to adapt to their requirements. Almost all of the feeds for the London Games were transmitted in HD, and programmers in developed countries transmitted coverage of all the events, instead of just a selection, back to their home studios. More large-bandwidth was thus capital for a smooth transmission of the Games.

Innovative content delivery solutions for a flawless broadcast

Being one of the most fiber enabled cities in the world, London looked like the perfect location to answer broadcasters’ needs - since fibre is suitable for backhaul of large bandwidth applications. However, fibre networks have more potential failure points than satellite and present challenges in transmitting live coverage of events without cut-offs at crucial moments. Satellite solutions were therefore necessary for a smooth transmission of the Games. Indeed, the ‘complementarity’ between satellites and fibre networks has never been more apparent.

Intelsat took full advantage of London’s connectivity to offer flexible combinations of fibre and satellite delivery options to broadcasters and programmers. Intelsat’s 10-year expertise in operating fibre services meant that policies, operational procedures and technical solutions were already in place and enabled the company to monitor live video over fibre. This minimised the probability of an outage and allowed service quality levels on a par with satellite capacity.

IntelsatOne, Intelsat’s fully integrated satellite, fibre and teleport infrastructure, was indeed a prime component in the Summer Games media solutions. It was designed to provide a simple, end-to-end solution that complements the security and reliability of the Intelsat satellite fleet. IntelsatOne delivered content to multiple distribution channels and devices in multiple regions – supporting backhaul requirements exceeding 100+ mbps in some cases. 

Every Olympics event, everywhere in the world, any time
Fibre was the easiest way to bring content out of the IBC, so Intelsat used fibre to deliver feeds from the International Broadcasting Centre to IntelsatOne teleports for onward delivery by satellite. Satellite was used by many of Intelsat’s customers for direct feeds from various venues using Ku-band SNG terminals, as well as for multi-regional distribution of critical feeds where service reliability was paramount.

Intelsat’s primary Ku-Band offering over the United Kingdom was the IS-905 satellite. In addition to offering high-powered coverage over the UK and the rest of Europe, this satellite was already a major hub for Occasional Use customers in Europe, giving broadcasters and programmers easy access to local service providers and equipment to help them access their capacity during the Games. The nine-metre antenna at the Fuchsstadt Teleport in Germany allowed for seamless turnaround of signals to other satellites and to terrestrial connectivity, as well as to monitor customers’ feeds and help quickly resolve any problems. 

This meant that broadcasters got the results they needed: the right coverage, an easy access to terrestrial connectivity and a total ease of use in terms of satellites on flexible terms and conditions. Products and services deployed during the Olympics enabled Intelsat to respond to customer requirements in Asia, Europe and the Americas with support services on 11 Intelsat satellites in C- and Ku-band. 

Demand for global distribution resulted in Intelsat utilising approximately 500 MHz of bandwidth  for full time and occasional use services. This supported approximately 50 channels with 15,000 to 20,000 hours of coverage over a period of approximately three weeks.

The London Olympics continued Intelsat’s long history of supporting  broadcasters, and the company is already looking forward to providing innovative solutions to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and, of course, the 2016 Olympics.

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