The BBC has announced its ambitious plans for interactive coverage of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Interactive services will include an additional 1,000 hours of live coverage on digital television and for the first time the extra video streams will also be available via broadband.
Digital television viewers in the UK will have unprecedented access to more hours of Olympic action than ever before with the choice of up to four additional streams of coverage in addition to over 250 hours of coverage from the main network channels.
Digital satellite and cable viewers will be able to choose from four extra events and terrestrial users will be able to access two additional events on Freeview.
There will also be a daily schedule, medals table, results and news updates.
The Olympics service will be available throughout the day from 7.00am to 11.30pm during the games, which run from 13 to 29 August.
The BBC will be producing more hours of coverage than ever before and more than any other world broadcaster.
The BBC holds exclusive terrestrial TV, radio and online rights in the UK.
Martin Hopkins, Executive Producer believes the Olympics is ideal for interactive television: “Before the arrival of digital television thousands of hours of television coverage was simply lost to the viewer – the Olympics provides well over 3,000 hours of television. Digital television enables us to offer more output and, in turn, give our audiences more choice about that they watch. In effect we are giving the viewer greater control.”
“The BBC is proud to have broadcast every Summer and Winter Olympic Games since 1960,” said BBC Sport Director, Peter Salmon. “This year, the BBC marks the Games’ return to the country of their birth by offering the first-ever interactive Summer Olympics and live coverage of the Olympics on bbc.co.uk.”
In addition to comprehensive coverage on the BBC web site, the Athens Olympics will see the most ambitious broadband service ever launched by the BBC.
Live coverage and recorded highlights will be available to UK residential broadband customers in both Real and Windows Media formats.
The broadband service includes live simulcast coverage from the BBC’s five streams, as well as comprehensive daily round-ups.
The BBC will also provide an Olympics update service to WAP enabled mobile telephones.
Andrew Thompson, Head of Development, New Media and Sports News, BBC Sport, said: “This is the first ever interactive Summer Olympics. Our broadband service complements our interactive TV offering – allowing us to offer a variety of platforms for licence-fee payers to access the world’s greatest sporting event.”
Approximately four billion people worldwide are expected to watch the Opening Ceremony on the evening of August 13.
Traditionally, the main coverage of the Games comes from a broadcaster based in the country that hosts the Games. This year, the organising committee has contracted coverage to Athens Olympic Broadcasting who will be responsible for producing the international venue coverage and delivering an international signal package comprising 40 feeds to the International Broadcast Centre.
BBC Sport receives these feeds through the European Broadcasting Union which provides technical and operational facilities for its members. The network coverage for BBC One and BBC Two will be originated in Athens. In addition, producers in an on-site BBC interactive control room will be able to select up to five of the available sources for the interactive service to route back to BBC Television Centre in London where the final programme will be produced.
The BBC received a BAFTA and an RTS award together with a Gold award from the International Olympic Committee for its coverage of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
American viewers will be able to see selected events in high definition television for the first time at a Summer Olympics. NBC will provide nearly 400 hours of HDTV coverage on digital affiliates as a separate production featuring six sports from the only main Olympic venues provided in high definition by the host broadcaster. Sports covered include swimming, diving, gymnastics, track and field, basketball and the men’s football final.
While fewer than ten million U.S. homes have television sets capable of receiving HDTV, NBC has 124 HDTV affiliates covering over 80 per cent of the country. Executives at NBC see high definition as important for the future. “It is pretty clear to us now that we will be able to do the entire next Winter Olympics in 2006 in high definition,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics.
In total, NBC will broadcast 1,210 hours from Athens, more than the combined coverage of the last five previous Summer Olympics in Sydney, Atlanta, Barcelona, Seoul and Los Angeles.