London 2012: BBC Director for Olympics Coverage Touts Digital, 3D Plans

 

LONDON -- The BBC's London Olympics 2012 coverage tsar Roger Mosey is happy that this year's scheduling -- in the public broadcaster's local time zone -- has not been tinkered with to accommodate U.S. broadcaster NBC's broadcasting schedule.

Four years ago, in Beijing, China, the Olympics' American broadcasting partner persuaded the International Olympic Committee to move the swimming finals to the morning in China to be able to broadcast them live in the evening U.S. time rather than in the middle of the night.

But that meant that the finals aired at a less amenable time for U.K. viewers.

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"On the whole, the Olympic Games timetable [of sporting events] is largely unchanged from one Games to another," BBC Director, London 2012 Mosey said. "As it happens, things are rather brilliantly timed for us this time."

He noted several key events -- such as the men's 100 meter final or the track cycling finals -- are all scheduled to broadcast between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. here (10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in L.A.) hitting peak viewing time numbers in the U.K.

The BBC has put together a mammoth digital plan to cover this year's Olympics with multiple channels mounted on digital TV providers, such as cabler Virgin, FreeSat and satellite TV firm BSkyB.

The pubcaster is also setting up a standalone Intelligent Video Player on its BBC web site to allow users to jog between sporting events, while all the while having the option to return to the live action being broadcast.

The BBC will also broadcast 3D coverage of select events for the first time ever.

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But all the BBC bells, whistles and digital coverage will only be available to U.K. users with the rest of the world shut out due to the IOC's strict broadcast partner boundary rules.

Those rules had meant that in 2008's finals in China, while the whole of Western Europe learned who had won the marquee 100 meters final, U.S. audiences had to wait until NBC unleashed its tape-delayed live broadcast footage from the race.

"No one could access web sites carrying the news outside the U.S.," Mosey said. That race aired in the afternoon on the BBC in the U.K.

Mosey said Tuesday at a Broadcast Press Guild lunch that, while predicting audience numbers was an impossible task, the pubcaster would hope to get close to a total audience of around 40 million by the time his work is done.

That could bring it up to a comparable figure for the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and the whopping 42 million in Beijing.

The BBC is currently tendering to be the broadcasting partner for the 2016 Olympic Games, so Mosey said he was unable to detail what the costs to the broadcaster are until that bidding process for the next Games is completed.

The Olympic Games remains one of the U.K.'s so-called crown jewel sporting events protected by law, which means it must be broadcast by a free-to-air operator.

Mosey said the tender process for the next Games should be finalized and decided on by the fall.

Only then will license fee payers learn what the BBC, which has been covering the Games since 1940,  has spent on mounting its coverage of what is billed as the first "digital" games.

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