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Gearing Up for 4 Billion Viewers

Posted on:2008-07-31     Posted by :林俐

By Zhu Chong

It is estimated that throughout the 2008 Beijing Olympic, the Games' proceedings would be beamed across the world to reach some four billion television viewers.

The EO has learned that the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting Corporation (BOB), which started off with only 40 staff, would be bolstered to a 4,000-strong team by the time the Games opened. In addition, China's state broadcaster CCTV and other foreign media, such like the US-based NBC, would also deploy a total of some 4,000 people to report on the Beijing Olympic.

The EO recently interviewed BOB's chief operating officer Ma Guoli, and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV's sports program director and chief offier of its sports channel Jiang Hepin.

High-Definition Broadcasting
The EO
: As the official broadcaster of the Games' hosting country, how different would be the live telecast of this Olympic from the previous ones?

Jiang Hepin : The main difference would be providing a wider coverage for all events, not just focusing on games that China has an advantage of in securing gold medals. Previously, games without "potential of gold" were hardly broadcasted, as we only set aside about one and a half channels for Olympic telecast. This time around, seven channels have been slotted for Olympic reportage, with more internationalized coverage.

Channel I provides comprehensive coverage, the results of some 192 events will first appear in this channel; Channel II provides a more international perspective, namely showing sports that are unfamiliar to Chinese viewers or of less concern to them because the likelihood for Chinese athletes to secure medals in these sports is slim, such as baseball, softball, equestrian and sailing.

Channel V is dedicated to all sports that Chinese athletes excel in, it's like a Chinese Olympic Channel, covering events like table tennis, gymnastics, badminton, shooting, weightlifting and so on. Channel VII is for the re-telecast of major events. There's also one high-definition channel especially for sports that are best enjoyed with the shaprest visual quality, such as swimming and track events.

In addition, there are two paid channels dedicated solely on football and tennis respectively.

The EO: Is this the first time CCTV has a complete live telecast without a single moment of delay?

Jiang Hepin : Yes, indeed. This will be the first time in CCTV's history of a truly live broadcast without any delay. In the past, "live telecasts" were delayed by 30 seconds to prevent any slips. In other words, what the viewers saw as "live" had in fact happened 30-second ago. During this Olympic, such delay will be abolished, and the Games telecast on CCTV will be on time with signals sent by the International Broadcasting Corporation (IBC).

The EO: Speaking of the international signals, it is of BOB concerns. As the official broadcast service provider for the Games, can will BOB characterize the transmission of Beijing Olympic to some four billion viewers across the globe?

Ma Guoli: The most outstanding feature of this Olympic broadcasting is the quality of relaying signals, we have changed from the previous standard definition into high definition. Unfortunately, most viewers would not have the hardware to receive and enjoy such clear signals.

The EO: What is the point of BOB producing some 3,800 hours worth of high-definition visual when majority of the viewers cannot enjoy it? What is the significance of such advancement in broadcasting signals to Chinese viewers?

Ma Guoli: I have the same question when first attended a meeting with officials from the International Olympic Council (IOC) and broadcast buyers in the US back in 2003.

To my knowledge, back in 2003, the number of high-definition televisions in Beijing were no more than 500 sets. Upon hearing my doubts, my foreign counterparts took me shops selling television sets. They told me: "Look, just half a year ago, a set of high-definition television set cost 5,000 dollar, but now it cost 2,000." Apparently, in 2003, only 5-6% of television programs in the US were broadcasted in high-definition; in 2005, the percentage had gone up to 30%, and by now nearly all sport events are broadcasted in high-definition. The same trend has started in the Europe, and I believe China will undergo the same rapid development. This is not a telecast revolution, but an evolution.

All-Rounded Coverage
The EO: What are the fresh angles broadcasters can offer during this Games?

Ma Guoli: We will deploy 9 helicopters to capture ariel shots, especially during the opening and closing ceremonies, marathon, and tour cycling race. We have also set up special cameras with unique angles around the Beijing city, such as the Olympic Park, the Great Wall, and the Tiananmen Square, to offer content beyond the Games, and to capture a panorama views of Beijing and China to present to the world.

Jiang Hepin: Apart from the main visuals about the Games, we have also dedicated resources for sideline reportage. For example, there will be cameras trailing the parents of Liu Guoliang or Liu Xiang... these are shots offering insights or details. We have learnt this by observing the French Open telecast, where the telecast would cut to the girlfriend of so-and-so entering the stadium, or the brother of so-and-so at the game. The same is applied in NBA telecast, where it highlighted the appearance of Hollywood stars or celebrities.

In the process of internationalize our broadcasting standard, we inject some inmitation and blend in with our own innovation. For instance, we do have our very own technique in terms of broadcasting diving event, like adding a virtual ruler on screen to mark the height divers achieved when bouncing from the springboard.

The EO: It was said that when Liu Xiang won the 110-meter hurdles in Greece Olympic, no reporter was assigned to cover the event since no one was expecting him to win. Liu himself had to search around for reporter to break the good news, and a reporter from a nearby event responded to the "emergency" situation, was that true?

Jiang Hepin: During the Beijing Olympic Games, CCTV will make full use of the 3,800 hours public signals provided by BOB. In addition, we will place priority on covering on-the-spot events and China-related elements. We have teams and cameras stationed at all stadiums, for instance, for the track events alone, we have positioned six cameras in various spots, and one specially dedicated for the 110-meter hurdle event alone, tracking Liu Xiang and his every move.

The EO: Ma is the former Chief Officer of the CCTV Sports Channel, a post now Jiang holds. Against this backdrop, does it lead to a closer cooperation between BOB and CCTV? How will the close ties benefit Chinese viewers?

Ma Guoli: During the Games, over 200 local and international broadcasters will be stationed at the media center. The smaller scale ones will have about three to five staff, basically using our (BOB) signals; whereas the bigger media organizations will have a staff strength of 3,000 to 4,000 each, and arrange their own commentators for every event. There exists a huge gap between smaller and bigger media, in terms of copyrights fee, staffing, technology and coverage scope.

CCTV is not just one of our clients, it is our VIP client. In order to ensure the high quality of Olympic telecast in China, we provide the best positions to CCTV and meet their demands as far as we could.

The article has originally appeared in the EO's print, from Olympic Page, issue no.377, July21, 2008
Translated by Liang Duo

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