In the first quarter of 2020, the world entered an unprecedented phase. The scale of the pandemic, its duration and unpredictable nature are still affecting countries and their populations around the world.
But according to a Two-Circles study, In September the number of weekly sports events will exceed the number originally scheduled pre-Covid-19.
As we are getting close to ‘normal’ levels, what initial lessons can we draw from this year’s experience?
How have we – and can we continue to – help our customers in such a delicate and ever-changing business environment?
From Paris, Jérémie Mékaelian, Director of Sales and Contribution Projects for Globecast in France, shares his observations with us.
My name is Jérémie Mekaelian. I work on the contribution side of our business with clients who are event broadcasters or rights holders, helping them to bring their events to viewers or partners, wherever they may be. To do this, I work with the 14 members of the sales and project team.
Our activities also involve more than 60 employees (across a wide variety of roles from commercial through technical) spread over several sites in France, who work globally to enable our clients to acquire and distribute their live content and reach their audiences around the world.
This unprecedented crisis, and the necessary measures taken by governments to limit the spread of the virus, have had a severe effect on the global economy. Of course, contribution has been particularly hard it with many national sports championships suspended, international competitions postponed and gatherings of all shapes and sizes restricted or even banned in some countries.
At the end of April, it was already anticipated that 47 per cent of professional sports events scheduled worldwide in 2020 would be cancelled. This represents a revenue shortfall of €56.9bn on what was estimated across this sports sector before Covid-19.
However, Europe has been at the forefront of world sport’s return to ‘normality’.
European football leagues gradually restarted mid-May. Other live competitions, such horse racing in France and the Tour de France are also ongoing, but broadcasters – and the surrounding infrastructure providers – remain constrained by new precautionary rules that apply to everyone.
While it’s absolutely true no one expected to experience a pandemic of this scale, as a major player in the coverage of sports competitions and other live broadcasts for more than twenty years, if there’s one rule at the heart of what we do, it is to expect the unexpected. We have to overcome all kinds of unpredictable challenges to guarantee flawless live coverage for our clients.
Right from the outset, our teams have remained close to our customers to understand their specific situations and how we can help them every step of the way. After all, where possible, the show must go on.
We are still learning the lessons of the last few months, but it’s already clear that we need to transform the way we operate. Already in the pre-broadcast phase, our customers may need to adapt their business models and invest more in digital technologies and cyber-security services to protect their content and platforms.
What has been come abundantly clear is the need to adapt to remote working, and remote production more specifically, helping our customers’ production teams to be able to maximise their activities while adhering to all social distancing protocols, using secure and scalable solutions.
On the other hand, downstream of broadcasting, we also see the rapid growth of eSports and livestreaming event platforms. For example, Travis Scott’s virtual concert on Fortnite on April 23rd brought together more than 12.7 million players online – a record.
In this new world, with little or no physical contact, the pressure on broadcasters and platforms to deliver a great customer experience is ever-increasing as competition for viewers grows; our customers need to be able to rely on easy-to-use broadcast and streaming solutions with premium video quality bitrates. Whatever the nature and size of the event, we need to reach the widest possible audience without compromising on quality.
In strict compliance with the health regulations necessary to fight the spread of COVID-19, Globecast’s teams have, during the initial lockdown period and then the ongoing restrictions in France, ensured continuity of service, particularly across live events. This was made possible thanks to Globecast Reportages (the French overall contribution team) operations teams, both in the field and at our operations centre in just outside Paris.
Even in these exceptional circumstances, we’ve been able to ensure the reception and switching across the entire French media landscape. In particular, all the feeds from the press pools covering the President of the Republic arrive and are available at SERTE, our operations and supervision centre in Paris. We are also the company that enables what we call in France ‘Vital Importance Operators (VIOs) – national public broadcaster France 2 and radio network France Inter – to guarantee the continuity of their transmissions whatever happens. This includes signal transport (satellite/fibre/internet) as well as full disaster recovery solutions.
We are able to do so in four simple steps:
All of our teams have also worked hard to prepare for the recovery, anticipating the foreseeable constraints after exiting lockdowns.
We have put in place innovative solutions that allow our customers to continue to operate live via the internet, understanding the technology and overall infrastructure required to take care of their signals and provide them with flawless support.
Today, benefitting from these experiences, we have taken all the necessary measures to ensure successful and flexible remote working, with customers able to count on highly motivated staff to maintain services to audiences.
As I say above, the show must go on, but now in a far more restricted and socially responsible way. Of course, we remain close to our clients, both across broadcast an B2B, to enable them to continue their activities in these exceptional circumstances.
One of our major areas of innovation today is developing remote working solutions for our clients. While remote working is perfectly suited to carrying out even very substantial tasks, managing these projects this way is complex and requires precise organisation and in-depth workflow for perfect execution.
Understanding these constraints, Rachid Tirichine, Project Manager, has become very adept at implementing innovative services/networks, for example for French football. Rachid leads a multidisciplinary team that brings together the various engineering, operations, maintenance and supervision teams. We use the full range of contribution solutions to achieve across projects, deciding what’s best on a case-by-case basis.
We’ve worked on numerous use cases: broadcasting of opera to cinemas, retransmission of municipal council meetings, seminars and press conferences, etc.
In the sports production arena, remote production, which was already gaining traction, has now really begun to take off as it massively helps negate the current production issues we all face.
Globecast has already developed solutions based on remote working principals and is now sharing this now with its clients in France and abroad. We can offer them a lightweight and virtualised production solutions; streams can be acquired with small cameras, laptops or smartphones. The production is completely virtualised and carried out from any remote site. We are then able to transport the video data in an optimal and simplified way over traditional or digital networks. This is ideal, for example, for more niche sports coverage, though the number of use cases is expanding,
Our clients can therefore look forward to maintaining editorial quality at all times, preserving the audience experience.
It’s no doubt been a challenge for everyone to adapt to new working practices and to have to continue to evolve those as circumstances change but it’s a challenge that we have accepted and risen to. We have worked even more closely with our customers through this period and that is set to continue. From these challenges as come true innovation.
I would like to extend my warmest thanks to all of Globecast’s sales, engineering and operations teams who have shown exemplary determination and resilience in leading the way in this new world.
Above all, let’s not forget the essential: nothing is more important than health. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.
Do you want to ensure the continuity of your activities in all circumstances?