France has hosted major international football tournaments before, but the last time was back at the beginning of the Internet revolution, and a long time before high speed mobile broadband, social media and today’s massive end-user expectations.
As such the pressure is on to deliver the most connected sporting event ever, and the man who is front and center of that delivery is UEFA CIO Daniel Marion, charged with putting human relationships at the heart of this technology challenge. That pressure is not lost on Daniel Marion. “Our main requirement was to find a partner sharing our philosophy: a partner who not only works tirelessly but who has commitment and a method of operating that is completely compatible with ours. With Orange, the learning curve was very good. The key to success was listening, mutual “education” and sharing skills.”
Meeting the technology challenges.
The ultimate goal in an event of this scale is delivering the best experience possible to spectators and TV audiences around the world. Meeting the demands of the most expectant end-user generation ever requires an infrastructure that can support everything they want to do, from uploading photos and interacting on social media during matches to streaming video wherever they are.
So the aim is very much about meeting and exceeding the expectations and demands of today’s connected fans and TV viewers. To achieve this, Orange partnered with UEFA and provided a 100 gigabyte network that is capable of transporting 4K video, the new high standard of digital television. The TV channels will receive very high definition images they can zoom in without losing quality. With more HD TV viewers around the world than ever before, the need for delivering high quality HD images is paramount.
Addressing these huge challenges and getting the technology solutions right was clearly vital for Daniel Marion. The UEFA EURO 2016™ International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in Paris will be connected to all 10 stadiums by fiber optic cabling, with 2 cables running into each stadium – one as primary line, the other to act as back-up. The fiber lines deliver the match feed to the IBC where video editing is carried out – value add elements like overlays of a match timer or scoreboard – which are then transmitted to more than 230 territories via 120 broadcasters who have negotiated rights to show UEFA EURO 2016™ to a cumulative global audience of over 8 billion people.
Similarly, in terms of attending the tournament, this year’s competition is significantly larger than UEFA EURO 2012™. Around 2.5 million fans are expected to watch matches in the stadiums across France, of which 1 million will be tourists visiting from overseas. Fan attendance is expected to be up 60 per cent on the 2012 tournament and fan zones are looking forward to welcoming as many as 7 million visitors. That is a lot of people with high user experience expectations.
Ensuring the best user experience ever.
Getting the broadcast technology and experience right is a massive element of UEFA EURO 2016™ and vital to the tournament’s success. Modern TV provision means supporting more content than ever, and of course more cameras in the stadiums to give viewers more angles and an enhanced viewing experience. UEFA EURO 2016™ has 10 host stadiums throughout France, each equipped with 38 cameras – all designed to give viewers a more interactive experience than ever before. The idea is that viewers can watch all the action on their terms, be that on TV, smartphones, computers or tablets.
Daniel Marion spoke about the importance of infrastructure to the user experience, saying “This almost unlimited capacity is going to allow much more additional content to be shown through the use of the increased number of cameras. As a complement to the normal TV image, broadcasters will be able to offer their viewer-customers the ability to view action again from different angles They can create a “second screen” based programme on tablets, computers, mobile phones...and enhance the live experience. This new dimension in platform services is one of the great technological innovations for this event (New Generation Services).”
Orange has worked with UEFA to ensure that the right solutions are in place to bring all the benefits of the most connected sports event ever to all fans and viewers. The ‘human’ side of UEFA EURO 2016™, providing viewers with the best experience possible, is enabled by the advances in digital technology. As Daniel Marion concludes : “Through recent technology relating to connectivity and telecommunications, UEFA EURO 2016™ will offer a unique experience. As a result of the rapid expansion of the very high speed connections that has doubled since the last EURO championships in 2012, we are able to offer services never seen before for this competition.”