BBC’s Fred Medina on the Olympics: “Audiences are not static”

Fred Medina,  EVP and Managing Director,  BBC Worldwide Latin America & US Hispanic

Fred Medina,
EVP and Managing Director,
BBC Worldwide Latin America & US Hispanic

Two big reasons make this year’s Broadband and TV Connect Latin America 2014 the most important yet: this summer’s World Cup, and Rio’s approaching 2016 Olympics. Which makes the scheduled keynote by Fred Medina, EVP and Managing Director, BBC Worldwide Latin America & US Hispanic, so intriguing, since it tackles the lessons learnt by the BBC during London’s 2012 Games, and also looks forward to the coming challenges and opportunities faced in the LATAM region.

IP&TV News: You’ll be appearing at TV Connect LATAM, offering a case study on the London 2012 Olympics. What was the main thing the BBC learned from the 2012 games?

Fred Medina: The most fundamental learning out of the 2012 Olympic Games is that when you’re given an opportunity to have TV Everywhere for large scale events like the Olympics or the World Cup, the various platforms do not cannibalize each other but instead they build and add viewing time for that event. During the London 2012 Games we provided viewers with 24 live High-Definition streams and 2,500 hours of coverage. That’s four times the coverage presented during the Beijing Olympics. Viewers could also access events across four screens – PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV – and we found that all the platforms complemented each other and enhanced the total viewing experience of the event.

TV Everywhere is driven by devices. For example in areas where you have heavy commuting it allows viewers to watch events on their mobile device during that time or on their PC at work. We learned that TV Everywhere enriches the viewing experience by creating companion screens in between when viewers can enjoy watching events on their home TV screen. It provides fans with access to major events, grows the audience and extends retention.

What do you anticipate will be the biggest changes in place for the Rio 2016 Games?

In 2008, there were no tablets, no applications and streaming was limited. Four years later we had the first truly digital Olympics. In 2012, the BBC had the chance to re-invent the way audiences interacted with live coverage online. The technology advancements in those four years have defined a new viewing experience for this global event.

The challenge for 2016 concerns what new technologies will be available to participants, planners and producers by then. How will they change the viewing experience and how can they impact engagement with viewers to create a better experience around the event? The challenge is not knowing. What happens four years from now could be an incredibly different environment – will it be device driven, application driven, will it be about bandwidth capability? At the 2012 London Olympics, the BBC offered dedicated websites for each sport, during 17 days, we had 24/7 coverage of all events but we were the rights holder in the UK. It will be up to Brazil, the host nation, to determine how much they want to provide. Every host country will determine and influence how deep they want to take the fans’ experience.

How big a part will new broadcasting technologies play in the next games do you expect?

The 2016 Olympic Games will consist of 28 sports, over 17 days, at 306 events. The digital component will be extremely important because of the dynamic nature of the audience. Audiences are not static, they change viewing patterns throughout the course of the day, and digital video enables them to continuously engage and stay in touch with events until they are able to see it in the comfort of their home on TV.

Digital platforms also allow audiences to focus on the specific event they are interested in and to follow one sport from beginning to end. They can watch what they want and not rely on a given programming strategy. Digital enables connectivity, access and participation.

It’s often observed  that war accelerates technological growth in general. Is it true to say that major sporting events have a similar effect on broadcasting? If so, why do you think that is?

Certainly, the Olympics have always been a catalyst for the development and introduction of new technology. In 1948 the Olympics enabled the first broadcast of a major event; in 1968 the first color transmission of a sporting event; in 1984 the first high-definition transmission and in 2012 we saw the first digital / TV Everywhere Olympics.

With up to 2,500 hours of content and 24 simultaneous live events in high-definition the Olympics create a critical mass of viewers and are one of the largest viewing events in the world.  A comprehensive range of highlights and news headlines are available 24/7 and on-demand. If you want to show off your latest technology and capability you want to do it around such a truly global event reaching the most viewers possible.

What effect do you expect the World Cup and Olympic double whammy will have on the South American broadcasting ecosystem?

Having two major events taking place in such close timeframe focuses television investments which could challenge the growth of non-World Cup and non-Olympic related events. However, these are two events that are highly desirable and highly viewed across Latin America. The aspiration to expand audience reach for these events will drive investments into the introduction and development of new technologies that can enrich the viewing experience for those sporting events. Any advances can then be used to deepen future viewing experiences as well. So, while the initial focus will be narrow, once built and executed we can use any new architectures as the backbone for other major events such as music transmissions.

How global are the BBC’s future aspirations?

The BBC is a premium content company – we are the fifth largest producer of content in the world with an active archive of 50,000 hours of programming across all genres including popular global franchises such as Doctor Who and Top Gear. BBC invests more than GBP 1.5bn on TV content production every year, all adding to our total archive of over half a million hours of television shows, the largest in the world. Regardless of the genre, we provide the best, high-quality content within those areas.

Our shows are loved around the world, they are available in over 200 countries making us a truly global company already. The BBC is not only the oldest national broadcaster in the world (1923) but we have also been global for decades. In Latin America, we’ve been operating for over 80 years and across the region we currently have a presence in more than 17 countries, including some of those with the highest pay-TV penetration such as Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Brazil and Mexico.

Our aspirations is to continue to deliver on our mission to enrich people’s lives with programs that inform, educate and entertain and to produce premium content living up to the highest production standards we introduced and that have characterized our company for decades.

What excites you most about Latin American media at present?

Latin America is a region that has a deep rooted relationship with media. It is a region where audiences are driving change and influencing the progress and deployment of new technologies that will enable our region to meet the rapid development and availability of emerging platforms.

Fred Medina will be appearing at Broadband and TV Connect Latin America 2014

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