Global audiences came together last weekend in a show of unity and resilience in support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and frontline workers. One World: Together at Home, organised by Global Citizen and curated by Lady Gaga, included a line-up of international stars, celebrities and icons who recorded performances and interviews from their homes, as many parts of the world continue to be placed under strict lockdown orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working on a tight deadline as the event was pulled together in a short period, The Switch, the platform for the production and global delivery of live video, played a key role in ensuring the broadcast reached the right networks, channels and streaming services at the right times when “as live” home performances by the likes of The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Lady Gaga herself went out. Among a range of services, The Switch provided: ingest of the US domestic and international shows; playout for pre-feeds and the “live to air” broadcast shows; domestic fibre and satellite to North America; and international fibre and satellite distribution to EMEA, Asia Pacific and South America.
A UK package was hosted by Claudia Winkelman, Dermot O’Leary and Clara Amfo for the BBC, while in the US events were overseen by late-night network presenters Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert. The performances were packaged into a number of shows and livestreams broadcast on major networks across the globe, including ABC, CBS and NBC in the US and Canal+, Sony Pictures-Latin America, Sony Pictures-India, RAI Italy, TVE-Spain, NOVA-Bulgaria, Dubai-TV, Rede Globo and many others in international markets. Versions of the show were also streamed on a wide array of over-the-top (OTT) services, including YouTube, Tidal, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Twitch and Apple TV+, as well as social media sites Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
“It was hugely exciting for The Switch to play an instrumental role in such an important and ground-breaking global event – addressing last minute requests right up until airtime,” said David Shearer, senior vice president, Sales for The Switch. “Things had to be set in motion pretty quickly but our team’s vast experience and expertise in bringing major live events to the screen served us well.”
Each performer and presenter pre-recorded their own contributions to the programme from home, using a variation of smart phone recordings to professional production set ups, which was then assembled at Sim’s post production facility in Hollywood. Once the packages were compiled and the graphics overlaid, the feeds were then distributed globally.
“The biggest challenge was ensuring we had both the US domestic and international feeds up and running within such a short timeframe,” said Shearer. “As Sim does not have any fulltime connectivity at a video level with the outside world, we install connectivity for live or ‘as-live’ shows when needed. For Global Citizen, we provided two temporary HD-SDI connections, one to The Switch Los Angeles and the other to AT&T’s Hollywood Hub. These allowed the finished programmes to be fed to The Switch.”
Once the temporary connectivity was installed, Sim then played out the domestic show to The Switch, which recorded the feeds at its West Los Angles production and control facility. Shortly afterwards the international show was recorded by The Switch, while the first playout of the domestic feeds went to ABC, CBS and NBC. Once the signals were tested and received, the networks could then customise and brand the feeds themselves. For the digital show, The Switch distributed the feeds to Vista Worldlink in Miami, which then encoded and distributed them globally via satellite and OTT.
For the international broadcast show, The Switch provided fibre feeds from Los Angeles to the BT Tower in London, where affiliates could then receive and broadcast the signals. It also provided a separate fibre path to London to Globecast, which then uplinked the signal to a Eutelsat satellite for coverage across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. APAC were also able to pick up a signal via fibre links to Australia, which was then uplinked to an AsiaSat satellite.
The spectacular show, which didn’t solicit donations but was intended as a celebration in support of those fighting COVID-19, still raised $127 million for coronavirus relief efforts – to be split between the World Health Organisation and other charities.