FIFA’s director of TV has made it clear that any 3D production of the World Cup 2014 must not endanger the 2D signal that the vast majority of its audience receives, writes Adrian Pennington
“We are looking at what the costs would be to do 3D, examining the technology and looking at the camera positions and we will take a decision on this in 2012," said Niclas Ericson.
“If, for example, the number of 3D matches jumped from 25 to 64 across 12 venues then the cost would leap accordingly," making it important that FIFA's rights holders support its move to 3D and broadcast in stereo.
“It is less a rights management and rights fee problem than an issue of covering the greater cost of production with distribution partners,” he explained. “Remember that we are still producing 4x3 protected feeds for some of our audience and that the vast majority of our audience watches in 2D now and will be watching in 2D as far ahead as 2018 and 2022.”
Cameron-Pace Group is among those lobbying for the contract to co-produce the 3D portion of the 2014 tournament. In 2010, the technology partners included Sony and Element Technica, with technical consultants CAN Communicate. CPG’s methodology is to mirror the existing 2D camera positions and produce a combined 2D and 3D feed with the 3D extracted in the OB truck.
Preservation of the quality of the 2D host broadcast is an absolute priority. “We will not compromise the 2D coverage," said Ericson.
“As the 3D technology develops and editorial concepts are refined, we hope our decision will be a simple one regarding 3D and that we can do many matches. Remember that our 3D feeds in 2010 were very well received by the broadcast community. And just looking at our client base, there seems to be a great scope for achieving the economics of 3D coverage to work.”
Since joining FIFA in 2003 Ericson, has played a key role in growing and enhancing the organisation’s coverage of World Cup football and in its billion-strong worldwide TV audience.
Arguably the most significant step in his tenure was taken in 2005 when FIFA decided to bring the sales of its media rights in-house, and to structure FIFA’s TV Division into Sales & Distribution, FIFA Films, Broadcaster Servicing and Host Broadcasting Production (for which HBS has been the longstanding provider).
“It means we could control the destiny of how the product is sold and how it is produced, how we coordinate its delivery and how it is presented to football fans,” he said. “Essentially it means FIFA can reach more of its objectives.”
Even before the end of the 2010 World Cup Ericson was deeply involved in planning for the next event in 2014 and in a host country, Brazil, which is larger geographically than any host since the USA in 1994.
Discussions continue with FIFA media rights holders about exact production plans for 2014, but Ericson confirmed that coverage to mobile devices will be developed.
“FIFA is also working through the entire production plan with HBS (FIFA’s appointed host broadcaster). Our goal is to grow the impact of a World Cup by offering everything possible so that fans can watch wherever they are and get the best experience on the screen which is at that particular moment available to them.”