ESPN, IMG Media House Ace Wimbledon iTV

By Ken Kerschbaumer

In the latest sign that more is more Wimbledon fans will have unprecedented access to matches during the first week as and a new iTV channel on DirecTV and Dish will deliver multiple channels covering multiple courts. ESPN staffers will produce the feeds out of IMG’s Media House facility in West London, with three six-channel EVS units recording feeds sent in via satellite and Vizrt graphics systems giving the live action the ESPN look.

“The incoming feeds will be standards converted and cut to 4:3 before being sent out via Genesis Networks to DirecTV and Dish,” says John Leland, IMG Media technical manager on the project. “We’re looking forward to doing these kinds of things with ESPN in the future.”

“We’re bullish on this, especially for the true tennis fan,” says Don Colantonio, ESPN senior director, Original Entertainment-Media Packaging. “We’re going to embellish what the BBC gives us with our own graphics and commentary.”

The new offering delivers more than 250 hours of coverage during the first week of the tournament. DirecTV viewers and Dish viewers will have six channel mosaics and, as soon as a match on a channel is concluded, viewers will be switched to the next ongoing best match that will be broadcast to its conclusion. “Viewers will be able to see five matches at once and whip around to breaking news and live look-ins on a ‘Wimbledon Extra’ channel,” says Colantonio.

In addition, DIRECTV will offer “Matches On Now,” a graphic across the bottom of the screen with scores from each of the matches currently on the court channels, with the ability to tune directly to the match, and “Results,” an instant look at real-time scores and schedule info for matches ahead – all without leaving the match the viewer is watching.

ESPN crews will also shoot interviews with players and send tapes back to IMG Media House via courier or satellite. Once there the content will be ingested on the EVS servers and edited using EVS CleanEdit. IMG, which houses an archive of matches played at Wimbledon, also has historical matches loaded into the EVS server in the event of rain delays. will provide a simulcast of coverage on ESPN2 and three channels will provide live coverage from Centre Court, Court One and Court Two. The fifth will present press conferences live from the Media Centre. The first three channels will be operating whenever play is in session through Monday, June 30. On July 1 and 2, Centre Court, Court One and the ESPN2 feed will be available, with the ESPN2 feed also available July 3 and 4.

The Wimbledon offering keeps the iTV momentum going for ESPN as it just finished a similar offering for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. That one featured four channels in the mosaic, including the parent channel, coverage of the Par 3 Third Hole, and a featured group channel that followed the hottest group on the course. A fourth channel, U.S. Open Up Close had driving range coverage, swing analysis, and live press conferences.

“We had a continuously updated highlight loop built off the EVS units and it worked out well,” adds Colantonio.

Both the Wimbledon and U.S. Open interactive TV experiences point to the new reality of iTV services. The original vision of the ITV killer app was to give viewers access to different camera angles. But the reality is viewers don’t want to play the role of producer and director. And, in fact, the angle, selected by the TV network’s production team, is the best angle so watching an alternate angle is simply watching a less-than-best telecast.

“The richer experience of iTV focuses on content applications that go deeper with relevant video, audio and interactive data,” says Colantonio. “The audience hasn’t responded to the different camera angles.”

Colantonio is hopeful that ESPN will be able to do something with the Ryder Cup in September, following four groups at once.

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