HBS and Infront Sports & Media Celebrate a Decade of Host Broadcast Innovation

As the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 kicks off in South Africa, Host Broadcast Services (HBS) holds its 10th anniversary. In the last decade, HBS – a wholly-owned subsidiary of Infront Sports & Media – has inspired dramatic changes in the way the host broadcast of major sports events is handled and has emerged as an industry leader in this specialised field.

Among its many “firsts” are the first fully-digital host broadcast of a FIFA World Cup (2002 Korea/Japan) with the first “multi-feeds” service for broadcasters, the first global sports event entirely on widescreen HDTV, (2006 Germany), the first production of a dedicated Mobile International Signal for the French League 1 (2008-2012) as well as the first stereoscopic 3D live coverage of the IIHF World Championship in ice hockey in 2008 followed, one year later, by the first live 3D football match to be shown simultaneously in Lyon and Paris. Many further innovations and improvements have resulted from this pioneering work.

HBS was created in June 1999 as a single purpose company to deliver the host broadcast of the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups. Francis Tellier, former Managing Director of TVRS 98, the host broadcast organisation for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, was appointed as CEO, a role he still holds today.

The changes and enhancements made by HBS over the years have been so impressive that the host broadcast of major international sports events has become a job for specialists. The more complex and sophisticated the host broadcast operation, the more important it is to build on experience and ensure continuity.

Dawn of a new era
The first event involving HBS as an independent host broadcast organisation was the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan – the first FIFA World Cup in Asia; the first in two countries; the first fully digital coverage. The power of this event was harnessed to the development of new technology and services, including HDTV for 48 matches, 14 super-feeds and 1,000 hours of originating coverage — a 400% increase compared to 1998. Viewers enjoyed pictures of a quality and variety never seen before.

Another FIFA World Cup, another quantum leap
Four years later, HBS covered the entire 2006 FIFA World Cup in widescreen HDTV format – successfully implementing a decision taken in 2003, when it was considered a brave and radical step. It also provided a series of dazzling innovations for the world’s broadcasters, including the Media Server and the Clip Compilation Channel which allowed licensees to access broadcast quality material at will, delivering and sharing media content in a tapeless world.

The introduction of HD enabled new media production to take a giant step forward as well. New media requirements were embedded in the host broadcast. A tailor-made New Media Content Package, designed for exploitation without extensive editing — was provided to licensees, using HD video based “Pan & Scan” technology to focus on the core action and deliver “never seen before” picture quality in small formats. This customised production drove sales: This was the most widely covered sports event on the internet and on mobile phones at the time.

From single-purpose to multi-sports
HBS’ innovative customer-oriented delivery of broadcast services opened up the scope of its services to include multi-sports host coverage for federations, leagues, rights owners and host countries and enhanced extensive R & D work with key broadcast manufacturers. Today, HBS is lending its expertise to multi-sports events and an ever-wider range of properties, including French Ligue1, the Asian Games, the Americas Cup and the Superleague Formula, to name but a few.

Coming up: The most comprehensively covered football event
For the 2010 FIFA World Cup, HBS’ role again includes every single aspect of the production of the signal as well as providing necessary services and facilities to rights holders and licensees in order to fulfill their production needs.

In South Africa, a big country with unique challenges, HBS is implementing a highly service oriented host broadcast on behalf of FIFA. This builds on the experiences of 2002 and 2006 but is even more ambitious in the scope of what it provides to FIFA’s Media Rights Licensees. With between 29-32 cameras for each match, enhanced information management, the biggest-ever team of ENG crews to gather in-depth features and colour coverage on teams and cities and dedicated new media coverage using the Mobile International Signal (MIS) concept that was first delivered in French Ligue 1 live coverage, this will be the most comprehensively covered FIFA World Cup to date.

HBS is currently producing the host broadcast of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 in South Africa with all 16 matches in High Definition format and with up to 21 cameras to test and demonstrate several facets of the 2010 FIFA World Cup operation.

Francis Tellier, who is looking forward to producing his fourth FIFA World Cup in succession next year, said: “Looking back at its first 10 years, HBS is proud to have been selected for so many prestigious events and first and foremost the FIFA World Cup. This is an inspirational event with the power to change television. If it had not been for FIFA’s decision – all those years ago – to opt for a private enterprise solution, the pace of change might well have been slower. We are looking forward to being the host broadcaster of many more FIFA World Cups and other top sports events.”

Tellier sees the carry-forward of knowledge as absolutely vital: “Continuity and progress work hand in hand” is what he believes and HBS makes sure that experience gained at previous event benefits the next one so as to deliver yet another “best ever.”

Philippe Blatter, President & CEO of Infront Sports & Media, commented: “As part of the Infront Group, HBS has successfully established itself as a virtually unique and highly specialised host broadcast organisation that can work anywhere in the world. It is a key driver for HDTV, it has formatted the very term ‘Host Broadcasting’ and has helped to transform the whole sports business with countless broadcast innovations. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Francis Tellier and his expert team for a decade of an excellent and extremely reliable contribution to our full-service offering.”

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