All Circuits Are Go for ESPN World Cup Operations

In less than 10 days, ESPN’s World Cup coverage will offer a major event for sports fans across the U.S., and it will also put a series of fiber connections to the test, with a Gigabit Ethernet network providing a 10-Gbps total capacity for transport for more than 50 linear services as well as up to 800 Mbps of file-based transport.

“The IBC is the major hub for us between North America,” says Emory Strilkauskas, principal engineer, transport technologies and special projects, ESPN. “It’s a Gigabit Ethernet ring, and then we also have some local rings to our set that is close to Fort Copacabana.”

Workers put finishing touches on the ESPN World Cup set on Copacabana Beach in Rio.

Workers put finishing touches on the ESPN World Cup set on Copacabana Beach in Rio.

ESPN isn’t going it alone, sharing resources with CBC in Canada via another connection on the roof of the Canadian Embassy in Rio. ESPN Brasil is also in the mix, with home-country rights for World Cup coverage and its facility in Sao Paulo playing a key role in giving local viewers the ESPN perspective on all the happenings.

“We’re co-located with CBC in the IBC and will be working together on the same technology transport, and they will have a connection to Montreal in Canada,” explains Strilkauskas. “We’ve had successful ventures in the past, like the last World Cup, and sharing each other’s coverage improves both. That is as much of a benefit as cost savings.”

ESPN has two transmission-control rooms in Brazil: one at the IBC and another at the ESPN studio on Copacabana. A four-man crew is at each to ensure that operations run smoothly. Brazil-based Oi is providing local circuit support between various locations while Globenet provides sub-sea connectivity to ESPN headquarters in Brazil and to CBC in Montreal.

“We have a done a large event already in Brazil, the X Games,” Strilkauskas explains. “We recently upgraded our full-time ESPN Brasil services in Sao Paulo with Level 3, and that is connected in a way so everything is connected together, providing alternate paths for covering the World Cup.”

Operations are made a bit easier given that the ESPN studio is in a location that has plenty of connectivity. And the CBC, located on the opposite side of the beach, is also connected via fiber, giving both networks some additional scenics. Also, the studios built by HBS for rightsholders are located nearby, further improving circuit reliability.

Ericsson, Hibernia Help With North American Circuits
Ericsson MPEG-4 encoders are in use to deliver the content to North America, and Hibernia is also involved, providing connectivity to Montreal and Toronto. ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT, will act as master control for ultimate transmission to providers and viewers.

Says Strilkauskas, “Our team is getting more experience, so the expectations are high.”