Live From FIFA Women’s World Cup: ARD/ZDF Deliver for German Fans

German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF are once again onsite at a major world sports event, this time having the largest presence at the International Broadcast Center in Vancouver for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Canada. And the efforts are paying off: German viewers are watching, despite a time-zone difference that has matches airing live around 10 p.m. in Germany.

The front bench in the ARD/ZDF master control area for the Women's World Cup.

The front bench in the ARD/ZDF master-control area for the Women’s World Cup

“We have a lot of viewers; 7.6 million people watched the second match, which is 36% of the market,” says Vitino Zoiro, technical manager, special projects, ZDF. “We’re a little surprised but in a positive way.”

A technical team of 25 people is making sure facilities in 12 production trailers are all running properly, including a master-control facility, an Avid ISIS server that can store more than 700 hours of content (and is tied to six Avid Media Composers), and an EVS server that has 500 hours of storage.

Zoiro adds that an OB van is traveling with the German team and has a laptop editing system for cutting story packages.

Pregame shows usually air 15 or 30 minutes prior to kickoff, depending on the rest of the ARD or ZDF schedule. With respect to the German matches, ARD will air one match and ZDF the next. ARD is on deck for the next match, to be played this weekend.

The biggest challenge has not been technical; everyone is very familiar with the facilities and workflows. Instead, it has to do with time-zone difference: the Vancouver IBC is nine hours behind Germany.

ARD/ZDF can record 500 hours of material on EVS servers.

ARD/ZDF can record 500 hours of material on EVS servers.

Says Andreas Lauterbach, director of programming, ZDF, “When we start to work, [the team in Germany] start to go home, and the other way around.”

Zoiro points to the opening match of the tournament on June 6 as a perfect example of the challenge. The IBC is in Vancouver, and the OB van was in Ottawa for Germany’s first match on June 7. But the first match of the tournament was played in Edmonton, so the broadcast team produced the game from the OB van in one time zone for a game played in another time zone and sent the signal to an IBC in a third and, ultimately, to viewers in a fourth.

According to Lauterbach, by the end of the tournament, 38 games will have been broadcast on TV, and 14 will have been streamed live online because of matches’ being played at the same time.

“Also,” he adds,”after a match is done, we quite quickly create a 90-second or two-minute clip so, when viewers wake up, they can see what happened.”