ESPN Paris Ops Stay Afloat Ahead of EURO 2016

Floods necessitate flexibility in preparations for the month-long soccer tourney

EURO 2016, UEFA’s European football tournament, kicks off on Friday from the Stade de France outside Paris and will feature matches played at 10 venues across France. ESPN’s coverage of the month-long tournament is falling into place, courtesy of a team that includes nearly 150 production staffers. But, with heavy rains causing record-breaking flooding of the Seine, along which its studio was being set up, ESPN had to call an audible.

EuroESPN“It’s really great to be part of an operations team that adapted to an unusual event so quickly,” says Claude Phipps, director of remote production, ESPN, of the flooding, which required studio operations to be moved to a temporary location near the Arc de Triomphe. “Everyone here has been pretty cool even though things have been difficult with regards to the weather.”

ESPN domestic and international networks are being supported by Phipps and the rest of the technical team. ESPN’s studio presence is supported by Netherlands-based United, part of the Euro Media Group; its technical presence at the IBC, by Gearhouse Broadcast. Both companies have previously worked with ESPN on soccer coverage in Europe.

“The core operation at the IBC is very similar to what it was in the past. We are taking host feeds from UEFA and also providing connectivity from the IBC to our Bristol, CT, plant via fiber,” says Phipps. “We are also going to fiber signals from the studio to the IBC and then on to Bristol.

“Bristol,” he continues, “will also have access to a complement of feeds from HBS [which is providing technical support for UEFA] as well as the internal LiveX EVS server.” That server has clips of interviews, highlights, and other content that can be sent via file transfer across the Atlantic via fiber for use by ESPN domestic, Deportes, and international networks.

The LiveX server was in place during EURO 2012, but the big leap this year, Phipps adds, is that the remote-browsing capabilities are more intuitive and ESPN’s file-transfer operation is a lot more sophisticated with automated rules.

“[Users] can browse content and then place it in a folder, and the file will be pushed to them,” Phipps explains. “It makes things quite convenient as the IBC can actually be closed and we can be sleeping while people in Bristol access the server.”

For major sports events like the EUROs, rightsholders are increasingly taking advantage of fiber connectivity and file transfer to tie a broadcast center thousands of miles away to IBC operations at the event.

“That’s an industry trend that is becoming more and more acceptable,” says Phipps. “The biggest thing that has helped is that remote-access capability can be configured to meet our standards, which makes it easier to do.”

With the gear and the workflows in place, it is time for Phipps and the team to help production staffers make the transition to actual coverage of the Euros.

“Right now,” he says, “it’s about managing the infrastructure for both the international and domestic side and managing those workflows so they are seamless and the most cost-effective.”