The BBC has agreed deals with Sky and Freesat to provide 24 separate Olympics video streams to the satellite broadcaster, allowing viewers to watch whichever events they choose uninterrupted.
“You’ll be able to watch sport from every venue from first thing in the morning to last thing at night,” said Roger Mosey, BBC director of London 2012. “Hockey fans can watch live uninterrupted hockey, and table tennis fans can stick all day with their sport, too. These are the first truly digital Olympics, where we’ll offer more choice than ever before.”
Some of the extra streams, accessed through the BBC Red Button service, will also be available to cable and Freeview viewers, dependent on the platforms’ technical capacity. Cable providers have yet to announce their plans but bandwidth limitations inevitably mean the Freeview service will not be able to offer the whole range.
“Not every platform will be able to accommodate such a huge technical offer,” said Mosey, “which amounts to 48 channels in total if you count 24 standard definition plus 24 HD. For Freeview users at peak [times] there will be two extra channels available via the Red Button. That will double the choice on offer from BBC1 and BBC3, meaning that from 7pm you’ll have at least four television services plus the full 24-stream service via our website.”
These live streams are in addition to the coverage that all viewers will see across BBC1 and BBC3. Mosey added: “BBC1 and BBC3 will remain the flagship channels for the Olympics. But as the London 2012 Olympic Games will be the first truly ‘Digital Games’, we wanted to offer an unprecedented amount of live sporting action to the widest possible audience through these live streams.”
Olympic coverage will also be on BBC Radio 5 Live and all 24 extra streams will be online. Between all of the services, some 2,500 hours of Olympic sport will be televised.
The BBC’s Phil Fearnley, general manager, News and Knowledge, BBC Future Media, writes about the technical challenges on his blog and adds: “Broadcast television’s first big moment was the coronation in 1953, which brought the nation together around the TV screen for the first time. Our aspiration is that 2012 will do for digital and [internet] connected televisions what the coronation did for TV.”