Univision Connects to Brazil

Extensive coverage will include 64 live World Cup games for TV and a new app

Related: ESPN Makes Long Passes For 2014 World Cup

Technologies for virtual graphics, new sets, a new app with live streaming matches and some of the most lavishly produced live soccer games ever recorded will play a key role in Univision’s efforts to provide the best possible World Cup coverage for its soccer-crazed Hispanic audiences.

To speed up the process of deploying their equipment and facilities in Brazil, Univision worked with Bexel, explains Juan Carlos Rodriguez, president of Univision Deportes. Univision sent its engineers to Bexel’s warehouse to prewire everything. Univision also had its sets built in Colombia and shipped to Brazil, which has simplified the set-up for coverage.

Rodriguez adds that fans will see a number of improvements over the 2010 World Cup, thanks to Univision’s close partnership with FIFA’s Host Broadcast Services (HBS) and a variety of vendors. These include a record amount of content—close to 300 hours— as well as new sets with improved data, graphics, touchscreen technologies and virtual reality systems.

“We want to set up the facts of the game and dramatize the results in new and better ways,” Rodriguez says. “Soccer has not been a data sport in the past, but we are now using more data in our coverage.”

For the production, Univision is working closely with Mexico’s Televisa and has reached out to a number of European broadcasters— which are considered the world’s best producers of soccer—for ways to improve its coverage. “We are trying to set up a new experience for the viewer that will benchmark the very high standards of Europe,” Rodriguez says.

Rodriguez also praises HBS, which supplies the live game coverage for all broadcasters. HBS will be using up to 34 cameras to cover the matches, as well as a cable system, helicopter camera and two new reverse-angle cameras. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve never seen so many cameras being used,” he says. “FIFA has also created a dream team of eight or nine of the best soccer producers in the world that will bring many years of experience to the productions.”

Stress-Tested Coverage

To ensure no interruptions in coverage, Univision has three separate fiber paths back to the U.S. for its TV channels. It has been working closely with digital partner NeuLion to ensure that its digital offerings can withstand the heavy traffic. “We are stress-testing our systems every day to make sure we’re ready,” says Scott Levine, senior VP of product at Univision.

With NeuLion, Univision launched a Univision Deportes app in April to live stream all Cup matches as part of a larger push to offer more live sports to mobile. “The amount of usage on mobile is growing very rapidly,” Levine says.

Levine also noted that Univision will live stream the first 56 games to everyone on its Univision Deportes app and website. The last eight games will only be available as part of its TV Everywhere offerings to pay-TV subscribers. “It is part of a big push to drive toward authentication,” he says.

FINDING THE BANDWIDTH IN BRAZIL

With the World Cup matches widely spread over 12 Brazilian cities, the use of smaller, more portable electronic newsgathering (ENG) technologies has become particularly important for broadcasters trying to cover as many teams and venues as possible. To assist the process, a number of vendors including TVU, LiveU and Dejero have set up operations in Brazil to supply backpacks and systems for sending video back over cellular and other IP networks.

TVU CEO Paul Shen notes his company is working to improve bandwidth for broadcasters from six continents who will be deploying TVUPack mobile IP newsgathering units at the World Cup in Brazil. “We are trying to ensure that if cellular connections aren’t available,” they can aggregate bandwidth from such other sources as microwave, satellite and WiFi, Shen says.

Meanwhile, LiveU has set up high-bandwidth hotspots in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo and Brasilia so customers that need additional bandwidth can get it at their drop-in centers.