Olympics “double whammy” threat to satellite operators

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The Coronavirus has already affected sports events around the world. While high-capacity fibre plays its part in the distribution of signals, many events depend either wholly on satellite links or have them as back-up.

Satellite operators and specialist suppliers such as Globecast, Speedcast, NEP, Links, Encompass and others are reluctant to admit the value of lost business but the impact is nevertheless considerable. The demand for uplink trucks, for example, has near-evaporated as football games are scrubbed, sports events cancelled or postponed, entertainments such as Glastonbury and Eurovision spiked and concerts and other cultural events abandoned.

All of these events depend on capacity under Occasional Use contracts. Sometimes these fall under wholesale – and permanent – contracts with satellite operators, or else are booked on an ‘as needed’ and ‘on-demand’ basis.

Now comes the threat to the biggest event of all: the Tokyo Olympic Games. Distribution of the Olympic Games, both in terms of mainstream coverage as well as multilateral and unilateral feeds to individual nations and broadcasting groups, via satellite is vital, and is an extremely valuable event for the satellite players.

Indeed, broadcasting work at the Olympics has already started with the pre-Games equipping of the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) well underway, and this year’s event even more complex than usual with 8K and 4K coverage as well as traditional HD being available. These feeds leave the IBC to more than 200 countries around the world. The feeds to Rights Holding Broadcasters are coordinated via the IBC, but non-rights holders also book capacity outside the IBC’s coverage and frequently this includes dedicated news feeds to the likes of CNN or Al Jazeera. Almost all are connected via satellites.

On March 17th the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was talking to all its stakeholders during this “unprecedented situation for the whole world”…[and]..”with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive.” The IOC has already adapted and adjusted the usual route of the Olympic torch, for example.


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