Cerith Williams, S+V: “I was lucky enough to get involved early on and it fell to me to move it forward”
Live from Six Nations Rugby: Observe and Sunset+Vine Host Broadcast operation at the Stadio Olimpico di Roma BY FERGAL RINGROSE
he Northern Hemisphere’s major rugby tournament, the RBS 6 Nations, kicked off with victories for England in Cardiff, France in Paris and Ireland in Rome. The Host Broadcaster operation for Italy v Ireland was a joint effort between Observe (part of the Dublin-based Screen Scene Group recently acquired by NEP) and Sunset+Vine. SVG Europe was at the Stadio Olimpico di Roma to learn the background to this RBS 6 Nations partnership and observe how they brought Italy v Ireland Match Day to broadcasters around the world. “Six Nations Rugby Ltd, in the last TV rights deal, decided they were going to produce some of the games themselves. This would give them an opportunity to work with new or different broadcasters in the future,” said Alan Burns, co-founder and director of the Screen Scene Group and Observe OB crew technical director in Rome. “Italian broadcaster DMAX didn’t have a huge history of sports coverage in Italy, but they really wanted to do it. Dmax is an Italian free-to-air channel, owned by Discovery, that targets mainly male audiences, and they’re starting to get into sports. Discovery was very keen to do the deal,” said Burns, “but didn’t have a lot of sports production experience. Six Nations Rugby Ltd decided to go ahead and they asked me to come and produce the game — as Observe. Last year was season one, and the deal is for four seasons, ten games here 16
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at Stadio Olimpico (two home games one year and three the next). “Six Nations Rugby Ltd wanted to increase the quality of the coverage coming out of Italy so that it was on a par with what the other broadcasters were producing out of the British Isles and France. Production is not my speciality, so I spoke with [Sunset+Vine chairman] Jeff Foulser and we brought in Cerith Williiams from their Welsh office — and that’s really where it kicked off. It’s a Six Nations Ltd production; Sunset+Vine is the production company and Observe provides the technical facilities.” “The initial approach was made to Observe, the facilities company,” confirmed Sunset+Vine match director Cerith Williams. “We had worked on other projects with Observe, and Alan approached S+V to do the production element of the operation. And I was lucky enough to get involved early on and it fell to me to move it forward — and I’m very pleased because rugby is a passion and mostly what I do back in Wales for Sunset+Vine Cymru. We do most of the coverage for Welsh language broadcaster S4C. “I think the Six Nations people have seen what other sporting bodies have done in other sports, cricket in particular,” said Williams.“The ICC Champions Trophy and Cricket World Cup are their property, their asset and they own it. It’s not an unwise thing to do. “We’re very pleased to be involved,” said Williams. “It adds to our rugby coverage. In Wales we got involved in rugby almost ten years ago. More recently, we got involved with ESPN to provide coverage of the English Rugby Premiership. And now, Sunset+Vine does all of BT Sport’s rugby including European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup. Rugby, now, is becoming a big part of Sunset+Vine’s core business,” he said.
Camera set-up at Stadio Olimpico “Here in Rome we’re creating a world feed with 20 cameras,” said Burns, “and for the first time this year on Six Nations games we’re using a mobile camera on the referee. That’s provided for us by BSI, who have also done it for us on BT Sport coverage of Champions Cup rugby. “We use Broadcast RF for the radio cameras; Ben Hawker is here on the Broadcast RF side. We have three wireless cams on the pitch and a beauty shot — weather permitting — on the gold statue up on the hill above the ground, EUROPE SPORTTECH JOURNAL / AUTUMN 2015