NewSource Globo Ups Ante on Rio Carnival Coverage

One of the greatest shows on earth begins to get a broadcast makeover

Carnival Rio Television Coverage
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The Oscars of course dominated entertainment news over the weekend. But the really big party was in Brazil where Rio de Janeiro’s five-day Carnival builds to a climax today.

Though it dates back to at least 1823, the Rio Carnival is now growing, thanks to an expansion in the number of blocos – street band parties. On Saturday, an estimated 1.3 million paraded and danced with Bola Preta one of the oldest, per Christopher Pickard, at Critical Divide.

The street carnival is helping to make Rio’s Carnival fashionable with Brazilians again, the very people both from Rio and beyond who had been heading to the Northeast for Carnival, mainly Salvador and Recife, he added.

As Brazil focuses more international attention in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics, Globo has sensed business opportunities in explaining its country to the world, enrolling its huge infrastructure and existing coverage.

The parade of samba schools is already one of the world’s largest and most complex outside broadcasts with Globo going live and uninterrupted from the parades over two nights from 9 p.m. to around 5 the next morning – to huge audience ratings across Brazil.

“The World Cup and Rio Olympics are fantastic windows onto Brazil for the whole world that now wants to know a bit more about Brazilian culture. We’d like to benefit from these, promoting the Carnival as international TV programming,” said Leandro Valentim, at Globo production agency NewSource Globo.

Launched last year, at the Rio Carnival it has offered content and services to third-party broadcasters – among them, this year, German pubcaster ZDF, French commercial network TF1, BBC, Mexico’s Televisa, Al Jazeera – attempting to cover an event that can seems arcanely exotic at times.

Globo promotion also involves a makeover in Carnival coverage, with the incorporation of higher-tech innovations.

It already covers the Carnival as if it were a big sporting event. In content, Globo has been offering live broadcasts of parades, highlights, tailor-made productions for broadcasters, including interviews and exclusive footage, and archive footage of past carnivals. It uses 20 cameras inside and outside the Sambadrome, the key central walk-through strip where the samba schools parade and compete for Carnival prizes.

Aerial footage is being shot from GloboCop – Globo’s helicopter. Beauty shoots afford panoramic views of the avenue. Broadcasters can also rent space in a studio in the Samabadrome, near the staging area for the schools. Among services, in partnership with Associated Press, Globo is offering the generation and management of satellite signals.

NewSource Globo is also experimenting. This year, gizmos measured heartbeat rates during the parade; samba schools’ drum corps leaders paraded with mini cameras, capturing live their oversight of operations.

Going forward, future innovations could well target the Internet. “We sense it could be one of the best ways to cover Carnival internationally,” Valentim said.

One of NewSource Globo’s basic challenges is just to explain how the Carnival’s samba school championship works. Its rules make the Oscars seem a slam dunk to understand.

“It is difficult to explain, for instance, carnivals are different all over Brazil, Rio’s different from Sao Paulo and Recife, for instance,” he added.

Names can mislead: The samba schools aren’t traditional schools at all but neighborhood associations, many from the favela shanty parts of the city. They don’t teach, but prepare the Carnival for many months in advance.

The Carnival’s big favorites compete in a Special Group. Schools score points not just for co-ordination, timing, drumming, the samba queen and lyrics and music but also for explaining a story with their song and float and, crucially, for starting and finishing on time.

This year, NewSource Globo prepared a rough guide to Carnival key points. For 2015, it’s studying producing a TV series to explain the Carnival, Valentim said. Maybe the Academy should follow suit.