Brazil’s Globo Hopes to Vault to Future With Rio Games

Latin America's biggest TV network is rolling out state-of-the-art technology at the Summer Games with a view to the future

NBC - 2016_Summer Rio Olympics
Courtesy of NBC

It’s not just Brazilian athletes who are under pressure to perform well at the first Olympic Games to be hosted by their country. Brazil’s Grupo Globo, Latin America’s biggest television network, will also be gunning for gold in Rio de Janeiro as its rolls out a battery of state-of-the-art TV technology.

Relaying images of key Olympic moments in 8K and using virtual reality to spice up commentaries are among the novelties Globo plans to roll out. But more than just a special feature for the Games, the cutting-edge visuals are crucial components in Globo’s longer-term strategy to retain and grow audiences and advertisers as the fight for them gets ever fiercer.

Globo isn’t alone. Other big broadcasters around the world are making the same push for high-tech improvements in their bid to maintain their positions on the TV medal podium.

In Rio, that’s resulting in some international collaboration as well as competition. Globo plans to tap into 8K images provided by Japan’s NHK and the Games’ in-house Olympic Broadcasting Services to transmit a live 8K broadcast of the opening and closing ceremonies, plus key events such as basketball, to spectators at the Museu de Amanha, Rio’s largest museum, said Raymond Barros, Globo’s chief technology officer.

The experiment with super-sharp 8K comes as the TV industry as a whole is still trying to migrate to 4K High Dynamic Range and make that the new industry standard. Conventional broadcasters aren’t expected to upgrade to 4K HDR until next year, but Globo has gone out front and last month(July) began offering its flagship production “Dangerous Liaisons” in 4K HDR on its video on-demand service.

At the Olympics, Globo is inaugurating a world-first 4K mobile truck whose cameras, replay servers and graphics are all Internet Protocol-enabled. The truck will allow NBC to provide 4K HDR coverage of the Aug. 5 opening ceremony to American viewers. NBC will then offer 4K HDR highlights back to Globo, which will stream them on Globo Play, its premium VOD platform.

Globo also plans to roll out its virtual-reality tactical table, whose computer-generated but strikingly lifelike miniature figures will allow Globo’s sports commentators to create “what if” scenarios, such as the Brazilian soccer team getting the ball faster to Neymar in space. NBC is dipping into VR programming as well for users of compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

The whiz-bang technology has clear commercial benefits, analysts say.

With Globo losing audiences to pay-TV for years, its ad revenue has been maintained by price hikes, said Eleni Marouli at IHS Markit. Adding high-tech capabilities “can be used as a justification for this price increase to advertisers, particularly those who may not be too happy about the large rises,” said Marouli.

“They want to be associated with high-quality premium content,” added Erick Bretas, director of Globo Play. He said that offering 4K HDR content to paying subscribers would also encourage Globo Play’s 10 million to 12 million free users to upgrade to paid subscriptions.

Globo still has to tend to its core free-to-air TV business. Last year, it accounted for 64.7% of total free-TV revenues in Brazil, the world’s sixth-largest TV market, according to IHS Technology. But Globo also has to dive into complementary digital catchup and SVOD services, just as other big free-to-air broadcasters such as the BBC in Britain and TF1 in France have.