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BT Sport: 'Our oldest technology is six months old'

Charlotte Jee | May 26, 2014
COO Jamie Hindhaugh describes process of building tape-free 'end to end' digital broadcaster with the latest technologies

None of the technology used to support BT Sport is older than six months and much of it is still in prototype, according to chief operating officer Jamie Hindhaugh.

The new broadcaster, which has been operating for just one year, set up the biggest TV studio in the UK from scratch in just 18 weeks, allowing them to benefit from cutting-edge technology, Hindhaugh told delegates at the Ignite summit in London.

Hindhaugh said: "What's really important is that all of the technology we used for this [setting up BT Sport] is not four years old. A lot of it is still prototype. Our oldest technology is six months old."

BT Sport has the biggest TV studio in the UK and the biggest LED studio in the world, he said. The L-shaped studio space comprises three studios in one, "one of which alone is the size of the biggest studio in the BBC's TV centre", Hindhaugh added.

An advantage of starting from scratch, he said, is that unlike existing broadcasters with huge tape libraries, BT Sport was able to be digital 'end to end' right from the start.

Hindhaugh said: "Content on tape gets binned. We're the first fully DPP [Digital Production Partnership] compliant broadcaster in the UK. All of our content moves within cloud in our operation via mirrored servers offsite."

He added that the broadcaster is not focused primarily on TV viewers. He said: "We are multi-platformwe've had over 1.9 million downloads of our app, which broadcasts live channels. 15-20 percent of our live TV audience is watching via the app."

Hindhaugh was the BBC's Head of Production for the 2012 Olympics and joined BT at the end of that year to help set up their broadcast operation.

He said: "I went from a TV background with the benefit of a huge broadcast infrastructure to a telecoms company with TV rights to sport but no broadcast infrastructurewe had a huge task on our hands and tight time frameswe went live in August 2013 in a building we had moved into three weeks beforehand with 30 people."

He added: "We had to be agile, my new employer had to trust me, we had to design new workflows new tech in a very different way. We had to do what normally takes four years in 18 weeks.

"All of a sudden, BT was a challenger brand despite its status as a traditional UK telecoms provider for 150 years. That is something unique and something we're very proud of."

BT Sport has an audience of five million UK households, of which three million subscribe directly with BT and two million access via Virgin Media packages, according to Hindhaugh, and its Premier League football games are regularly watched by over one million viewers.


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