How the BBC delivered 24 Olympic streams
In a room named after Horrible Histories, chopped-off heads from the CBBC show watch over Salford staff monitoring Olympics output.
But the gruesome props are virtually ignored as "Team BBC" manages 24 streams - in effect, channels - for Red Button and online.
With 2500 hours to broadcast, it's a mammoth undertaking but it's attracting record-breaking ratings.
So far, 17 million people have watched the Red Button channels (RB) and the online video player has received 29m requests.
Even though the Games are in London, the multiplatform operation is being handled from BBC Quay House, with its vantage point over the occasional rowers on the Manchester Ship Canal.Tweaks and streams
End Quote Patrick Dalzell Planning editor
I think the technology was out there and the BBC has caught up with it”
BBC Sport's relocation from the capital just before the Olympics caused controversy but planning editor Patrick Dalzell maintains they could not have provided the same coverage from Television Centre.
"I think the galleries, the ability of the routers, and all the technology that sits under the hood of the car, allows us to do this up here. I just don't think we would have been able to do it in TVC.
"For the scale of the operation we've had, it's gone incredibly smoothly. There are a few little tweaks but nothing, touch wood, has fallen off air."
The Salford operation fuses the streams from the International Broadcast Centre at Olympic Park (IBC) with the BBC Sport website and the RB platforms on Freeview, Sky and Virgin.
Tucked away behind the third-floor lifts, three tv galleries deliver the RB content: one for the three Freeview channels and two for the 24 streams on Sky and Virgin TVs. Next door is a broom cupboard-sized gallery for the Sport website.Never missing a moment
In the completely unsparkly Strictly Come Dancing room (all Salford rooms are named after BBC shows), rows of staff log and tag content for BBC colleagues at the IBC.
At the side of the room, some wait to start their shift - there's a lot to be done and volunteers from other Salford teams, including Children's and News, are helping through the Hot Spikes scheme.
"We have all our content on servers, which someone views and then notes the most important points, for example, when a football match starts, ends and when the goals are," explains Dalzell.
"That information is sent to the IBC so someone who's searching for a few minutes of match coverage can cut it without having to see it [all]."
Best bits' details also enable staff to "chapterise" coverage for the interactive video player (IVP) on the BBC Sport website, so viewers can select moments they want to see.
The IVP folk even added the hug between Olympic tennis champion Andy Murray and his mum Judy, which was cut by the live tv output from OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services).
"The content's being ingested into the servers all the time and as soon as someone is logging that, the information is available at IBC…the two BBC areas (at Salford and Stratford) are networked. It's near-instantaneous," says Dalzell.
Across the MediaCityUK piazza at BBC Dock House, the TV & mobile platforms team also deliver the 24 streams to internet-connected TVs and Playstation 3 via the BBC Sport app, which they developed.
There have been more than 7m video plays through the app alone, which also includes catch-up clips and medal table news."Massive leap-frog"
The multiplatform operation has been an undeniable success, fulfilling the BBC mantra of "never miss a moment", and will be repeated at future Olympics, Wimbledon championships and Commonwealth Games, including Glasgow 2014.
"I think the technology was out there and the BBC has caught up with it. We've always been slightly behind the likes of Sky and others in terms of how we utilise technology and I think we've just done a massive leap-frog into the lead because we've shown what can be done," says Dalzell.
"To be honest only the BBC could have done this because for a commercial broadcaster, they will ask where's the money in this, where do you get the extra revenue?"
He adds: "I think people will consume media more and more by pulling it towards them rather than it being pushed towards them."
His biggest challenge is keeping across all the live feeds, at times having to manage around 14 channels simultaneously - he considers four streams to be "relatively easy".
"You learn to do that with your vision. We've got a list of timings of when we're expecting to see things finish, but you get things like the badminton that will finish an hour earlier, then you suddenly see they're turning the lights off and you have to get it off quite quickly."Magic moments
Top London 2012 ratings (as of Saturday 4 August)
- 17.1m watch Mo Farah's 10,000m triumph; 26.9m see Opening Ceremony
- On Friday, the BBC Sport website drew a record-breaking 10.4m unique browsers, including 8m from the UK
- Overall, 18m unique browsers have visited Olympics pages on the BBC Sport website
- 1.5m have downloaded BBC Olympics smartphone app
- Biggest online video peak from first week was for Bradley Wiggins' cycling time trial win on Wednesday, drawing 729,000 requests
- Biggest BBC Red Button event from first week was Men's cycling road race with Mark Cavendish, which drew 1.3m
- Every Red Button stream drew at least 100,000 viewers at some point during London 2012
Alongside the 765 BBC staff at the Olympic venues, the Salford multiplatform effort is extensive but outside the team, there is ironically little awareness at MediaCityUK about their work.
Maybe it's because they have been on-site for less than a year but Dalzell says: "It makes me laugh that lots of people here don't know what's going on - I go for my coffee and they say what are you doing in on a Saturday…maybe there would be a bit more of a buzz around it in TVC."
There's also sport news output on the ground floor at the BBC Sport Centre - the studio offices usually seen on the BBC News channel. Although presentation is currently at Olympic Park, tv and online news production is mainly happening in Salford.
A keen cyclist, Dalzell's highlight so far is Bradley Wiggins' triumph in the time trial when all five open-plan floors of Quay House, which encircle an atrium, erupted with applause. "It was amazing - the whole atrium burst into applause, all the floors, all the way up. It's a magic moment for the BBC."