Wimbledon – from TV’s to tablets on a grass court

There’s no denying The Wimbledon Championships’ significance as a sporting event.  It’s the oldest (and some say, most prestigious) tennis tournament in the world, and has been the launching pad for some of the greatest names in tennis’ careers.  But there’s more to this tournament than tennis.

Wimbledon is the largest annual broadcast operation in the world.  And while its first broadcast in 1937 relied on a total of two cameras on Centre Court, and was transmitted on BBC for just half an hour a day, since then The Championships have become as much an exhibition of the latest broadcast technology as a test of athletic ability.

In 1967 Wimbledon made history when the event became the first UK broadcast to ever be televised in colour.  The event broadcaster, BBC2, showed just five hours of colour TV a week and was the only channel to broadcast in colour.  But, with less than 5000 colour TV sets in circulation at the time, the audience for this breakthrough in broadcasting was limited to say the least!

Skip forward a couple of decades and Wimbledon made the record books again in 2011 – this time for being the first BBC TV programme to be broadcast in 3D.  Once again though, the small number of 3D TV sets owned in the UK limited the audience able to appreciate the occasion.  Unfortunately, 3D TV was not destined to be the success that broadcasting in colour was, and after a two-year pilot the BBC dropped their 3D plans.

In 2015 the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) partnered with Sony to cover the tournament in 4K, and last year Japan’s public broadcaster NHK used the event to test the Super Hi-Vision 8K resolution system that they’re planning to use in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The first Wimbledon Championships in 1877 consisted of one event, played in front of a crowd of 200 people.  Last year’s two-week tournament had an audience estimated at over 1 billion across 200 territories.  By embracing new broadcast technology and being brave enough to “give it a go” Wimbledon organisers and broadcasters have reached an impressive audience.  But simply broadcasting sports content isn’t enough to reach mass markets anymore – even with commercial broadcasters like Eurosport getting in on the live action.  Sports audiences now expect to find just as much content online and on social platforms as on their TV’s.  And Wimbledon doesn’t disappoint.

In 2012 Wimbledon introduced second screen viewing – making it possible for tennis fans to watch the tournament on mobiles and tablets for the first time – with content including live games, highlights, features and interviews.  Last year they overhauled their website and social media approach, earning the AELTC two trophies at the prestigious BT Sport Industry Awards 2016 for Best Digital Platform and Best Use of Social Media.  This year they’ve introduced a new app for Apple TV and for mobile and tablet on iOS and Android, and Forscene client, IMG will be providing interview, behind-the-scenes and highlight video content on wimbledon.com as a streamed service.

It’s going to be an exciting two weeks.  If you’re lucky enough to have tickets for any of the games please note that, while the Forscene office is a short walk from the Wimbledon tube station, The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is not.  For details on how to get there, go to wimbledon.com.  Check out some of the highlight videos while you’re there too – and if you’d like to find out about how Forscene helps sports clients edit and share this kind of content, then get in touch.

P.S. Around 28 000 kilograms of strawberries are consumed during the Wimbledon fortnight!  That’s a lot of strawberries.

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Jason Cowan

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