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News: World Cup Coverage On ITV

By St Kenneth
August 27 2015

With today's announcement of England's 2015 Rugby World Cup squad and with the tournament just a few weeks away, it seems an opportune time to have a look at what to expect from ITV during their coverage of the eagerly awaited competition. With in-depth, insider knowledge, COYSDC veteran, St Kenneth, gives us a comprehensive guide...




As the Rugby World Cup is getting nearer, the excitement levels within ITV Sport are increasing dramatically. Personally, I wasn’t that exhilarated by the forthcoming tournament, the inconvenience to the Premiership and the fact that for my meagre purse, the tickets were just way out of reach, meant that I had detached myself from any excitement… however that changed recently, when I had the chance to listen to Mark Demuth, ITV’s Controller of Sport Production and Paul McNamara, ITV’s Senior Director and Executive Producer of Main Events, give a presentation on ITV’s plans for the tournament.

Firstly, I got the sense that ITV Sport know this is a big thing. With estimated viewing figures of 10+ million for some of the major matches, ramping up to 12-14 million should the home nations get through to the latter stages, there is a clear understanding that this is major. Out of the 48 matches in the tournament, 38 of those will be shown live on ITV, with the remaining 10 being shown live on ITV4, well there has to be an acceptance that some matches just won’t hit the viewer’s imaginations, Tonga V Namibia as an example. ITV Wales have chosen to cover 11 matches independently of ITV’s main coverage, so for all of the matches involving Wales plus quite a few more, there will be the chance to have a more welsh slant to their programming. Eddie Butler will be present for them with punditry from the likes of Phil Bennett.

In a similar way as to when the World Cup was in one of the home nations before, in 1991 and 1999, ITV has been chosen as the host broadcaster for the event and are responsible for the match coverage. I can hear your screams of derision already. “What do ITV know about Rugby blah blah blah. Etc.” well this is the part that impressed me most…

ITV Sport has 48 members of staff. For this tournament, the current accreditation for security passes etc. is up to 1400. There seems to be a huge acceptance that the way Sky previously and now BT cover rugby is pretty darn spot on. There is no wish to reinvent the wheel, but to instead go out and contract those people who thought, designed and built the wheel. A lot of the freelance crews have been booked up for over 3 years for this tournament, meaning that the cameramen, soundmen, commentators, presenters, pundits and directors are not just whoever was available in September and October for this year, but people that ITV wanted to come and work on the coverage.

I think this is most evident with the on-screen line-ups

John Inverdale – BBC’s Six nations presenter

Craig Doyle – BT Sports main rugby presenter

Mark Durden-Smith – ITV’s Highlights presenter

These guys present rugby and are familiar faces for all of us watching the game, so for ITV, it made perfect sense to employ them and not try and re-invent that wheel.

Main Commentators

Nick Mullins – BT Sport’s Main Commentator

Miles Harrison – SKY’s Main Commentator

Jon Champion – ITV Sport’s Main Commentator

These are familiar voices, all with the intention of making us the viewer feel like we are in safe hands, again, with no intention to rock the boat and be controversial.

Looking at the selection of pundits, it is obvious again that the intention is to keep up the good work of other TV Stations, rather than change things for the sake of change…. Brian O’Driscoll, Ben Kay, Lawrence Dallaglio, Michael Lynagh, Sean Fitzpatrick etc. but with the exciting inclusion of George Gregan, Jason Robinson and Jonny Wilkinson.

There is one area though, that I feel MAY and I stress the word MAY, irritate some of you reading this article. We are all here, clicking our way through Sports network’s rugby sites, because we already love this sport of ours. There is though a huge opportunity to get new spectators, new supporters and fans interested in the game, so there has to be an understanding that these broadcasts are not just going out to those in the know.

There will have to be a balance of introducing the sport to knew viewers who will get attracted to the tournament because of the hopeful buzz being generated within the media should our home nation’s sides do well. There is no intention to dumb down the coverage, but there has to be acceptance that out of the 10 million or so tuning into watch a match, there will be many where rugby isn’t their no.1 choice of sport, so there has to be some explanations of what a scrum is etc. etc. Unlike in 2003, when little Jonny kicked that winning drop goal, there will be international rugby back on terrestrial television only a matter of months afterwards during the six nations, so the real hope is that there will be a great swell of interest in our game which will hopefully see the sport take a huge leap forward in popularity.

So, as for the match coverage itself… As I’ve mentioned before, ITV are the host broadcasters for this event, as they were in 1991 & 1999. There are over 200 countries taking feeds of the games with a world wide audience estimated at over 4 billion people.

So, what is a host broadcaster? Well there has to be one company chosen to cover the matches and those pictures will be shared with the other international broadcasters and ITV will be responsible for the coverage. During the tournament, the English Premier League will be in full swing, the Champions League and Europa Cup will have been started, along with many other sporting events. ITV have long secured the services of three of the major outside broadcast firms in the business, Telegenic (who covered rugby for SKY and now BT) along with trucks from CTV and Visions. All three are massive OB firms who are well and truly capable of supplying the facilities needed.

For a major A* game (Rugby World Cup’s categorising, not ITV’s) such as England V Wales, played at one of the larger stadiums, the matches will be covered by 39 cameras. These aren’t all manned cameras admittedly, but that is an incredible amount of television hardware. There will be the use of spider cam, at a cost of £25,000 per match, whizzing over the heads of the players, and also familiar shots from Ref Cam and Lineout Cam, on top of a long pole. Additionally, taken from the southern hemisphere, there will be cameras in the four corner flags (a bit like stump cams in cricket) to give an ‘interesting’ perspective of someone diving over for a try in the corner.

The one new idea for a camera position is not for a rail cam (fast moving camera attached onto a rail able to move quickly) to be placed alongside the pitch, but to have them positioned behind the in-goal areas, looking up the pitch. The idea being that a player running down the field can be captured head on, with the camera able to follow any jinxing run, and what could be a very interesting angle of a side defending their line, from say a 5m scrum.

Although 39 cameras will cover the match, there will be a core amount that will be used ‘live’ for the actual match coverage. Many of the other cameras are there to be recorded to show replays from various angles, especially to help make the role of the TMO as accurate as possible.

The only other fact I can remember about ITV’s presentation is that, “The World In Union” remains the theme tune of all the programmes. Where previously, it has been sung by Kiri te Kanawa and latterly, by Hayley Westenra, this year ITV have modernised it with Paloma Faith singing to a slightly more modern backing. It’s ok… I’m sure it will grow on me… it could have been worse, I feared Cheryl Fernandez-Versini or Alesha Dixon when I heard it had been modernised, well it is ITV!

Now for some really techy stuff

So have you ever wondered, just how those pictures from the ground, finally get onto people’s television screens back home? It’s an easy concept to think that the programme leaving the back of the outside broadcast truck just gets beamed up on a satellite and hey presto, it appears back home, but things aren’t quite as straight forward as that.

In covering an international tournament like the world cup, the host broadcaster has a requirement to provide coverage of the match that is made available to all the other international broadcasters following the match. This match coverage will be the backbone of everyone’s programme and is often referred to as the “World Feed”. The feed will have a single, high definition 1080/50i picture, accompanied by numerous channels of audio, carrying a mix of the stadium and match sound. The World Feed will also carry commentary on some of the audio channels. ITV have secured the services of some of the Southern Hemisphere commentators for this, along with lesser-known British commentators – this commentary will not be available for the British viewers.

For a tournament of this size, along with other events, like the Olympics and Football World Cups, there is normally an International Broadcasting Centre put together, a base for all the international broadcaster’s, known as the IBC. For the sake of this World Cup, the London base of American company, IMG ( will act as the centre for the world’s media. When a match takes place, not all the various countries that are taking the match, can have presentation facilities at the stadiums themselves. So this broadcast centre is an invaluable base, where other broadcasters can have their own studios and post production (editing) requirements.

So what exactly gets sent to the IBC from the grounds? Well as I said, the World Feed is the principle source of the match; however, it’s still not as straight forward as that!! There are a few variations of the world feed, the most basic one being the Clean World Feed. In this instance, clean refers to the fact that the match coverage doesn’t have any graphics over the pictures. If you are a larger broadcaster, then you are likely to want to have full control of when and what graphics appear on the coverage. The Clean Feed is also a good one to record for editing purposes, as then any edited package doesn’t have graphics popping up at inopportune times.

However, if you are a smaller broadcaster, then perhaps the option of having your own graphics equipment and operators is quite frankly ridiculous, you would like your World Feed to carry graphics, and so the second feed to get to the IBC, is the Dirty Main.

Now television engineers are a panicky lot, so having just two feeds, Clean and Dirty, just isn’t safe enough in case something goes wrong. So to try and prevent Gremlins interrupting the coverage, the IBC receives a Backup Dirty (a second copy of the Dirty) and a Tertiary Dirty (third version) as well.

So…. How do the Clean, Dirty, Dirty Backup and Tertiary Dirty all get to the IBC?

All these feeds are solely of the matches and are derived from a specific outside broadcast truck at the ground – the host broadcast OB.

The Clean and Dirty versions of the match both leave the stadium on Fibre Optic Cables, owned by a company called SIS Live ( From whichever ground the match is coming from, a pair of fibres will take the signals up to SIS Lives’ Media City base. From Media City in Salford, the two signals are routed down yet more fibre cables, to the IBC in London. Fibre optics is by far the quickest and less degrading way of sending a signal. When England won the tournament, those pictures were brought back to Britain along fibre cables that crossed the floor of the Pacific Ocean, so hopefully a short hop to Salford and then down to London shouldn’t be an issue.

The Dirty Backup leaves the stadiums in a totally different manner, so as to be as independent from the other circuits as possible. It is Uplinked at the ground to a satellite, and those signals are downlinked by IMG at the IBC… (the TV industry does like it’s 3 letter acronyms)

The Tertiary Dirty also leaves the venue on a totally different path. It is transmitted via a microwave link, to SIS Milton Keynes, where it is on-passed to the BT Tower London via BT facility lines (copper cables) and then onto the IBC.

Right then... now all the international broadcasters are happy… what about ITV’s Presentation? Unlike in previous tournaments, where ITV have hosted the event from a studio in London, only going to the grounds at the latter stages, it has been decided to present ITV’s coverage at the stadium, as has become the norm for Rugby and Football these days.

Onsite at the grounds, ITV will have it’s own Presentation OB truck. The match coverage will come in from the Host OB truck, but ITV will have additional cameras pitch side and from a studio, for them to cut into the World Clean Feed. In the Presentation OB truck, the match commentary that we will here at home will be added to the broadcast. By having separate commentators to the World Feed, the ITV commentators are able to be slightly biased, favouring the home nations, be able to talk about, for example, Northampton’s Tom Wood, (as those watching in other countries won’t care where Tom plays) and also be able to promote highlights programmes coming up etc. of which there will be 20 highlight shows in the evenings during the tournament.

Additionally, the ITV Truck will receive 3 different incoming signals. One will be a satellite link from the England Hotel, where I believe our very own Hagrid, Martin Bayfield, will be encamped. This incoming feed will be downlinked at the ground by SIS and there will be another satellite link from a small outside broadcast, positioned wherever the production wants, (say in the middle of a packed Trafalgar Square) that again is downlinked by SIS. The third incoming signal will be on fibre optic from ITV’s Headquarters, The London Studios ( This line can be used for sending edited packages and any other bits and pieces the outside broadcast may need.

So how does the output of this truck get onto people’s screens back home?

Well, similarly to the World Feeds… why have just one, when you can spend loads of money and have lots and lots of signals going all over the place?

Primarily, there is a feed called ITV Main… and unsurprisingly, it is ITV’s main output. It leaves the stadium on SIS fibre, up to SIS in Media City and then down to the London Studios. At The London Studios (TLS), there is the facility to have standby commentators, in case something should go wrong, tucked away in a sound dubbing booth but for the majority of the time TLS will simply on-pass the signals to Ericsson Broadcast Services, (EBS) in Chiswick, who are responsible for all of ITV’s transmission requirements… yes, ITV as one of the countries major broadcasters, doesn’t do it’s own transmissions anymore… but neither do the BBC.

There is also an ITV Backup feed that is uplinked at the stadium, onto Intelsat 905, a satellite with a footprint over the whole of Europe. The London Studios will downlink this backup and send it to EBS in Chiswick and also EBS themselves downlink a version of it as well, so effectively there are two version of the ITV Backup available for transmission. There is also a tertiary (third) circuit, which similarly to the World Dirty Tertiary feed, leaves the ground on a microwave link to SIS Milton Keynes, then via the BT Tower to EBS in Chiswick.

Hopefully you can see the lengths that television companies go to, to try their very best to prevent any loss in signal going to their transmission facilities. Hopefully, fingers crossed, all the backup circuits, satellites and microwave dishes will be totally redundant and that both ITV’s Main and the World Feed will not falter over the length of the tournament.

It is worth noting that when I worked on ITV’s coverage of the 1995 World Cup from South Africa, we only had one incoming satellite feed of the matches from their IBC in Johannesburg, so things have progressed quite a bit in twenty years. Whenever the incoming signal faltered, the director would cut back to the studio (in London) once the presenters and pundits had hurriedly put down their food and drink, leaving them to talk about what had happened so far in the match whilst the engineers tried to restore the incoming signals.

I hope I’ve been able to provide a little insight to the amount of planning and details that go into covering a tournament of this size. If you have any burning questions, please feel free to leave a message below and I’ll try and answer it, but more than likely, I will go and enquire at ITV Sport on your behalf.






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News: World Cup Coverage On ITV (IP Logged)
27/08/2015 14:20
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Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Duckonstilts (IP Logged)
27/08/2015 14:37
Very informative. Thank you.

I am sure ITV will do a good job of the world cup. It will be the first time in ages i will have watched ITV.

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Phil. (IP Logged)
27/08/2015 14:43
Great piece, Ken!

I know we have been holding this one on file for a while - thank you for your patience!

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Christy (IP Logged)
27/08/2015 14:46
what will ITV do with the usual programmes which go out at the times that the rugby will be broadcast live? Move them to another channel, or keep them for later?

(you might be able to tell, I usually do watch ITV. I will be watching the rugby of course, but will be interested to know what will happen to the programmes I often watch)

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Matthew (IP Logged)
27/08/2015 15:20
Very interesting - thank you. Any idea what will be happening with ITV's Premiership Highlights programme while the World Cup's on?


Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Howlin (IP Logged)
27/08/2015 15:21
Good insight thanks Kenneth. How do I get to watch the dirty version ? Good news about the commentators (except Harrison). Am starting to get a little bit excited now.

Saint 'til I die

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
SaintED (IP Logged)
27/08/2015 17:05
Absolutely fascinating piece St Kenneth thanks very much. The in-goal camera sounds interesting. Will it be rail mounted or just panning from a fixed point? Not especially sold on any of the presenters or commentators but none are bad. Glad they've got Ben Kay hope they use him a lot.

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
OldPete (IP Logged)
27/08/2015 17:37
Excellent and most informative - thank you St Kenneth.

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Saint Dom (IP Logged)
27/08/2015 18:34
A remarkable the of wires and cables and networks. It's all done with smoke and mirrors, really, isn't it?!

I got a little lost with the signal, somewhere in the ether above Milton Keynes, but think I've got the gist.

I'm also glad to hear that the little plump and opinionated one isn't commentating...
*I could agree with you - but then we'd both be wrong...*

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Saint.Kenneth (IP Logged)
28/08/2015 01:11
Ducks... I'm not an avid watcher of ITV's output so I know what you mean. Thankfully my role at the London Studios enables me to work on shows for lots of different networks, including late night Scandinavian programmes..... calm down Howlin, just a chat show I'm afraid.

Christy.... the vast majority of the games, especially the really big ones, are going to be at the weekend, so ITV's soap operas won't be affected greatly. It will be interesting to see how they fit the X Factor into the mix around the kick off times for the matches at the weekend, but for once, it'll have to be Simon Cowell that has to play second fiddle I guess.

Matthew... the highlights programmes are made by the Premiership themselves, ITV is just the station their programme is played out on. I would imagine that their shows will continue as normal on ITV4

Howlin...Is the Dirty Version the one where Sonia McLaughlin and Jill Douglas are in?

SaintED... the cameras behind the in-goal, looking up the pitch, are indeed on rails, so they can follow a jinxing run head on as the player comes down the field. The RFU weren't keen apparently, until a demo was shown to them, after which they were keen to make room at Twickenham for the cameras.

I hope England do ok, not because of any particular patriotic feeling, but because without that, the tournament may become a bit of a damp squib with the more casual viewer. When you look at the success of the Olympics in London, that vibe was on the back of the amazing performances by the two British teams in the two Olympics. If England fail to make it out of the groups for instance, I can foresee the viewing figures may plummet.

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Chris G (IP Logged)
28/08/2015 06:30
I just hope nothing clashes with Emmerdale

St Paul
Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
St Paul (IP Logged)
28/08/2015 08:16
Thanks for that Ken. My world cup enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by the England squad announcement yesterday, but that has perked me right up again. Thanks.

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
SaintED (IP Logged)
28/08/2015 08:26
Thanks for the reply Saint Kenneth. I think England are going to do well and it's going to be a great tournament and it sounds like ITV have put a lot of thought and effort into covering it. The in-goal camera sounds brilliant. All we needs now is HUDs on each player that you can switch between!

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Tigergeezer (IP Logged)
28/08/2015 08:52
Brought here by Ed's link. Very informative article and an excellent read - many thanks.


The lowest depth to which people can sink before God is defined by the word 'journalist'.

Soren Kierkegaard

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
28/08/2015 09:02
Very good article, Kenneth, thank you.

Church's Stand, Block R, at the back noisily making lots of noise

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
tedge (IP Logged)
28/08/2015 09:42
Very (if a trifle technical for me) informative article - thanks. None of the presenters particularly excites me though

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
28/08/2015 09:45
Fascinating stuff - thanks Ken.

Do you know if John Taylor and Nigel Starmer-Smith have retired from commentating? I've always liked their styles compared to the current crop.

I'm guessing after the collision in Beijing between Bolt and the guy on the segway, that we'll not be seeing that *

Ginger - The Colour of Sexual Rejection

Duncan Keene
Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Duncan Keene (IP Logged)
28/08/2015 11:08
Also brought here via Ed's link and also very much enjoyed the read, great stuff Kenneth.

I would be interested to know more about the HawkEye system which is to be used and how different that will be for the TV companies than the previous TMO system (or systems, i'm guessing it has changed over the years).

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Sarge (IP Logged)
28/08/2015 11:19
Terrific article. Always nice when something that is very technical is able to be communicated in such a straightforward way.

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Johns (IP Logged)
28/08/2015 11:55
Thank you St Kenneth, very interesting.

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Christy (IP Logged)
30/08/2015 23:15
thanks Ken = I watch the quizes rather than X factor type shows.

Thanks for all the technical info - will be fascinating to see if it makes a difference to the refereeing.

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
X-Block Dave (IP Logged)
31/08/2015 09:40
Thanks Ken... Really informative (Sm160)

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
StBleach (IP Logged)
31/08/2015 18:09
Thanks St Ken, appreciate the effort you put into that

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
shendy (IP Logged)
01/09/2015 10:11
Thanks for that St K, an interesting read.

Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
LeicesterSaint (IP Logged)
02/09/2015 11:40
Very interesting and informative - but surely Bayfs would be better used wandering around the opposition hotels scaring them with his Hagrid costume?

Walmersley Shark
Re: News: World Cup Coverage On ITV
Walmersley Shark (IP Logged)
22/09/2015 07:47
That's really interesting, thank you. Some of the technical stuff is a bit beyond me at the first reading, but that's my fault not yours. Going to come back and have another look when I am not supposed to be in work!

I have been inside a couple of OB vans in the workshop, either being built or one in for repair. That unfortunately is the closest I have been to them, and I certainly didn't have a clue what was going on in them.

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