How and where are we going to see the next big sporting events?

ANALYSIS With Sochi's Winter Olympics now over, the focus in broadcasting moves to the next major 4-yearly sporting events: the Football World Cup in Brazil and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Building on the success of its London 2012 coverage, the BBC has ensured that major sporting events have been accompanied by extra Red Button streams on satellite, cable and terrestrial platforms, plus increasingly a whole bouquet of streams available via the BBC's Connected Red Button service on Virgin TiVo, Freeview HD smart TVs by Sony and Samsung and via the BBC Sport App on Freesat's Free Time platform.

But what's in store for the other sporting events this year?

Through June and July, BBC TV's coverage of the World Cup will be on BBC One, with the odd group stage match on BBC Three, while ITV will show most of its coverage on the main ITV channel, with the odd group stage match on one of its other digital channels, according to a recent Ofcom document.

BBC Two and the BBC Red Button will be handed over to coverage of Wimbledon 2014, which takes place at the same time as the first part of the World Cup. In addition to providing coverage from Brazil and Wimbledon, the BBC will also be covering Glastonbury 2014, between 25th and 29th June 2014, primarily on BBC Three.

The BBC's Connected Red Button service is expected to provide additional coverage of all events, although the full extent of the coverage has not yet been announced. Extra, temporary Red Button streams for "normal" TV viewing are also expected to reappear, as they did last June and again during Sochi 2014.

On Freeview, the BBC has in the past been able to secure otherwise unused slots usually reserved for commercial broadcasters via multiplex operator Arqiva. As commercial slots begin to fill up, there's no guarantee that they will be able offer additional Red Button streams. Any Red Button service on capacity designated for commercial broadcasters will need prior approval from Ofcom.

From the 23rd July - 3rd August 2014, the attention moves to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

TV coverage will be on BBC One and BBC Three, plus additional Red Button coverage.

The BBC has already announced its intention to offer an extended BBC Three schedule during the Games, subject to BBC Trust approval. The move would mirror the extended coverage on BBC Three during the London 2012 Olympics.

As a consequence, BBC Parliament on Freeview would need to be closed down for the duration of the Games. As Parliament is in recess during the 11 day period of the Games, and BBC Parliament just shows a loop of recorded political programmes during the summer recess, the temporary closure of the channel should not present any problems. BBC Parliament has previously been closed down on Freeview during the Bejing and London Olympics.

BBC Three would then use BBC Parliament's 24 hour Freeview capacity. The channel usually shares its capacity with CBBC. The move would allow BBC RB 302 - the second BBC Red Button stream, which is a "pop-up stream" during special events, to broadcast on the BBC's own capacity during CBBC's off-air times (1900-0530), sidestepping any issues with regards obtaining capacity from commercial multiplex operators.

The BBC has also confirmed that it's going to be operating 15 streams with additional coverage from 17 different locations. The streams will be available online, on mobile and on connected TV platforms via BBC Connected Red Button and the BBC Sport App. It is still unknown if any digital TV platform operator will offer "regular" access to the streams, as Sky and Virgin did for the London 2012 Olympics. On Freeview, there is insufficient capacity to offer the full selection of streams, unless the BBC can reach a deal with multiplex operator Arqiva to use temporary capacity on the new COM8 multiplex, which is yet to launch. However, coverage would be limited to 70% of UK households.

In the long term, the BBC and other broadcasters will be pushing more of their extended offerings during major events to connected TV services, which offer greater flexibility and are more cost-efficient than hiring temporary capacity from commercial terrestrial and satellite operators.

But in the short term, it's an ideal year for sports fans to consider investing in a TV that's compatible with the BBC Connected Red Button for all the action coming our way in 2014...

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  1. Shutting down BBC Parliament may provide capacity for BBC Three SD, but they'll have to find a different solution for BBC Three HD! There is simply no room for a sixth stream on BBC B at the moment, so if closing CBBC HD for two weeks isn't an option, either BBC Three HD will have to have shorter hours than the SD version or it'll have to move to COM7.


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