NEW YORK — Mitch
Glider is hoping that WestwoodOne’s coverage of the Winter Olympics
from Sochi, Russia, is “primed for gold.”
This is the first
Olympics for WestwoodOne as part of Cumulus Media. The radio network
merged with Dial Global Radio Networks in 2011 and took on the DG
brand, but it eventually rebranded using the familiar WestwoodOne
nameplate. Cumulus Media then purchased Dial Global/WestwoodOne in
holds rights to provide U.S. network radio coverage of the games Feb.
7–23. Cumulus declined to detail how many stations are expected to
use the content. Some long-form programming and all hockey games will
also air on SiriusXM.
president of engineering for WestwoodOne in New York City, devised a
technical plan months ago that uses a structure for broadcast remotes
based in the International Broadcast Center in Sochi. The audio
architecture must be resilient enough to deliver 17 consecutive days
His challenge is
aggregating audio from numerous competition site venues, eliminating
technical glitches and delivering a smooth broadcast product to the
radio network’s affiliates — from the distinctive beep at the
starting gate of a downhill ski race to the swoosh of a luge sled on
an icy track.
He expects to be in
Sochi to help execute on-air coverage that includes short reports
three times an hour, 24 hours a day, through the games. WestwoodOne,
which presented a 32-part series of preview vignettes, also will
provide nightly recaps and live play-by-play of certain events.
Sochi, with a
population of 400,000, is nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard time.
The city is in Krasnodar, the third-largest region in Russia,
according to the XXII Olympic Winter Games website. The Sochi Olympic
Park is built along Black Sea coast in the Imeretinskaya Valley.
sending an air staff of approximately 10 announcers. In support,
Glider worked with Howard Deneroff, executive vice
president/executive producer of WestwoodOne Sports, to set the
technical plan based on the programming and type of communication
backhauls required, in addition to in-house communication needs at
Rod Olsen and Roger
Endres load 18 road cases at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York,
where WestwoodOne built, staged and tested equipment for use in Sochi
during the 2014 Winter Olympics. NBC Television Olympic logistics
handled shipping. The equipment was headed for the WestwoodOne/NBC
workspace at the International Broadcast Center.
Glider has been
planning U.S. network radio Olympic technical coverage dating back to
Salt Lake City in 2002. He said Sochi presented challenges based on
logistics and airfreight restrictions through customs. WestwoodOne
shipped 18 road cases of technical equipment in mid-December to
ensure delivery prior to start of the games.
“We are still
primarily ISDN (for main program feed), but we also have dedicated IP
codecs over the public Internet running parallel to the ISDNs for
The backhaul path,
according to Glider, involves taking the finished audio product from
Sochi, which could be live or recorded, passing it via ISDN to the
CBS Broadcast Center in New York in real time, with return to Sochi
for monitoring by talent.
The radio network
uses Sierra Automated Systems products, Glider said, including a SAS
32KD router and Rubicon-SL consoles and Dixon mixers and ICM 32
intercom heads, which will allow WW1 to use the unit for listening,
four-wire communication and intercom communication from Sochi.
It uses Telos
Zephyr Xstreams for ISDN, and Telos Z/IP and Comrex Access for IP
codecs, according to Glider.
The setup is similar
to what WestwoodOne used in London for the 2012 Summer Games, though
“we have expanded the use of IP codecs for sure and are relying on
them more than ever,” Glider said.
The remote gear is
set up and tested in New York and fitted for equipment modularity.
“Everything is in the rack already and pre-wired. We take a modular
approach with Cat-5 cable.” Glider then submits it to final test
during a staging process.
All of the gear,
including routers, computers, servers, codecs and consoles, is staged
in the CBS Broadcast Center, where WestwoodOne’s technical
operations are located and where Glider is based. (WW1 also provides
technical support to CBS Radio Network news for coverage of
large-scale news events and remotes, including political conventions,
inaugurations and the Olympics.)
Glider designed the
WestwoodOne studio space in Sochi, located within the NBC Television
complex, using Visio, the diagramming program from Microsoft. Mike
Eaby, WestwoodOne sports vice president/coordinating producer,
visited Sochi in 2013.
A view of the media
center in Sochi. Accommodations are nearby.
Sochi 2014 Winter
Broadcast Center is home to international broadcast organizations
covering the Olympics. WestwoodOne will broadcast from a combo
studio, a long-form studio and two read-in positions, semi-enclosed
for privacy, Glider said.
“It’s a bit of a
departure from what we have done in the past. We have added a bit
more versatility to the positions utilizing things that we have
learned from previous Olympics. And we have added a small engineering
space, too,” Glider said.
Zack Akey was set to accompany Glider to Sochi to handle technical
services duties. This is Glider’s first trip to an Olympics since
2006, he said. The pair expected to arrive in Sochi in mid-January
and begin assembling the studios. The opening broadcast is Feb. 7.
Security within the
Olympic village is expected to be tight, Glider said. Media
accommodations are next to the IBC and inside the “clean zone,”
Glider said, which means a lot less time standing in security lines.
Inside view of the
Main Media Center.
Sochi 2014 Winter
typically doesn’t receive a lot of snow, likely will have high
temperatures in the mid-20s during the Olympic visit. The mountains
in Krasnaya Polyana, home to skiing and sliding events, typically
receive most of the region’s snowfall.
WestwoodOne says it
delivers audio content each week to 8,200 media partners and 225
The world’s radio broadcasters will cover the games from the International Broadcast Center, from commentator positions at stadiums and other venues, and in zones where broadcasters will “mix” with and interview athletes.
Radio has a long history of covering the Olympics. The 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam were the first to receive radio’s attention; full-blown radio coverage started at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
The core of coverage — sound and video from Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and live feeds from venues — is produced by Olympic Broadcasting Services. An agency of the International Olympic Committee, OBS has been host broadcaster for Olympics Games since 2008.
OBS is manager and operator of the IBC in Sochi and the associated Mountain Broadcast Center. The IBC is headquarters for radio and TV rights-holding broadcasters. (Non-RHB reporters and print are housed in the nearby Main Press Centre.) The big, low-rise IBC is within walking distance of the competition venues in Sochi’s “coastal cluster.”
“The standard OBS studio module is just over 47 square meters [500 square feet], large enough to support a basic radio production facility,” said Matt Mason, OBS head of information and publications. “This said, many RHBs have requested custom-tailored facilities.” Right-holders typically outfit their own studios.
Competition venues are the locations of “broadcast commentary positions,” where RHB announcers can deliver coverage tailored to their audiences.
A total of 532 broadcast commentary positions are available. Each accommodates one, two or three people. “Radio broadcasters will occupy up to 79 commentary positions throughout the Sochi Olympic Winter Games site,” Mason said. For instance, BBC Radio will be using five.
At mountain venues, commentary positions are in temporary cabins with power, lighting and a heater.
RHBs have the option of booking equipped or unequipped commentary positions. “Commentary audio from the equipped positions is routed to the RHB studios through full-bandwidth connections to the commentary switching centers in both the IBC and the MBC via redundant fiber paths,” said Mason.
“At unequipped commentary positions, RHBs can order uncompressed full-duplex audio lines to IBC/MBC, ISDN lines and Internet access.” Commentator positions are also at the Medals Plaza.
Feeds from the venues are routed to a commentary-switching center in the IBC, the main hub for coordination circuits and international sound for radio.
— James Careless