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December 16, 2013

Countdown to the World Cup: Local fixers and translators will be key outside Rio, writes SNTV boss

Managing director of SNTV Martin Kay writes about how his agency gearing up to cover the Brazil 2014 World Cup next year

More or less as the last ‘Games Maker’ handed back their security pass after the London 2012 Olympics, we started planning for Brazil. In September 2012, we opened our own dedicated bureau in Rio so we could combine remote planning from London with working locally to start covering stories on preparations, controversies and colour pieces like the Dutch team visiting the favelas.

For the main event, thousands of hours of work is being done to get 20 of our crews out to Brazil and in place as a story breaks, all under the stewardship of our managing editor, Andrew Parkinson. Understanding the cities, the transport connections, the proximity of the stadia and likely team bases, liaison with both FIFA, national football associations and with local organising committees and governments, hotel and flight bookings, securing the right people from our network who have the right kind of access and working closely in planning with the Associated Press and their GMS (Global Media Services) team offering live ‘stand-uppers’ and studio positions across Brazil are just some of the tasks on the list when it comes to covering an event like this.

Our work at the last four World Cups has taught us a lot. Getting there early with as many boots on the ground as possible is key. The first week in particular is breakneck in terms of speed and scale due the number of ‘prep’ stories and all 32 teams with news to cover. You can’t scrimp on important relationships – particularly with each national team, with local fixers and with translators who become critical once you move away from central Rio.

The breadth of coverage is important, not just in Brazil but the ‘at home’ stories too – thousands of fans gathered in town centres in Melbourne or Madrid, Munich or Montevideo all celebrating or commiserating their team’s performance. Viral stories also play a big part -the likes of Paul the Octopus increasingly featuring alongside the more ‘serious’ sports news. The final lesson we’ve learnt is the importance of safety. Brazil is a fantastic country but with some real unknowns so every member of the SNTV crew will go through rigorous hostile environment training.

More than anything, covering the World Cup is about the predictable and the breaking and being able to cover both in time and with as much of the important detail as possible. We have a multitude of sources for breaking news with our own Rio bureau chief, an extensive and reliable network across the football community and crucially our relationship with the Associated Press. As does any journalist, we follow the wires and social media is key. Technology advances also mean clients with people in Brazil can access all our video on the ground, not just back at HQ.

Once we have the scent of a story, it is all about harnessing our journalistic expertise and using the latest technology to gather and send as soon as possible. Dongles, MiFi, LiveU, AP fibre and satellite truck availability all ensure we get every second of quality World Cup news in HD to our 400 plus broadcast and digital customers across the globe before the sun sets on the Amazon. 

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