Raising the online bar at SBS

Wow. It’s been quite a week. In fact it’s been quite a month. I’ve been consumed by work, and play, but this post is going to be about work.

This weekend saw the first stages of the Tour de France get underway, and a wealth of attention on one of the biggest website projects I’ve worked on in 10 years of online journalism. My capacity as Executive Producer for Sport Online means I’ve been responsible for building the broadcaster’s TDF website, to complement the telecast to which we have the rights, but also to push the boundaries in an online sense.

Through a stroke of fortune, I was introduced to some guys from Adobe a couple of months ago. They’ve been doing some amazing things with their flash platform over the past 12 months, and after meeting some of their representatives in Sydney, I decided to pursue making use of it on our Tour site this year.

The first I’d seen of their work in a cycling sense was their Tour of California tracker, which not only streamed the race vision from multiple angles to your computer screen, but also mapped the stages, plotted the riders live on that map via GPS technology, and also allowed you to chat live with fellow fans and enjoy text commentary as well as the commentary associated with the live broadcast. My cycling editor at SBS, who looks after not only the Tour site but our year-round Cycling Central website, was in awe, and so was I. Meeting the Adobe guys was a chance to explore doing the very same for our own site this year.

We only met about six weeks out from the race, so the timeline was always going to be tight, but thanks to some wonderful generosity from Adobe, and the commitment of the technical development team at SBS, we decided we’d give this thing a crack. Adobe was prepared to give us a developer at their HQ in San Francisco for six weeks, including the three weeks of the race. The cost: $0. I couldn’t say no. Such offers rarely come your way.

The plan from Adobe’s perspective is to showcase its skills as a solutions farm for broadcast networks looking to move their vision seamlessly into the online environment, and they have simply used SBS – and the biggest annual sporting event on the planet in the Tour – as its marketing platform, in a sense. Stage 1 went off without a hitch for all concerned. The vision was great, the application amazing, and everybody is happy. It’s the first time anyone in the world has attempted this type of online integration around the Tour de France, so to say I’m immensely proud of the work everyone involved at SBS and Adobe has done to get it launched and working in time is an understatement of huge proportions. It’s been a proud time for me.

It’s well worth adding the SBS Tour tracker to your bookmarks, because it will keep you up to date like never before throughout the great race.

In closing, I must say the experience of working with Adobe has been magnificent – one of the highlights of my career. They’re given us good press, and we’ve reciprocated with glee. I hope it’s a relationship we can build on and certainly enhance with more events in the coming years.

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