I’m a little bit behind on this one; my article from the latest issue of the Sunday Business Post.
RTE.ie, Ireland’s public service broadcaster’s website, is to undergo a massive redesign as part of an ever-increasing emphasis on online services.
Marcus O’Doherty, technology development manager of RTE’s publishing division, has said the new site will mainly comprise multimedia content.
‘‘At the moment, we already have a lot of video and audio content available and we hope to highlight that and make the most of it in the future,” said O’Doherty.
‘‘There’s a growing audience appetite for online content, which we want to respond to.
“We think that the site is strategically important for us.”
More and more television stations are moving into online broadcasting. Irish language broadcaster TG4 recently launched its tg4.tv service, which broadcasts home-produced content live online. It also features an archive of programming across numerous genres.
RTE already carries on-demand downloads of many of its shows, although live events have also featured on its website.
April of this year saw the webcast of a boxing match between Bernard Dunne and Carlos Santillan.
Last Sunday, RTE streamed its first ever GAA webcast, the Munster Senior Football Final replay between Kerry and Cork. It was only available online for live viewing, as it clashed with the Leinster Football Final between Dublin and Offaly at Croke Park, which was being aired on RTE 2.
Although a technical glitch meant some users could not access the webcast, there were over 32,000 streams to it and 9,954 unique visitors to the site during the match.
O’Doherty said the website could act as an invaluable addition to the existing network in such circumstances.
‘‘When we have scheduling conflicts like this, we will be able to put one programme online and one on television or, in future, we could even show a minor GAA match on the internet and then give television coverage to the senior game, which comes after it,” said O’Doherty.
The main obstacle currently facing webcasting is rights issues.
As part of its agreement with the GAA for the Cork v Kerry match, RTE put a geographical block on its webfeed.
This prevented internet users outside of Ireland from viewing the game. The same type of block will feature on the website’s live coverage of The Champions League, which begins later this year.
For non-sport programming, rights issues can be even more complicated.
O’Doherty said: ‘‘Our programming would be split into three groups home-produced, acquired and independently-negotiated. Home-produced is certainly the easiest for use to broadcast online, however for productions we own, there are many smaller rights issues within each programme. For example, music that is played or acquired footage that is used within the show.”
However, O’Doherty is still confident that the amount of programming broadcast online can be increased over time.
‘‘After sport we will be focusing on news, then current affairs and so on. They are our main growth areas. We hope to make more live and on-demand programming available to viewers eventually.”
As well as using the website to broadcast regular programming, O’Doherty plans to increase the amount of original content.
‘‘Let’s say you see an interview on the television, well the website might feature the long form of it. As television and radio are both subject to time constraints, certain programming and features could benefit from having additional material online for viewers and listeners wanting to see or hear more on a certain subject,” said O’Doherty.
Greater interaction with RTE personalities is also a possibility.
O’Doherty said: ‘‘We recently organised a series of web-chats with people like Charlie Bird and Miriam O’Callaghan, which were very successful, both in the amount of questions submitted and the amount of readers we got afterwards.
“The staff are obviously very busy though, and so, a daily blog might not be possible, but we could have regular articles or contributions made to the site instead.”
In Britain, the BBC website recently launched a blog network, which features regularly updated posts from various sections of its staff. Its editor’s blog, for example, features daily posts on decisions made by news editors and details their daily tasks and challenges.
The RTE Publishing Division is completely self-funding.
It covers all non-traditional forms of broadcast such as RTE Aertel, rte.ie and the RTE Guide.
A sizeable sum is being invested in the website, which will be online late this year.
One thing I forgot to mention earlier which I had no room for in the article; the site will soon introduce Windows Media Player as a format alongside RealPlayer; this is sure to be somewhat good news for those who have a hard time with RealPlayer as a playback format.