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Going Wild: Live Streaming The Animal Kingdom

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The concept of outside broadcasting and live streaming usually conjures up images of real-time, rolling 24-hour news. But, as two recent live online platforms developed by Numiko for UK broadcasters Channel 4 showed, the format can be used to suit any televisual project...
In a TV and natural history first, Channel 4’s multi-platform project, Easter Eggs Live, gave millions of viewers an insight into animal behaviour; from within the hidden world of the egg.
Working with Windfall Films, Numiko developed the online platform to support the live broadcasts, featuring live streams of hatching eggs and baby animals, all in real time.
The production used the latest powerful scanners and super-sensitive microphones, as viewers eavesdropped on reptile heartbeats and bird embryos talking to their soon-to-be siblings and parents. The live shows aired on Easter weekend – March 31 and April 1 – with presenters Mark Evans, Jimmy Doherty and Lucy Cooke.
Working on the Easter Eggs Live site included planning for more than thirty streams from the studio and remote locations, responding to fluid production where eggs were being confirmed right up until broadcast, and, of course, designing for the broadcast traffic profile.
The CMS was built to rapidly update and switch between live streams and video content, which were accessible from the homepage. Since the live streams launched on March 25, over 450,000 people logged on and viewed just short of 4 million pages throughout the course of the live streaming.
Of the many live streams available, newly-named Nirvana the Shark was crowned the out-and-out success and received 8.3 per cent of the page views alone, totalling more than 328,000.
The viewing numbers peaked during the live broadcasts, with more than a million page views each day.
Jamie Lochhead, producer and director of Windfall Films, said: “A key part of our cross-platform projects, such as Easter Eggs Live, is the work that Numiko do with the online platform.
“Numiko’s work has been brilliant – great ideas and great designs. The team there devised very clever solutions for the Foxes Live: Wild in the City website in next-to-no time, and we were pleased to be working with them again on the online aspect of Easter Eggs Live.”
Foxes Live was yet another multiplatform project developed by Numiko, this time using GPS technology to track foxes across the UK and encouraging the public to take part in the biggest, nationwide fox census of its kind. The purpose of Foxes Live: Wild in the City was to explore public opinion on the urban fox. Would Britons agree that they are dangerous vermin, or a reminder of the fact that we share even our urban environment with an array of wild animals?
Being of a live format, the show allowed the opportunity to combine live data into the programme, as well as allowing presenters to encourage the audience to interact with the site while they watched TV. Production included live streaming from fox dens (den-cams) and GPS data from nine tracked foxes, which enabled the show to plot their movements and behaviour on a Google map. The GPS system also detected average speed, distance travelled and even the animals’ body temperature.
Numiko developed the brand, which was used both online and on TV and ATL campaigns. Visitors to the site also submitted their own fox sightings with images and videos, adding them to an interactive map.
Initially, only four foxes were tracked, but the early popularity of this feature led to another five rescued-and-rehabilitated foxes being tagged.
During the first live broadcast, on a Monday night at 8pm, traffic to the Foxes Live website peaked when presenter Anita Rani released a fox, Chico, back into Manchester and viewers were able to follow his progress. More than 1,000 page views per second were recorded. And throughout the three week TX period, over 2 million page views from 300,000 visits were recorded, with 1.3 visits per user (i.e. 234,000 uniques).
Numiko’s founding director, David Eccles, said: "What made Foxes so unique is the way it took the viewer away from a typical studio setting and into real environments. And with Eggs, the streams were broadcast from state-of-the-art laboratories all over the world, and having them available 24/7 in realtime really changed the way the audience viewed and engaged with the programme.
"The live element is what made the projects so special and so exciting to work on. They were an event. And the audience could follow all the action online too, not just on TV. There seems to be a growing convergence between unique, outside broadcasts and the web, with both platforms working together to build a loyal audience during the transmission period. We were thrilled to work on both of these projects for that very reason. They represented something new and gave the world a glimpse of where broadcasting is moving to in the future."
Read the article in the online edition of Regional Film & Video here.

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