Riedel provides essential comms and signal distribution at Eurovision 2023

In 2023, the Eurovision Song Contest took place in Liverpool in the UK after Ukraine, winner of the 2022 contest, was unable to meet the demands of hosting the event due to security concerns caused by the Russian invasion of the country. Organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and host broadcaster the BBC on behalf of the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC), the contest was held at the Liverpool Arena.

Costing more than £16 million to stage, Eurovision 2023 involved 37 participating countries and nine television shows including two live semi-finals and a live final, which was ultimately won by Sweden’s Loreen with the song Tattoo. The EBU reported that the contest had a television audience of 162 million viewers in 38 European markets – an increase of a million viewers from the previous edition – while 15.6 million viewers watched the contest online on YouTube and TikTok.

Every technological aspect of the fast-paced show was planned to a tee, leaving absolutely no room for error. Providing an essential role to the smooth running of the live shows was Riedel, which was responsible for the delivery of the accreditation and access control solutions, fibre backbone, signal distribution, extensive communications set up and commentary solutions.

I always compare Riedel to the nerve system of the human body: we make everything possible.

Riedel has been handling the communications and signal distribution systems for the Eurovision Song Contest for years, with the scope of works varying each time depending on the needs of the venue. Unlike the line arrays in the arenas, lighting and mics, you won’t see any of Riedel’s tech on screen or the stage, but rest assured, it’s working away hard behind the scenes, and without it, the Eurovision live shows would come to a grinding halt.

“All the services we are delivering, you can't see them visually on stage,” nods Yung Min Lee, Riedel senior project manager, who headed up the Eurovision song contest project this year.

I always compare it to the nerve system of the human body: in the background, we make everything possible. It's video signals, audio signals, communications – you don't see it, but we are in the background, and if one of our services is not working, the whole event would stop.”

As soon as the host city is announced, the Riedel team springs into action by arranging a site visit to assess the technological needs and potential set up for the run of shows.

“I do the pre-planning with my technical lead engineer because it's not copy and paste – every arena is different,” he points out. “We have to adapt, but with our equipment and our products we are as flexible as we can get, and we have the experience. A big part of the information I need is where will everyone be sitting, so I can set the infrastructure up so that I can cover all requirements. We have to ensure that anyone at Eurovision can go anywhere, so they must all have radio coverage.”

if one of our services is not working, the whole event would stop.

In terms of the accreditation and access control solution for Eurovision, Riedel supplied the accreditation backend, including interfacing to the EBU’s main accreditation system, five work stations for the accreditation centre (including RFID printers), 12,500 accreditation passes, 20 turnstiles and five RFID scan poles for access control, as well as various associated services.

Lee explains how the accreditation solution performs an essential security and clearance function by providing people with unique access to different entrances:

“It's quite crucial,” he nods. “With accreditation, we have to make sure that only the people who are allowed to get access to certain parts can gain access, and our turnstiles are programmed to know if someone is allowed to come into a certain area or not. The EBU wanted turnstiles over security personnel; it’s like a machine at an airport where only people with tickets can enter. Each has an RFID reader implemented within the turnstile and the software is programmed to know that certain numbers are allowed entry or not.”

it's not copy and paste – every arena is different.

Meanwhile, Riedel’s fibre backbone included approximately 16 km of temporary fibre cabling and associated services. “All of our devices throughout the arena, including MediorNet (which is our main backbone for signal distribution) have to be connected to a fibre network,” he points out.

In terms of the all-important signal distribution and management, this was handled by MediorNet fibre-based stage boxes in a 22 x 20 gig Riedel standard rack, which processed approximately 200 audio and 400 video signals.

“MediorNet has a link capacity of 20 gigabit on the bandwidth and it can do video transportation from A to B, and audio,” says Lee. “We can connect them through one fibre cable and distribute audio and video over Ethernet, which is why we chose it for Eurovision. If we didn’t use MediorNet, you would have had a separated video network, an audio network and an IT network – which is three times more cabling. With MediorNet, we can do it with one device and with one fibre cable.”

everything at the Eurovision Song Contest is relying on our system.

The extensive communications solutions for Eurovision included associated services and components integrated and interfaced in Riedel’s main communications system, including a Motorola analogue radio infrastructure, 32 radio channels (simplex and semiduplex), 250 handheld radios plus associated accessories for broadcast and show related communications (show call, TV crew, stage management) and a digital Tetra radio infrastructure (DAMM) for non-broadcast and show related communications (venue, catering, cleaning, power, hospitality, etc). 

Also included were 30 talk groups, 270 Hytera handheld radios plus accessories, over 100 Riedel RSP Intercom panels, 170 Riedel Bolero full duplex wireless beltpacks and associated accessories and 10 Riedel C3 full duplex wired beltpacks.

Lee says that the RSP Intercom panels were essential to ensure that anything unexpected would be handled without issue:

“You can plan an event like this beforehand, but you allow for some flexibility on site because

everything at the Eurovision Song Contest is relying on our system – even the OB van had a Riedel intercom system, so it was quite easy to connect that with the show’s intercom system. This meant that everyone was connected to our communication system (whether that be show-critical staff, police, security, cleaners or hospitality), which gave us the flexibility that was needed.”

Bolero is one of our biggest success stories - it's such a game changer.

Meanwhile, the Bolero wireless intercom system is capable of supporting up to 250 beltpacks and 100 antennas in a single deployment, which made it the most effective solution possible for Eurovision’s complex needs.

“It was absolutely effective; I would say the Bolero wireless intercom backpack is the best one on the market,” says Lee.

The beltpack itself features six intercom channels and a separate ‘reply’ button for a quick reply to the last caller. “And it is in real time,” he points out, “so as you can imagine, there were so many people relying on that. You can listen to six channels simultaneously, or select one as the most important one, you can control a wireless intercom with a button on a panel, you can control volume, you can do point to point calls or talk to a radio channel. It was one of the main communication tools for all the stage and floor managers. Bolero is one of the biggest success stories in our company in 36 years. That product has done more than we expected – it's such a game changer.”

Riedel’s commentator solutions included 45 CCP commentary panels, 90 monitors and centralised routing facilities including commentary and coordination lines for 30 MCRs in 24 countries across Europe and the world. The commentary for each country is a key part of the experience for viewers at home during the live finals as each gives their unique take on each country’s introduction film and chosen singer.

“We used the CCP commentary panel for Eurovision, which is the same solution we use for things like the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup,” Lee explains. “It uses a zip server which has an IP connection on site from Liverpool, running via internet to the host countries’ own MCRs, so we connect the commentator panels. At the push of a button, they are live on the air and the countries are getting the live programme feed. And if for any reason our intercom system is not working, the commentator panels have a four wire output, so we have a backup solution making sure the audio will always go to the countries.”

As Lee is looking ahead to Eurovision 2024 in Sweden next year, he is satisfied that 2023 was another technically-successful show:

“It went very well and everything worked out,” he says. “The grand final was a huge success. This was one of the best lighting and stage designs I have ever seen at Eurovision over the last four years, so it will be quite a big task for the next country to top that! We finished the show this year with a smile.”

Read Headliner's interview with Eurovision 2023 winner Loreen, here.