Good luck watching the Euro 2008 semifinals on TV
UPDATE 4:34 P.M.: ESPN is slightly more clued in on what happened during the game. Spokesman Mac Nwulu said that during every big sporting event -- the Olympics, the Euro Cup, etc. -- worldwide feeds are coordinated through one point: an International Broadcast Center (we mention it below). In this case it was the IBC in Vienna. A lightning strike killed the feed from the game, and then when the tournament's governing body, the Union of European Football Associations, went to the backup feed, inclement weather killed that one too. Nwulu said sports producers told him that this was "the first time this has happened to this extent in recent memory."
ESPN was able to show fans watching the game, though not show the game itself, because that footage was from a “complementary” feed in Basel, which wasn't affected by the outage like Vienna was.
Also, to answer the question submitted by Roger Egon in the comments below: Neither ESPN nor any of the other international broadcasters were allowed to show any footage of the game that wasn't from UEFA, as dictated by the broadcasting contract.
So you planned to spend a good chunk of time today slacking off at work watching Germany play Turkey in the Euro 2008 semifinals, thankful that modern technology allows you to watch a game in Basel, Switzerland in real time.
But then a few minutes into the second half, your TV went black. ESPN, which is carrying the coverage in the U.S., stopped showing the game and panned over a fan center, and then went back to the anchors who were trying to explain why they weren't showing the game, which was locked in a 1-1 stalemate at the time. All the while you were shaking your fist at the screen, wondering why modern technology hasn't yet found a way to make live sports coverage foolproof.
So what happened? Is this some devious plan to make Americans realize just how much they love soccer when they can't see it? Or was something really, really juicy happening on the field?
First, be comforted that you weren't alone. Coverage was out in Buenos Aires, Montreal, France and Germany (can you imagine the locals flipping out?) as well, according to The Guardian. The signal came back on, then went out again, then returned to catch the stunning last few minutes (we won't spoil it for you, but scoring picked up).
And then, be reassured (or maybe you should be worried?) that the Union of European Football Associations (aka UEFA) didn't really know what was going on either. A volunteer who answered the phone at the Euro 2008 press center said there was a big storm going on in Vienna, the location of the International Broadcast Center, which apparently takes the raw feed and uploads it to a satellite. He speculated that the rain and strong winds were interfering with the satellite signal.
He knew more than the UEFA spokesman, who was able to confirm there is a big storm in Vienna, but said he'd have to call us back when he knows more. Stay tuned... (We know, you've been trying to!)
-- Alana Semuels
Semuels, a Times staff writer, covers marketing and the L.A. tech scene.
Photo: Turkey plays Germany in the Euro 2008 semifinals. Credit: Dominic Favre / EPA