Planning for Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton is still at an early stage – despite the wedding taking place on April 29th. The BBC is expected to lead TV coverage of the event, which may well be the most watched in TV history with an estimated 2.5 billion viewers expected to tune in globally. (Over 750 million tuned in to watch Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.) The BBC will definitely be filming next April’s wedding in high-definition. Now the Beeb has started thinking about filming the Royal Wedding in 3D as well as BSkyB. All broadcasters, including U.S. networks, will be jostling each other out of the way for best advantage along the route. Middleton will travel from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace in a glass coach. But it’s inside the Abbey, where space is at a premium, that the BBC will feed footage to other networks. “In order to avoid a bun-fight, you have one production crew which produces the event for TV and then everybody draws on the feed,” says one insider.
It is unclear yet whether Royal Wedding footage will be made freely available. The assumption is that U.S. broadcasters will be charged for pool footage from inside Westminster Abbey. That’s what happened with Prince William and Kate’s engagement interview on November 16. ITN filmed it and sold it internationally with revenue going to Prince William and Prince Harry’s charitable foundation. Overseas broadcasters were charged $2,350 for each minute of footage. Other countries charge for TV footage to state events. U.S. networks paid more than $5 million for the rights to show events surrounding President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. HBO paid $2.5 million, ABC $2 million and MTV over $500,000 to cover inauguration balls live. French TV broadcaster France 2 has exclusive TV rights to this summer’s July 2 wedding of Monaco’s Prince Albert – although it paid less than the 400,000 euros ($545,000) Monaco had been asking for.
UK cinema chains including Vue and Cineworld are keen to show the event live. Screening it in 3D would be even better. Tim Richards, CEO of Vue, tells me he’s waiting to hear which broadcaster will be leading coverage. Vue has nearly 700 movie screens. Richards says: “From all the research we’ve done, there’s huge pent-up demand to see the Royal Wedding live on 3D. The quality of the transmission means that it really does feel as if you’re there. Obviously nothing beats having front row seats in Westminster Abbey, but this would be the next best thing.” The idea is that watching the Royal Wedding live with around 300 other people will pack an emotional punch that watching it on TV at home just won’t have.
Meanwhile, Sky scored a coup last week when Buckingham Palace announced that it would be filming the Queen’s annual Christmas broadcast this year and in 2012. Until now producing the Queen’s Christmas Message has been the preserve of the BBC and ITN, the news arm of ITV. Sky hopes to film this year’s Christmas broadcast in 3D. Production costs are estimated between $75,000-$150,000 and the broadcast is distributed for free.