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Volume 21 No. 26
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Eurosport making most of media deal with unique production

Inside Eurosport’s offices at the International Broadcast Center in Pyeongchang, retired German ski jumpers Sven Hannawald and Martin Schmitt were recording an analysis segment in their native language. They’re on the same set Bode Miller will use for skiing segments later on, along with stars from at least three other countries.

 

Down the hall, the Norway control room buzzed with activity on the penultimate day before the opening ceremony. Kitty-corner, the Swedish room was also full. Two men walked by speaking French. Giving a tour to reporters was David Schafer, Eurosport’s American senior vice president of Olympic operations, and CEO Peter Hutton.

These polyglot, windowless offices are the proving grounds for one of the most surprising media rights deals in global sports: Discovery’s Eurosport acquiring Olympic rights in Europe through 2024 for $1.48 billion. Debuting at the Pyeongchang Games, the cable giant is eager to prove it’s not merely picking up where the old free-to-air broadcasters it replaced left off, but doing it better.

Former ski jumper Sven Hannawald provides analysis from “The Cube” in Eurosport’s Pyeongchang studio.
Photo: eurosport

“How do you get to the point where you say that Discovery has done this differently?” Hutton said. “How do you raise the bar? Do people say, ‘I love that because of what Eurosport did with it?’”

It’s a complicated task. Eurosport’s rights cover 48 countries in numerous languages — all of Europe except Russia, France and the U.K., with the latter two coming online after 2020. It will show the Olympics on its free-to-air channels in Norway, Germany and Sweden in addition to its Eurosport cable and digital outlets across the continent.

With 900 workers in Korea and 1,200 back in Europe devoted to the Games, Eurosport is tackling the Olympics with the idea of letting their country-specific broadcasters create the show they want with the benefit of a powerful shared-service agency above them, said John Honeycutt, chief technology officer.

For instance, Eurosport has 96 remote camera positions at the Olympics available to the entire organization to share, allowing different countries to dip in and out of sports without committing to a spot for the entire Games.

The set that Hannawald and Schmitt were on earlier in the tour has been dubbed “The Cube.” It’s a generic white box studio that supports a digital background which can be customized by sport and enhanced with highlights and graphics to aid in the analysis.

“The scale allows us to make that big technological innovation, the budget to setting up something like this,” Hutton said. “And then you roll in and out lots of local presenters in lots of local languages, so everyone looks like they’ve got high-tech German content, or high-tech Polish content. And that way, you’re using your spend to create a local impression.”