The European Broadcasting Union has opened a new chapter in its relationship with sport with the launch of Eurovision Sport and Eurovision Services to deliver the full range of rights management, production, distribution and digital services to support members, clients and federations around the world.
The EBU has been a key player in sport since its launch back in the 1950s and remains firmly committed to the principles of delivering free-to-air sport. Representing a network of 117 public service media organisations in 56 countries, the EBU has long worked to keep the best sporting events free to all – on all platforms.
But the changing broadcast environment and ever-evolving sport market has seen the needs of broadcasters and the demands of consumers change fundamentally.
And according to Eurovision Sport director Stefan Kürten, the launch is far more than a rebranding exercise: “To get ahead of changes in the sport media landscape, we decided to transform ourselves and be more agile and flexible to adapt to the rapidly changing market.
“In cooperation with Eurovision Services, we are also in a strong position to offer market-leading media solutions to all stakeholders.”
Eurovision Sport currently manages the media rights for 18 different sports, handling more than 30 different contracts every year. This represents over 28,000 hours of programming which Eurovision Services often produces, distributes and personalises on behalf of federations.
Kürten continues: “We are unique in offering federations both visibility and revenue.
“Because we are representing a union of all of the most powerful free-to-air broadcasters in Europe, we are driven by their aspirations and ambitions to focus on what is best for sport. We’re not driven by generating profits on the back of sports.
“That means keeping major sporting events accessible to all – regardless of income – as well as helping to nurture and grow developing sports, winning new audiences and encouraging participation.
“That’s something we have succeeded in doing for many years; our partnership with federations like the International Biathlon Union is just one example of how consistent and creative coverage has seen audiences grow every year and moved the sport from being a niche activity to a leading part of winter sports for millions.
“We achieve success for all stakeholders through collaboration allied to expertise, combined with skill and with passion. It’s a win-win scenario for sport and all sport stakeholders.”
To strengthen its position on the market, the EBU decided to create a subsidiary for its business services. The new entity – Eurovision Services – was launched on 1 January 2019.
For Marco Tinnirello, chief executive of Eurovision Services, the creation of the new subsidiary delivers the agility, speed and clarity which enables it to maximise the value of its offer to a wider range of users.
“Business services have always been a core activity of the EBU alongside member services,” he explains.
“While Eurovision Services will continue to look after EBU Members, our role as a go-to media services provider is to offer the services required to ensure that all stakeholders benefit.
The market is moving so fast and is so dynamic that we really wanted to create an entity that would deliver the right products to the right clients at the right time. Our new service portfolio has the agility and ability to adapt and enhance content to meet market needs.”
Tinnirello and his team understand that “great events don’t happen by accident” and that, in a highly-competitive and fast-changing media environment, there is increasing pressure on event organisers, sports federations and media organisations to deliver outstanding experiences.
“For our clients the stakes have never been higher and the need to maximise content value has never been greater. We bring the expertise, experience and resources to help produce, distribute, personalise and optimise content,” Tinnirello says.
“We put content at the heart of our new strategy because we want to allow our clients to focus on what matters to them – creating truly amazing content and events.”
Rapid changes in the media environment have created new demand and different expectations across stakeholder groups and the emergence of major new players in the distribution arena is sure to impact the market in the years ahead.
But, says Tinnirello, the ability to cover the full value chain and help clients bridge the gap between content creation, these new platforms and their other distribution channels is a key element of their new service portfolio.
“The current media market demands flexibility. This can be challenging for us and other organisations when it comes to committing large investments in technology or equipment.
“We’ve addressed this by implementing an IP Network to allow us to provide dynamic services for our clients, such as monitoring their own media network operations and content media workflows, without having to invest more in core infrastructure,” he says.
“Our suite of digital services, including Eurovision Streaming and the Eurovision Near-Live Clipping Platform, also allow our clients to immediately make use of available content from the event to promote their key messaging and reach audiences on different platforms around the world.”
In fact, the European Championships, a complex major event in which some 4,500 athletes competed in seven different sports in host cities 1,600km apart, provided an ideal showcase for how Eurovision Sport and Eurovision Services can work together to deliver outstanding sporting occasions.
Kürten says: “We worked hard with Members, partners and the sporting federations, from the inception of the combined European Championships, to bring a truly innovative experience to audiences across Europe and the world.”
“Being close to the content means we are in a unique position,” says Tinnirello. “Together with the EBU and Eurovision Sport, we offered services across the value chain for this historic event, making it easier for our clients to maximise their content value and promote their key messages to audiences on different platforms around the world.”
The event succeeded in delivering significant audiences for all the sports involved. Viewers in the ten key European markets tuned in for a total of over 567 million hours.