This article was originally published in the October edition of SportsPro magazine.
For much of 2018, Eurovision Media Services, the business arm of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), has been busy preparing for and executing on several major sporting events, including this summer’s inaugural European Championships, staged across Berlin and Glasgow in August. In preparation for these events, the company took steps to enhance its service for clients, rolling out new digital tools including a new nearlive clipping and web publishing solution, and an upgraded version of its content management platform, Eurovision Highway.
“We held several workshops with our clients this year where we discussed how they were going to use event content on different platforms,” reveals Marco Tinnirello, the chief executive of Eurovision Media Services. “Many expressed the need to create online and social media clips quickly to give audiences that ‘in the moment’ feeling. This feedback fed into our decision to develop these new tools.”
Tinnirello explains that Eurovision’s near-live clipping and web publishing solution enables rights holders to use event content using a simple online tool within seconds of the action taking place. This tool can be used to create video clips, exclusive interviews and highlights packages and publish them to online or social platforms with a single click. Additionally, Eurovision is able to provide a team of editorial staff to support clients who don’t have the time or resources to develop content in-house.
Supporting the web publishing tool is Eurovision Highway, which is essentially an online video library that enables rights-holding broadcasters to easily search, preview, select and download event content and additional footage created within the platform. These assets can be used to create new clips that showcase the event which can be distributed efficiently to their own TV channels, online and social platforms.
Looking back on the European Championships, which saw multiple sports federations come together to stage their continental competitions for the first time, Tinnirello says the project was “a big success”. Eurovision Media Services acted as the host broadcaster and distributor for the event, which was wellreceived by audiences across Europe despite being a novel concept.
The project itself was the first major multi-sports production carried out by Eurovision on such a large scale. With 300 on-site cameras and more than 900 staff spread across Berlin and Glasgow, plus a remote team located in Geneva, the company spent a considerable amount of time strategising and coordinating with a whole host of stakeholders.
“We’re well known for our global satellite and fibre network and for providing content distribution services, but this event also proved that we have the capacity to handle large productions too,” says Tinnirello. “I believe that taking the lead on the production and content distribution helped us to better serve our clients as we were able to provide a holistic approach to our services. We covered the whole value chain from A to Z, allowing us to meet the needs of content owners and rights holders at the same time.”
Tinnirello adds that general event feedback from rights holders has been resoundingly positive, with many reporting impressive TV ratings. A thorough debrief will take place in the latter months of this year, during which time Eurovision’s clients, partners, service providers and staff will fully assess the European Championships experiment.
Among the other innovations rolled out by Eurovision this year is a remote graphics solution that facilitates the creation of regionalised TV graphics more seamlessly than ever before. Where previously event operators had to produce several signal versions at the origin and transmit them separately to rights holders - a process that quickly becomes complex and costly when undertaken on a large scale - Eurovision’s new solution removes much of the legwork.
“Our latest remote graphics service allows our clients to adapt their TV graphics at the point of reception while still distributing one clean feed to all rights holders,” explains Tinnirello. “They can add a level of personalisation and get closer to their key audiences to maximise the event value for their sponsors and partners.”
Prior to its launch, Eurovision had been researching, developing and testing the solution for some time - first internally, and then in collaboration with sports federations on actual events. The first pilot test took place during the FIS Ski World Cup event in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, while further testing was conducted during the 2018 SportsInnovation Conference in Dusseldorf, Germany. In both cases, Eurovision gave clients exclusive access to witness the remote graphics solution in action in conditions similar to a real live production environment.
The beauty of the new graphics solution, says Tinnirello, is its inherent capacity to provide a more tailored and personalised experience. Through the use of regional alphabets, languages, units and brand logos, rights holders are able to deliver a more engaging viewing experience for audiences, which should result in improved TV ratings. For event operators, too, the solution raises the possibility of striking deals with several sponsors who can then benefit from on-screen logos targeted at different regions.
”Working closely with sport federations and managing their content, we understand their ambition to address audiences around the world as well as their potential sponsors,” adds Tinnirello. “Rather than imposing a common version of the sports programme on different regions, they would like to get closer to the viewers by using local languages, units, and regional sponsors.
“We often see on-screen sponsors with logos imbedded into the TV graphics and clients who distribute only one version of their signal around the world. Unfortunately, this means that the advertising is limited to that one sponsor. This limits the sponsorship revenue possibilities for event organisers who enjoy international exposure.”
Ultimately, says Tinnirello, the graphics solution has been created in response to the industry’s broader push for greater customisation, not to mention the fact that audiences now have certain expectations about the level of personalisation they receive from all channels, including television.
“We know that our clients want to drive more fan engagement across all platforms and devices,” he continues. “Live sport content will remain a valuable commodity in years to come due to the fact that it is ‘live’. That being said, there is an unprecedented amount of content produced at the venue of these events that can be capitalised on.”
Indeed, when it comes to engaging audiences with compelling content, Tinnirello sees myriad opportunities, not least in the continued emergence of overthe-top (OTT) streaming services. But with opportunity comes a certain amount of risk. With respect to OTT, Tinnirello says the key for rights holders will be in tailoring the right types of content to the right platforms, and in delivering highquality video content to audiences that now demand it.
“OTT allows our clients to directly engage with viewers, collect data and monetise their content in different ways than linear television,” he says. “However, it’s not that easy to deliver the right content, at the right time, on the right platform and we know that sport federations still want to put their content on both first and second screens.”
Looking ahead, Eurovision has a busy few months coming up. In addition to working on major soccer, cycling, and rowing events, the company’s focus will soon shift to a busy season of winter sport, while it is also gearing up for the industry’s autumn trade shows, including Sportel Monaco. Preparations are also underway for events taking place in 2020, which will, of course, be another banner year for international sporting occasions.
“As you saw with the European Championships, together with the EBU, we provide an end-to-end solution for our clients from the acquisition of sports rights, through production and venue services, to distribution,” says Tinnirello. “We also enhance, enrich and create additional content through our digital services to ensure our clients maximise their content reach.
“In other words, our strategy is to keep content at the centre and make it easy for the content owners. This is what we do and the direction we will continue to head.”