COVID-19 Impact: Eurovision Sport negotiates archive access deals

Eurovision Sport is negotiating deals for the archived content to fill the slots as the LIVE sports action has come to standstill due to the global Coronavirus outbreak.

Eurovision Sport, EBU Members and international sports federations and rights owners are collaborating to ensure that sport continues to be a focus for social cohesion in the weeks to come, despite the COVID-19 pandemic having forced the cancellation or postponement of major sporting events around the world.

The plans centre around providing engaging and entertaining sports content, such as archive coverage of great sporting moments, discussion programmes and digital coverage of virtual sporting events, as an alternative to Eurovision Sport’s comprehensive slate of live and exclusive international sports coverage.

For example, Eurovision Sport has negotiated with its federation partners to enable EBU Members to gain access to archive footage of top sporting events, including FIFA World Cups, World Athletic s and European Athletics Championships and cycling’s entire Tour de France archive, stated a Press release.

Public service media are uniquely placed to reach collaborative agreements with federations and rights-owners on how to continue to serve sports fans, and EBU Members are already finding creative and innovative ways to celebrate sport’s role as a source of strength and inspiration in a time of crisis.

In Italy, where the pandemic has struck especially hard, EBU Member Rai has launched Raisport Classic, a daily free-to-air channel distributed via digital-terrestrial platforms and showing archive sports content between the hours of midday and midnight. Focusing on Italian sport, the channel is showing football, athletics, basketball, volleyball, cycling and skiing, among other sports.

In the UK, where public-service broadcasters are among a list of government-designated ‘key workers’, the BBC has replaced its iconic Match of the Day Premier League highlights programme with a series of ‘Top 10’ TV podcasts. In the first two editions, presenter Gary Lineker and his guests debated the greatest captains and greatest goal scorers of the Premier League era from Lineker’s kitchen, with the help of archive clips of the chosen players in action.

In Switzerland, EBU Member SSR has responded to the crisis by agreeing a new contract with Cycling Unlimited, organiser of road cycling’s annual Tour de Suisse, to broadcast ‘The Digital Swiss 5’, a virtual online version of the stage race. Under the terms of the three-year agreement, beginning with this year’s edition on 22 to 26 April, a selection of riders from top-tier UCI WorldTour teams, will virtually cycle stages of the tour at home on their intelligent roller trainers, with the course simulation enhanced with live images of the professionals and their performance data, for the benefit of TV viewers.

In Sweden, Radiosporten, the public-service radio station, is broadcasting daily short clips of classic moments from Swedish sport, preceded by a quiz. The clips are then being collected together into a new digital archive.

Runar Østmo. Chair of the EBU Sports Committee, said : “At this special and critical time, it is really good to see the initiatives and creativity that both the EBU and each of its Members are delivering to our sports coverage, through storytelling, presentation and innovation. For us, as public-service broadcasters all over Europe, sport is history, tradition and emotions. In this situation – even without live sports – we can still share stories and moments that can be enjoyed over again – while we all stay home and stay safe.”

Stefan Kuerten, Executive Director Eurovision Sport, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting one of the most serious threats to society that most of us will have ever experienced, but these examples show that it is at just such times that the public-service ethic of the EBU and its Members asserts its true and unique value.

“We and our Members are working with our trusted partners to find imaginative ways to continue to serve television viewers, who might be unable to leave their homes because of the crisis, through the power of sport. The EBU-community is, and always will be, there for them and for us all in the bad times as well as the good.”

The Eurovision Sport portfolio was recently augmented by a new, long-term exclusive rights agreement with the International Biathlon Union and extensions of existing rights agreements with road cycling’s Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.

These agreements complement an existing line-up of partnerships with top sports organisations including: FIFA; UEFA; the International Paralympic Committee; World Athletics; European Athletics; the European Championships Munich 2022; the UCI; FINA; FEI; World Rowing; the International Canoe Federation; United World Wrestling; EWF; the FIS; Ski Austria; SwissSki; the UEC; LEN; and the UEG.

Eurovision Sport, the sports arm of the European Broadcasting Union consortium of free-to-air broadcasters, has negotiated agreements with rights-holders to allow its member broadcasters to air archive footage of high-profile sports events.

The Geneva-based body has held discussions with the federations and promoters with whom it holds agreements to enable its members to offer archive content from events such as football’s Fifa World Cup, cycling’s Tour de France and the World and European Athletics Championships.

Broadcasters continue to scramble for archive content amidst the global shutdown of live sports events caused by the ongoing spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eurovision Sport said: “Public-service media are uniquely placed to reach collaborative agreements with federations and rights-owners on how to continue to serve sports fans, and EBU Members are already finding creative and innovative ways to celebrate sport’s role as a source of strength and inspiration in a time of crisis.”

Fifa recently made moves to allow its broadcast rights-holders free access to archive rights to help them fill their schedules given the scarcity of live sport on offer.

Eurovision Sport last month announced the extension of its Tour de France and Vuelta a España rights in a new agreement with rights-holder ASO. Eurovision Sport also holds to the World Athletics Championships until 2023 and its European Athletics agreement runs until 2027.

Additionally, Eurovision Sport holds broadcast rights deals with the International Paralympic Committee, the 2022 European Championships in Munich, cycling’s UCI and UEC, swimming’s Fina and LEN, World Rowing, canoeing’s ICF, United World Wrestling, gymnastics’ UEG and skiing’s FIS, Ski Austria, and Swiss Ski. A renewed agreement was also recently signed with the International Biathlon Union.

Stefan Kürten, the outgoing executive director of sport at the European Broadcasting Union, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is presenting one of the most serious threats to society that most of us will have ever experienced, but these examples show that it is at just such times that the public-service ethic of the EBU and its Members asserts its true and unique value.

“We and our Members are working with our trusted partners to find imaginative ways to continue to serve television viewers, who might be unable to leave their homes because of the crisis, through the power of sport.”

EBU member broadcasters across Europe have reacted to the slew of cancelled and postponed sports events with a mix of archive content, discussion programmes and coverage of virtual sports events.

Italian public-service broadcaster Rai moved to counter the content by launching a dedicated free-to-air archive-content channel, Raisport Classic. The channel is focused on Italian sport and chiefly football, athletics, basketball, cycling, skiing and volleyball.

In Switzerland, public broadcaster SRG SSR has agreed a three-year deal to show a virtual online version of road cycling’s Tour de Suisse. Tour de Suisse, team-owned cycling promoter Velon and virtual cycling platform Rouvy have created the Digital Swiss 5, which will consist of five one-hour races taking place between April 22 and 26.

UK public broadcaster the BBC has replaced Match of the Day, its Saturday-evening Premier League highlights programme, with TV podcasts featuring presenters and pundits from the show, including former England footballer Gary Lineker.