SPOTLIGHT: Key Learnings on Sport Event Coverage

25 Jun 2020

The latest edition of the UK’s Sport Industry Spotlight shed some light on event coverage, focusing on broadcasting, behind-the-scenes content, editorial, and what it takes to get eyeballs on all that sport has to offer.

The panel was made of up of Adrian Bevington, former Director of Communications, The FA; Anouk Mertens, Chief Operating Officer, ELEVEN Sports; and Lawrence Duffy, Managing Director, Aurora Media Worldwide.

Choosing the right outlets

The number of outlets available to rights-holders has exploded in recent years, with traditional broadcasters and media outlets joined by OTT and social media platforms, as well as a number of other online players. 

The panel was in agreement that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for rights-holders when deciding where to go with their live broadcasts, or indeed additional supplementary or behind-the-scenes content (which the panel also heralded as crucial to success).

Instead, a nuanced approach is likely to yield the greatest success, especially with the ability to segment rights across different platforms in order to amplify the sport or the event.

“You now have so many platforms it’s very hard to articulate exactly which way you should go - it’s about knowing the exact model that suits your needs as a rights-holder,” said Bevington. “It’s more about understanding that you have to segment [your rights], because you have to make sure that you amplify your sport, particularly if it needs that oxygen, and so that it doesn’t get lost. But it’s also about getting as much value for your sport as well and using as many platforms as possible, because different people want to watch sport on different platforms. That’s only going to increase, not decrease, as we move forward, and we have to be in tune to that in every decision we make. It’s the same with looking at how we handle media briefings as well, which have transformed over the last decade.”

The power of storytelling

The attraction of sport for sponsors relies partly on its reach, but also the stories it can tell. 

Segmenting live rights on different platforms is an approach favoured by the panel, who also spoke of the importance of non-live content - be that behind-the-scenes content or the rise of the sporting documentary.

Mertens - who, as MD of NEO Studios, was heavily involved in the popular Leeds United documentary ‘Take Us Home’ - spoke of the importance of having compelling characters who come through in the documentaries, and how ultimately the genre owes its success to the people on screen, and not the sport itself.

“For me,” she said, “the sport is the means of telling the story, but the story is ultimately told through its characters, so you need to have interesting characters. Depending on the sport - and we’re working on some projects with emerging sports and very cool new sports that are about to hit the market - it helps the visualisation if you have something new. But if that’s all you have, and you don’t have the people who tell the stories, it becomes a thin line.”

Risk v reward

While sports fans are obviously interested in the sport they are sitting down to watch, the human drama aspect has never been far from the surface.

Duffy spoke from a production point of view, highlighting the importance of understanding the innate drama that some of the best sporting moments create by themselves, without any need for extra hype or, in this case, extra editing.

“The (2019) Wimbledon final caught my eye. Roger Federer, the best player ever with a racket in his hand, and Novak Djokovic, this incredible sportsman, going toe-to-toe in that final. There was extraordinary drama being played out and sometimes, at that level, when you’re producing, you just have to let the pictures take over. There are so many tools in a producer's armoury these days, but when you have moments like that, the storytelling, the passion, the characters, and the moment is so unique that you just have to let it play out.”

The next big thing

But despite the drama innate in sport, there are always advances in technology and changes in circumstances that will impact how sports coverage is delivered in future.

Duffy spoke of the challenges that climate change and sustainability will have on global sport coverage, predicting that remote production will become more widespread as producers in another country work on events happening somewhere else in the world.

But some things were already in the pipeline and will continue to evolve organically - such as the integration of data into sports coverage.

Bevington said: “From a football point of view, there’s so much data out there and so many clubs, agencies and broadcasters are using variations of data, and that is increasing as we speak, with various companies currently testing things. Then there’s lots that I want to see on the screen as a consumer: comparisons, live interaction, and also things that are directed at me personally and that understand my needs during the course of a game that can be aimed directly at me. For me, [the next big thing] is increasing the quality data we’re seeing on screen and the volume of it.”