Servicing the public: Looking forward to the European Championships with the EBU

With an audience reach of more than one billion people across Europe, the European Broadcasting Union’s Members are proving that there is still a huge appetite for public service broadcasting.

Servicing the public: Looking forward to the European Championships with the EBU

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – which has 73 Members in 56 countries in Europe, as well as a further 33 associates in Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas – enjoyed a particularly fruitful 2017, helping bring more than 200 events to audiences free-to-air.

EBU Sport works with over 30 international sports federations and is currently handling the media rights for 36 different contracts.

Of these, according to EBU Director of Sport Stefan Kürten, one of the highlights this year was the IAAF World Championships 2017. The biennial athletics championships, which was held in London this summer, was a huge success bringing over 2,300 hours of sport to more than 50 countries in Europe.

“We think that this is further proof of how well partnerships with public service media work across Europe,” says Kürten. “We increased the amount of live output by over ten per cent compared to 2015 and the average market share was higher in all the main European markets.”

The EBU is, however, not complacent and is investing in new sports and events. Next year, it is the broadcast partner of the inaugural European Championships, a new multi-sport event which synchronises the existing continental meetings of seven leading sports: aquatics, gymnastics, athletics, rowing, triathlon, cycling and golf.

The European Championships 2018 is being hosted by two cities: Glasgow and Berlin, between 2nd and 12th August. This ambitious multi-venue event will, of course, raise several organisational challenges for the EBU.

Stefan Kürten, director of sport for the European Broadcasting Union

“The European Championships is a brand-new and hugely ambitious event,” explains Kürten. “This new concept will help to increase the impact and reach of the individual events and win new audiences for the different sports.

“We estimate more than one billion people across the globe will be able to enjoy all the action from the comfort of their living rooms.”

Kürten believes this is “an interesting concept for multi-sport events” but admits that “from a broadcast perspective it is challenging because our Members must split their teams across the different venues in different countries.” Making sure the needs of all 73 Members are met is the EBU’s biggest challenge.

“When we look at our portfolio, we are helping bring a variety of over 18 different sports to European audiences,” states Kürten. “We really believe that we do a great job in raising the profile of sports – both large and small – and help federations build their fanbase.

“It is also so important that the leading sport events stay on free-to-air networks in the interests of fostering national cohesion and preserving cultural identity.”

While the EBU as an organisation is “constantly evolving the services and platforms that we offer”, Kürten is aware that “high financial investment from [new] companies” such as video-on-demand (VOD) platforms provides fresh challenges for Members. It is a change for which the Union is already preparing.

“The new guys are challenging us but I see it as a real opportunity for cooperation to engage with new audiences,” says Kürten. “If you want to stay relevant in Europe then an intelligent way of tailoring the rights is by investing in partnerships with us and our free-to-air Members, together with, for example an OTT provider. I see it as a challenge but also an opportunity.”

Together with Eurovision Media Services – the business arm of the EBU which offers a range of services to rights holders from host broadcasting to event management, content production and distribution – the EBU continues to innovate and offer services to sports federations right across the value chain.

While its foundations are in the most traditional forms of television and radio, it is ready for a new era.