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  • Interview: Eurosport Chief Delighted With Figures for Vancouver Olympics


    Eurosport's head of broadcasting Arnaud Simon. (Eurosport)
    (ATR) Eurosport's head of broadcasting Arnaud Simon tells Around the Rings that its coverage of the Vancouver Olympics was a massive success.

    “We were very happy with the results of the Vancouver Games,” Simon told ATR.

    “We were more or less similar to Torino and that’s a big success if you compare it with the time difference. In Torino we were live for events all day long and for Vancouver we started at 6:30pm or 7pm, so this is something we are very happy about.”

    It was the broadcaster's 11th Olympic Games, dating back to 1992. It reported that a total of 120 million viewers watched the Games on Eurosport and Eurosport HD for more than 11 hours each, with an average of 30 million viewers every day.

    Eurosport notched an online record of 23 million visitors - a 100 percent audience increase over the Beijing 2008 Games. Its network of 10 language sites averaged 2.7 million users per day during the Games.

    According to Simon, Eurosport’s Olympic coverage also attracted more female and younger viewers than expected. Of those 30 million average daily viewers, 41 percent were women - 10 percent higher than during normal programming.

    Commenting on the younger demographic, Simon said the viewership was five percent higher than usual.

    “In terms of the younger viewers, our concern is that the Olympics might have a much older profile than football [soccer] which of course is true, but it’s good to know these higher numbers in this target audience.”

    He said this was partly due to snowboarding and freestyle skiing being shown in the late evening, starting around 11pm, attracting a younger audience at a time when they are more likely to be watching than older viewers.

    Staffing Eurosport's Olympics

    For the European sports satellite and cable giant, it was an enormous undertaking with 24-hour coverage being seen in 59 countries and broadcast in 20 different languages.

    Seventy staffers were on site in Vancouver and Whistler and an additional 500 personnel assisted from the broadcaster's Paris headquarters, in London and across Europe. Some 300 commentators were used.

    “It’s a big machine, dedicated to the Games for 16 days," he said.

    “We had French, German and English announcers in Vancouver, but as you
    Eurosport control room in Paris (Eurosport)
    can imagine, with 20 different languages, it’s impossible both technically and financially to have everyone on site. Most of the Olympic commentators worked from their home countries.”

    Eurosport’s broadcast schedule included two daily magazine shows - Olympic Breakfast and Olympic Finish Line - each packed with swiftly edited highlights, features, interviews and lighthearted musical montages. Most event finals were shown live, with coverage beginning each day around 6:30pm or 7pm CET.

    “Live is always our priority,” said Simon. “When some live action was on the air, we went to that action. In Europe these sports need to be live because that is what people are expecting.”

    Simon, who completed his sixth Olympics with Eurosport, said its broadcast philosophy also included unbiased coverage of events.

    “Of course we don’t have any national angle as we are a European channel,” he said.

    “In the commentary, you can bring some national flavor, but on the main program we’d rather show sport then the French, English or Germans [interviews or specific highlights]. First we are dedicated to the live, second to balanced coverage of the Games taking into account sport before nationality.”

    All features and long-form interviews were confined to the two magazine programs. Simon referenced an extensive piece done with American skier, Julia Mancuso, shot just prior to her competing in the giant slalom, following her silver medals in the downhill and super combined.

    “We wanted to take advantage of our proximity with these athletes,” he said. “We were in the chalet that Julia and her family rented to do interviews with them.

    "Winter sports athletes are not as famous as football players and most of the time you see them with helmets and goggles so you don’t get to know them very closely. We really wanted to go behind the scenes and that’s not always so easy at the Winter Games.”

    Simon also noted that unlike many other broadcasters covering the Olympics, in many ways the snow sports are just business as usual for Eurosport.

    “We have a relationship with these guys and girls all-season long,” he said. “They don’t only see Eurosport at the Games – they can see us every single weekend.

    "I really think we have strong credibility and intimacy with these sports, whether it be Nordic skiing, Alpine skiing or ski jumping.”

    With reporting from Brian Pinelli.

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