EXCLUSIVE: Europe’s public broadcasters are swinging for the fences with the launch of a free streaming service, Eurovision Sport.
Organized by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the alliance of pubcasters in Europe, the new streamer hits over 50 markets today. The EBU claims it will be a gamechanger for viewers and rights holders.
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A handful of sports dominate the TV market in Europe, most notably soccer, which commands the most viewers and the richest rights deals. The EBU’s tactics with Eurovision Sport involve gathering sports that sit in a tier below, and making them available collectively in one place.
“The great learning when I came to the EBU was the power of aggregating smaller sports together, like the [International Olympic Committee] have been doing for generations,” Glen Killane, Executive Director of Sports at the EBU told Deadline. “Small groupings of audiences across 50-plus territories can become quite a large number of people, and then you multiply that by 15, 20, 25 sports across every country that we represent. We will go worldwide as well.”
Eurovision Sport springs out of the starting block with sports including athletics, gymnastics, skiing and swimming. The first events it will carry include next month’s World Athletics Indoor Championship, the ongoing World Aquatic Championships and the soon to start Biathlon World Championships. The aim is to bolster a seven-strong line-up of disciplines and do deals with up to 25 federations.
Discussions are underway about bringing FIFA+, the app and OTT service run by soccer’s world governing body, to Eurovision Sport. It would be added to the line-up on a non-exclusive basis. International moves are also afoot, with Canada’s CBC on board and talks with other affiliate members in Australia, Japan and elsewhere taking place.
Killane said developing this platform has been a key goal since he took the helm of the sports division in 2020, as he believed the plethora of streaming services was creating “a horrible consumer experience.”
“How many apps do we actually need? And how many subscriptions do I need to have to watch the sport I love?” he added.
Eurovision Sport is possible because the EBU negotiates collective sports rights deals on behalf of its members. It currently delivers 43,000 hours of sport a year, sourced from 28 international federations.
The streaming service will carry events that its members do not have on their core services, and it can be accessed as a standalone service or integrated by a broadcaster, effectively making it a dedicated sports player for them.
The business piece also made sense for the federations that own rights for more niche sports. Often their events ae relegated to the outer regions of a pay-TV EPG or a corner of YouTube, which effectively means being forgotten when they need eyeballs to grow. “Particularly women’s sport — women’s football and other sports — really need that turbocharging,” said Killane. “Burying them behind paywalls at this point in time, at this embryonic stage, is diminishing the product and not helping it grow.”
For most viewers, ‘Eurovison’ is shorthand for the Eurovision Song Contest, the high-glam pan-European singing extravaganza. The new service supplants the singing spectacular’s ‘united by music’ tagline with ‘united by sport’. The connective tissue between the two, Killane said, in that sport, like music brings people together: “That collective experience is so important to our DNA, and that’s what we’re trying to do with this.”
Eurovision Sport will be ad-supported, where permitted, and will hit profitability in three years, according to the EBU’s business plan. A wider goal is changing how viewers think about sport, which, for many, has become synonymous with pay TV.
“One of the key strategic things that we set out when I took over was to reposition public service media back to the heart of sport in Europe,” said Killane. “To plant that flag again and say, ‘Listen, public service media plays a really important role in the overall sports ecosystem in Europe.’”
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