It was the first to broadcast the Olympics 24 hours a day, which it began doing in Barcelona in 1992. It will do the same at London 2012, and will be the only commercial broadcaster to show the pictures in the UK.
London 2012 has already caught the imagination of the British public, but although Eurosport has extensive experience of the Olympics and pan-European interests to serve, according to chief executive Laurent-Eric Le Lay the company has not become blasé about this quadrennial “fête du sport”.
“It is never just another Olympics,” he says. “It is always a very special moment, and our goal is always to do something new for each Olympic Games.”
A European Games always holds particular appeal for audiences on this side of the world, says Le Lay. One reason is that time differences will be smaller than when it is held on other continents, meaning viewers are able to see more of the events during the day. Eurosport’s approach to covering the Olympics is different from those of the national broadcasters within each country, he adds.
While the likes of the BBC will generally cover each sport from the angle of the national athletes, Eurosport covers the Games based on the event it has decided to feature. It means that if, for example, the channel decides to cover swimming, it will usually stick with that event whatever happens. A national channel, meanwhile, might change focus because an athlete of that nationality has a chance of a medal elsewhere. It gives Eurosport a point of difference that is of interest to both advertisers and viewers, Le Lay argues.
As an official broadcaster of London 2012, Eurosport will take advantage of its right to use its association with the Games in its own marketing. This will begin in the summer.
Le Lay says: “Of course we use the Olympic Games to promote the fact that the event is on Eurosport. The International Olympic Committee takes advantage of us also because we start our Olympics broadcasting before the Games begin. In the run-up to London 2012, we are going to make the swimming World Championships this summer part of our Olympics coverage. A channel like Eurosport is very important to the IOC because for many Olympic sports, Eurosport is the only channel that broadcasts their European and world championships.”
As many sponsors of the Olympics will already have discovered, the image of the Games is strictly controlled, both by the IOC and the organising committee of the host city – in London’s case, Locog. Le Lay admits that Eurosport has to work closely with these bodies and follow their lead when determining how the Olympic assets will be used in marketing, and how the Games itself is broadcast. He says this is understandable, however, and is one of the reasons the Olympic name retains its prestige.
“Every sport has values, and the Olympics, of course, has very strong values. But they deliver a very good product that is broadcast in HD, is very well produced and very professional with a lot of information. The Olympics is every four years, so the IOC and the Olympic organisers are right to want them to be perfect.”