Live from Roland Garros: Eurosport and VER principals discuss production partnership with Tennis Channel

Roland Garros, 4 June 2016 (L to R): Julien Schneider (VER), Jennifer Angell (VER), Don Burkhart (VER), Geoff Mann (Eurosport) and Isabelle Fontanel (Eurosport).

Roland Garros, 4 June 2016 (L to R): Julien Schneider (VER), Jennifer Angell (VER), Don Burkhart (VER), Geoff Mann (Eurosport) and Isabelle Fontanel (Eurosport).

Last month pan-European TV sports network Eurosport and Tennis Channel, the only 24-hour TV-based multimedia provider dedicated to tennis, announced a new agreement designed to allow Eurosport to benefit from additional content and technical expertise to enhance its coverage of the French Open. To facilitate the arrangement, Tennis Channel incorporated Eurosport into its Roland Garros infrastructure, which was provided by AV, audio, broadcast and computer equipment rental company VER.

The media management system stored all content generated during the tournament – ranging from full matches and highlight packages to images from alternative camera angles and graphics. Content was consequently made available for programming immediately or in subsequent weeks or months.

As part of the deal, Eurosport made content, footage, camera viewpoints and stand-up positions available to Tennis Channel to support its broadcasts within the US.

On the penultimate day of this year’s gathering at Roland Garros, some of the leading lights behind the partnership – including Julien Schneider, technical supervision engineer at VER; Jennifer Angell, production manager at VER; Don Burkhart, technical manager at VER; Geoff Mann, consultant for Eurosport; and Isabelle Fontanel, production manager at Eurosport – sat down with SVG Europe to discuss the roots of the new link-up.

What was the starting point for this collaboration?

Fontanel: It goes back to December and the start of a conversation between the Tennis Channel and Eurosport about a possible partnership and ways in which we could share resources.

Mann: It was a situation where there were a lot of resources being put into the overall production that were being duplicated. I am sure it happens across the board on many big events. There are similar requirements among a lot of major broadcasters – things like access to the main media storage facility, archive material, etc. In this case, it made sense to bring these things together and [implement a] shared arrangement whereby these facilities can service a greater number of people on-site.

What were the primary objectives in terms of production at the French Open?

Mann: For Eurosport I think we were looking to make our overall product a little more attractive to viewers. We are doing a lot more with multimedia platforms and wanted to be able to deliver a better product, as well as increase the amount of local versions and production for different-language versions. Through the collaboration with Tennis Channel and the infrastructure that VER has put in place, we have the ability to access [other] material – cameras that they have put in place, ISO cameras on certain courts, and so on. It all means different views on what we can offer [alongside] what is offered by the host.

Schneider: To talk you through the process a bit, we receive lots of information from the main feed and then Tennis Channel and Eurosport add cameras. For editorial purposes we share the feed to the same [EVS-based server network], and after dispatch we give access to this feed to the different countries.

Burkhart: The EVS infrastructure comprises 14 XT3s and 16 IPDirector stations.

How do you feel the collaboration has worked out over the course of the tournament?

Mann: There is no doubt that it has allowed greater flexibility for localised content and additional content. The implementation of [subscription service] Eurosport Player and virtual reality on the other platforms has given us access to a lot more material and [hence the ability] to attract a wider cross-section of viewers. [As with any new partnership] it’s been a journey, and there have been different philosophies [in evidence at times], but in the overall scheme of things I would say it has gone very well.

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