Former IMG production boss Graham Fry presented with Outstanding Contribution Award at Sport Production Summit

Graham Fry, left, presented with the SVG Europe Outstanding Contribution to European Sports Broadcasting award in Amsterdam by David Shield SVG global director of engineering technology, IMG

Former IMG production managing director Graham Fry was the proud recipient of SVG Europe’s Outstanding Contribution to European Sports Broadcasting award at the Sport Production Summit today.

The Award is given annually to an individual who has changed the nature of sports content creation and distribution within Europe – an apt description of Fry who played an instrumental role in building IMG into a production powerhouse, striking era-defining deals and forging longstanding relationships with clients – and competitors – along the way.

Fry was presented with the Outstanding Contribution award in front of a packed audience at De Hallen Studio’s in Amsterdam, where he shared his thoughts on the industry and spoke about his route into broadcasting, which began with an assistant producer role at BBC Sport.

“One of the mantras that I carried into my role as managing director at IMG is that a team is only as strong as its weakest link. And in those early days, I was the weakest link in in Grandstand,” said Fry.

“I got so much help from so many people who taught me all sorts of tricks of the trade. That was a big part of my development because I worked every Saturday and Sunday on Grandstand and in that time, I worked on pretty much every sport you could cover, whether it was bobsleigh, skiing, or rugby league. It was a really great experience for me.”

That experience was put to good use producing staples of the BBC’s sports output including Wimbledon, Match of the Day, Ski Sunday and on major events such as the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, FIFA World Cup and European Championships.

But the world of broadcasting was changing, and with BSB (British Satellite Broadcasting) launching in 1990 with sport a key part of its offering, Fry was offered an executive producer role. Despite his affection for the BBC, it was an offer which proved too good to turn down.

“I loved it at the BBC,” said Fry. “I loved the people I worked with, and the projects I worked on. But [BSB] offered me an executive producer job, which effectively doubled my money and so with a young family I decided to go for it.  Satellite TV was exciting, but when I left the BBC, it was with a heavy heart. Part of me thought, ‘no more World Cups, no more Euros or Olympic Games, no more Grand Nationals or Open golf championships. But I ended up working on all of them again.”

Following BSB’s merger with Sky, Fry received an offer to join TWI – later to become IMG – as live golf producer. “I’d worked on a lot of golf at the BBC, so that gave me a huge advantage. There were two events in the first year and by the time I’d stopped in that role, I’d produced over 110 golf tournaments. And that was the start of my life at IMG.”

Premier League deals
One of the highlights of Fry’s career has been his work on and relationship with the Premier League, which began in 1997 when together with Canal Plus, Fry led IMG’s successful bid for the overseas rights to the league, which at that time was only a few years old. “That deal meant we had to do some highlight programming, and that was the start of our relationship with the Premier League, which continued to build until it was the biggest project we had in IMG, alongside the European Tour Golf production.”

Another landmark moment highlighted by Fry was IMG’s ongoing relationship with HBS, the host broadcast production subsidiary of InFront. HBS was host broadcaster for the FIFA 2002 World Cup, and following the demise of one its partners, found itself in need of a significant number of production crew. Fry called HBS to offer the services of TWI, which he described as “something of a longshot” because of the rivalry between the two production outfits.

“I didn’t really think it would happen, but it did, and so we got involved with HBS on the World Cup of 2002 in Korea and Japan. They needed a lot of experienced production personnel in very short order, so I offered the best part of 100 people to go on work on it, because we had a lot of experienced people working on the Premier League products.

“They knew we had a good reputation, and it was the start of an amazing relationship that continued with the formation of the Doha Asian Games Broadcasting Service and is still going strong in 2023, with IMG and HBS working together on the Rugby World Cup, for example.”

At the same time, IMG’s work producing content for overseas Premier League rights holders went from strength to strength.  “There was another important moment, which turned out to be a landmark for me. Every spring, usually just after the Premier League season ended, all the overseas licensees would come to London for a two-day workshop to run through our plans for next season.

“One of the things they said they wanted was content every day. We were already giving them content, probably five days out of seven, but they wanted something every day. So, we put cameras at training grounds and reporters in various parts of the country and then it dawned on me that if we’re doing something every day, we could produce a channel for them. And so I got to work one evening with my ruler, a pencil and piece of paper and drew up a what I thought could be a potential schedule. We presented it to the Premier League in December of 2009, they thought about it and then came to us in April of 2010 and said if you can do a channel for this budget, we’ll do it.

“And it was very, very lively! We got on the air on the first day of the Premier League season in 2010 by connecting wires to an old Beta machine in the carpark of our building on the Hogarth roundabout! But the channel has grown and grown, and I’m immensely proud of what it looks like now. It’s a terrific channel, and it will definitely go down as my greatest achievement at IMG.”

Fry continues to be involved in the sports broadcast industry via his consultancy business Fry Sports.

Subscribe and Get SVG Europe Newsletters