Paris 2024: WBD’s Scott Young on the advantages of a ‘home Games’

One month before the Paris 2024 opening ceremony, SVG Europe spoke with Scott Young, SVP content and production at Warner Bros. Discovery, to find out more about the broadcaster’s plans for the Olympics including the advantages of a ‘home Games’, delivering immersive coverage and the role of the IBC in an increasingly cloud-based world.

With the four previous Summer and Winter Games taking place in China, Japan, South Korea and Brazil, broadcasters in Europe – Warner Bros. Discovery included – are looking forward to the live sporting action at Paris 2024 taking place at favourable viewing times and without any of the restrictions that resulted from Covid.

“The level of excitement, the detail and planning the true immersive way we are going to broadcast these games is going to very much focus on the fact that the Games have returned to our backyard in the cultural home city of Eurosport, where we can access all the venues and athletes,” says Scott Young, SVP content and production at Warner Bros. Discovery. “And, with 28 days to the competition and 30 days to the opening ceremony, we have a lot of very excited people waiting to get going.”

“As we move to cloud-based and remote production, I can see the IBC becoming less relevant. And for us, diverting those funds and production space and headspace towards content production and storytelling is far more important than a very large space inside the international broadcast centre.”

The Games will begin, of course, with the Opening Ceremony on Friday 26 July. It will break from tradition by taking place outside of a stadium, turning Paris into the venue for the ceremony. A parade of athletes will be held on the river Seine, with boats for each national delegation equipped with cameras to allow viewers to see the athletes up close.

“An incredibly successful opening ceremony will help to raise everything else that follows,” says Young. “And everybody’s very focused on making sure that opening ceremony is produced correctly, the athletes have a great time and it’s all done safely. We’re very much looking forward to it and we’ve got some great content built around it as well.

“Many years ago, the committee said to me that they wanted it to be a memorable, landmark event and they want it to be a revolutionary Olympic Games, and I think they’ve gone an enormous way to do that. So I really wish them luck in making sure that Opening Ceremony comes off as planned, because I really think that will define the Games.”

Following the opening ceremony, a total of 33 sports and 321 medal events will feature live across WBD’s channels and platforms, including Eurosport and WBD’s streaming platforms – Max and discovery+ – which will be the only place to watch every moment of the Olympics in Europe.

“The unique aspect of these Games is that we will start every morning with breakfast programming, so we won’t be up against live sport because it doesn’t start until 9 or 9.30 CET, so every one of our major markets has the opportunity to create a breakfast programme where we can entertain viewers, talk about the sport and results and show interviews with the athletes and we can do a number of behind the scenes stories to really help viewers dive into the story of Paris 2024,” says Young. “And then, all of those programmes can shift to live coverage with different segments of audiences picking up on the particular sports they want to watch.”

Warner Bros. Discovery’s lineup of presenters and pundits (left to right): Arnaud Tournant (France), Cătălina Ponor (Romania), Ugo Monye (UK), Lydia Valentín (Spain), James Cracknell (UK), Boris Becker (Germany), Alain Bernard (France), Carolina Klüft (Sweden), Tom Daley (UK), Laura Woods (UK), Fabian Hambüchen (Germany), Fanny Rinne (Germany), Ranomi Kromowidjojo (Netherlands), Carla Suárez Navarro (Spain), Hugo Sconochini (Argentina/Italy)

Young has spoken previously about making the Paris 2024 a “truly immersive experience”. What this means for viewers, he says, is that they will have at their fingertips several different ways they can engage with the Games.

“We have a mix of three assets; our linear programming, our streaming and the content that will sit on our digital platforms on web, app and social. So as a fan, you can decide to lean back and watch the content that we will give to you on the Eurosport channels, which will be curated to the content that matters to those markets. Or, if you are a fan of a particular sport, you can dive into our streaming platforms (Max OTT across EMEA, and in the Sky markets of UK, Germany and Italy, Discovery+) and watch the sport or particular athletes uninterrupted all day long.”

With WBD positioning itself as the streaming home of “every moment” of the Games, and the promise of delivering some 3,800 hours of live action across its streaming platforms, there are of course some technical challenges.

Read more Paris 2024: Discovery unveils Paris 2024 studio and glimpse of production plans

Young explains: “It’s about getting every moment that OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services) is producing live, every moment of every competition, through our technical hubs and then onto the streaming platforms. We have spent a long time focused on the success of making sure there is nothing wrong in that chain so that when it comes out of OBS it comes to our two co-locations London and Paris where we will be bringing all the feeds, and at that point goes onto the Max platform and Discovery+. At the same time, it then splits to our linear producers so they can decide what they want to show.

“The point of difference with streaming is, if someone is a fan of swimming, they can watch that all day long, with commentary from that market – the multi-language feature on our platform is one of the key features.

“Another key feature is medal alerts and what we call our ‘key moments’ timeline marker. So if you’ve selected these and turned them on, you will then be alerted to every medal moment regardless of which stream you are watching. So if you’re watching swimming and there’s a medal alert that pops up about equestrian, it will tell you that this is going to happen and you can jump across to that feed.”

WBD’s main studios will be located at the Hotel Raphael – aka WBD House – overlooking the Eiffel Tower and stand-up positions with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. WBD House will be home to presenters and analysts plus competing athletes throughout the Games. In total, WBD House will have four studios, used by production teams from the UK, Sweden, France, Poland, Italy and Germany as well as three stand-up positions, one of which will be utilised by WBD’s global news network CNN, and live broadcasts for Spain, Finland and Denmark.

“We have 47 markets, and we commentate in 19 languages. Of those 47 markets, 10 have the ability to curate their linear channels very differently from the pan-channels, Eurosport 1 and 2 that will go out to all markets. So, 10 can break away and say, ‘We’re going to cover a different sport with our own presenters and pundits and commentators and make a feed that is far more curated to the local audience’.

“To manage that, we have a technical base set up at the IBC, so we make sure we get all the OBS feeds into the IBC. We then send all those feeds to both Paris and London. So we have a full backup of every feed that comes from OBS into our two main data centres. And at that point, we then feed them off into the different markets,” says Young.

The IOC expects some 15,000 people from OBS and broadcasters, including journalists and technical teams at the IBC in Seine-Saint-Denis, but with the Games taking place in WBD’s “backyard”, it’s perhaps not surprising that WBD’s presence at the IBC will be the smallest ever for an Olympics. “It’s made a few people quite nervous,” admits Young.

“The IBC, typically, is your home base for absolutely everybody. But our true IBC is Eurosport’s home office in Paris. We already have our own IBC for all our creative teams, editors, content makers, and most of our technical staff. So, what we have set up at the IBC is the technology required to connect OBS to our world. We’ve got some offices there and some production teams can be based out there if they’re going to Stade de France for example, so if they are at any venues in that region it’s a touchdown spot for them to work at but most of our teams will be actually based in our office in Issy-les-Moulineaux.

“OBS is exploring how to put more content in the cloud, which they started doing in Beijing and we started testing with them. If we can start drawing down full venue coverage from the cloud, that means we can put an IBC wherever we want.

Read more Paris 2024: WBD Sports promises ‘immersive’ coverage of the Summer Olympic Games

“So, once they start doing multi clip feeds, and then individual camera feeds that we can then all draw down out of the cloud, the IBC will become less and less relevant from a technical perspective. Obviously, there’s a safety net that everybody enjoys in making sure that some cables are plugged in but as we move to cloud-based production and remote production, I can see the IBC becoming less relevant. And for us, diverting those funds and production space and headspace towards content production and storytelling of the Games is far more important than a very large space inside the international broadcast centre.”

Previous Olympic Games have been characterised by technological innovation in the way content is captured, managed, delivered and viewed, and the IOC has stated that Paris 2024 will “redefine how viewers experience this global event”. Indeed, OBS has highlighted the use of cinematic lenses with a shallow depth of field to draw viewers into the action, data-driven graphics to display athletes’ performances in minute detail and further adoption of cloud-based technology to provide more efficiencies such as reducing the overall broadcast footprint and power requirements for broadcasters.

“We have been given a sneak peek from OBS of how they are going to cover the Games, and I think it will be revolutionary,” says Young. “There are some products that they are working on and some innovative ways of telling the story of the competition that is really going to bring Olympic coverage another level up. They are a world class broadcaster in their own right, and what we’ve seen in presentations they’ve made to the international broadcasters looks really exciting. So, I think the coverage of the Games is going to be a next level up.

“From our side, the ability to be everywhere without the need for traditional RF or connected means we can be portable and on site, and present at the right moments, and that will be our real innovation of these Games.”

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