Snow limit for ‘boarding broadcast as production venture debuts

One of the prime movers behind leading snowboarding event The Arctic Challenge has been talking to SVG Europe about the impetus behind SHAR Productions – a TV production company that intends to bring dynamic, content-rich coverage of snow sports to viewers worldwide.

Henning Andersen’s 15-year journey to the creation of a bespoke broadcasting venture began with the launch in 1999 of The Arctic Challenge. Instigated by Andersen with snowboarding great Terje Haakonsen, The Arctic Challenge was the sport’s first major rider-owned championship, following the ‘go your own way’ lead instigated by athlete-powered events in tennis and golf.

The response to The Arctic Challenge was both immediate and positive: so much so that a mere three years later Andersen and his team initiated a new world tour event in conjunction with 10 other independent organisations. Originally known as Ticket to Ride but now operating as The World Snowboard Tour, this event has matured into the leading international snowboarding tour, representing benchmark events in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Oceania.

Expansion on an organisational level has been complemented by an acute focus on technological developments – culminating with the 2010 unveiling of the SLS or Snowboarding Livescoring System. Its launch paved the way for infinitely more specific scoring, ensuring that, for the first time, riders could be rewarded with points for every trick they do in the halfpipe or slopestyle; previously, they had simply received a 0-100 point score for their entire run.

Graphical representation for broadcast led the event organisers to collaborate closely with NRK’s in-house GFX department, whilst the latest World Snowboard Tour season has also yielded cooperation with Norwegian company Bavias A/S (concept and design) and Germany’s EIM Solutions (implementation). The Arctic Challenge’s host broadcaster, TV 2, has lent its support to the evolution of the graphics concept.

All ‘6Star’ World Snowboard Tour events were using SLS as early as 2011, but of these only The Arctic Challenge had the resources to help integrate the system completely into broadcast workflows. The need to standardise led Andersen’s team to take greater control of delivery for the latest, 2012/13 season, supplying the ‘above the line’ concept, graphics and director for all 6Star contests.

Now Andersen is preparing for the next stage of snowboarding’s media revolution with the establishment of a TV production company to create and produce coverage of World Snowboard Tour events, as well as other high-end sports and entertainment programmes. His partners in SHAR Productions are long-term collaborators Haakonsen, event director Hilde Rasch and director/producer Nico Sorensen.

Speaking to SVG Europe, Andersen indicated that he regards the new venture as the next logical step in snowboarding’s ascension to global sport status. “Our vision in [developing] The Arctic Challenge has always been to push the limit in all aspects – and the same applies to TV production,” he says. “So it is a natural development [to move] from instructing external production companies [about coverage] to establishing our own.”

The objectives for the new venture are concise but hardly unambitious. “We want to produce world class sports events, [and in particular] offer our expertise in integrating sports visions, format development, TV productions and graphics presentations,” says Andersen. “We want to focus on live [broadcasts] of major sports events, but also help organisers and rights’ owners to develop exciting formats and production plans. Our expertise is [in] action sports, but as more and more sports are taking inspiration from [this area] we would love to bring our skills to traditional sports as well.”

Expanding upon this theme, Andersen admits that he finds the coverage of many sports to be essentially “one-dimensional”, adhering closely to a timeline-based structure. “Snow sports – and in particular action sports productions – need to dig deeper,” he maintains. “By integrating the storytelling elements from video games, snow sports can be much more exciting and pedagogic.”

It’s early days, but Andersen envisions next generation coverage bringing together live broadcasts with second screen solutions for profiles, lifestyle videos, chat, viewer content uploads, in-depth background information and more. With action sports attracting the young and tech-savvy, an enthusiastic audience is ready and waiting, he believes.

“The convergence of media use has come a long way in action sports, and especially when it comes to viewer/user content production,” concludes Andersen. “The media world is awaiting an explosion of changes and services in this [overall] area, and production companies coming from action sports are in pole position to help mainstream TV stations, right owners and events thrive on this development.”

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