SportTech UK: Channel 4 looks to break down Paralympic barriers

One of the major things to emerge from the SportTech UK conference was the sheer effort that the UK’s Channel 4 is putting into its coverage of the Paralympic games. When it won the broadcast and online rights, it said at the time it “plans to show more coverage than ever before and to market the games with the biggest campaign in Channel 4’s history.” And it looks set to deliver on those promises.

For the UK’s ageing enfant terrible of the broadcasting landscape, it’s an event that is a perfect fit. “Channel 4 has a history of sports broadcasting with cricket in particular, delivering incredibly innovative test cricket coverage, but also we have a reputation for championing disability and alternative voices and are very proud of championing those voices in the mainstream,” explained Deborah Poulton, Sports Editor, Paralympics, Channel 4.

“Our ambition is to challenge perceptions of disability sport and to make household names of our British Paralympians. We want to raise the bar so high that the Paralympics will never again be a second thought,” said a statement at the time of the rights victory, a statement which Poulton echoed over a year down the line.

“We were very aware that the Paralympics always feels very secondary to the main Olympics, and so we plan this year to turn it into a real landmark success, which we’re going to do by delivering a 400% increase on the number of hours that the BBC broadcast from Beijing,” she said. “There will be 150 hours plus of coverage across eleven days on Channel 4, More 4, and across different live streams on the website.”

The broadcaster has brought together teams from Sunset + Vine and IMG to work on the project, Poulton estimating that all in all 400 people will be involved. It’s a massive undertaking and one that should produce some highly impressive coverage too.

“The Paralympics has never been broadcast to this extent before, though ABC Australia did 8 hours a day from Beijing,” she said. “But we have some fascinating ideas about innovating around viewers understanding of certain races, such as swimming, which are made up of people of varying degrees of disability. Our job is to make sure that those things are understood rather than complicate the broadcasts.”

You can get a flavour of the forthcoming coverage at the Channel’s impressive Paralympic Website.



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