Switzerland’s SRG SSR delivers comprehensive coverage of UEFA EURO 2016

As the Swiss team qualifies for the next stage of the UEFA Euro 2016, public broadcaster SRG SSR continues to provide quite a unique coverage. All 51 matches are broadcast live, and on three channels (or on the internet if two games clash as happened on Sunday June 19: Switzerland-France was broadcast on television and the Albania–Romania game online).

French-speaking RTS2, German-speaking SRF2 and Italian-speaking RSI2 all give extensive coverage to the competition with magazines before and after the match, featuring a mix of content provided by the UEFA (player portraits etc), SSR content and on-site interviews with players and coaches.

Such dedication comes at a price. According to head of major events for the SRG SSR business sport unit, Sven Sarbach, who took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions. “Our production budget for the UEFA EURO is SFR 18 million and we send a team of around 90 people to France, of which around 30 are technical.” It’s a huge commitment for a small country like Switzerland where the viewing public for the Games has so far reached a 544,000 peak (66.3% of the audience share) during the France/Switerland game on June 19.

The pubcaster has always viewed sport as a big part of its remit, and in a country divided between three different languages and arguably cultures, big events like the UEFA Euro 2016 are a way of uniting the separate parts which, for once, feel as if they belong to the same nation. And yet the pubcaster made a loss of SFR 90 million in 2015, due in part to the Swiss government’s decision to reduce the amount of the licence fee paid by Swiss TV viewers. Since then, a number of savings have been made, but not in sport, where the commitment to keeping a widespread coverage has remained unchanged.

Sports budget

While the amount paid by the broadcaster for the UEFA EURO rights remains confidential, Swiss press reports estimate it to be somewhere around SFR 60 million (including TV, Internet and radio rights). The figure for SRG SSR’s overall financial commitment to sport (including rights, production and technical costs and salaries) is around SFR 200 million per year, which is about 10-12% of its global budget.

Another reason behind such a commitment to sport, apart from the unifying factor, is that the Swiss pubcaster has very little competition when it comes to sport rights. This unlike the situation in France, for instance, where six or seven broadcasters compete for the rights of competitions like the Euros or the World Cup. SRG SSR is the major broadcaster in the country, although Telco Swisscom does provide access to some exclusive sport content on its Téléclub channel, including Premier League games in the UK or Liga ones in Spain.

Because the country is divided into three different speaking regions, it is structurally difficult to really make a profit such major events. The costs often outweigh the gains, which could explain why big international and private rights holders have not become involved in the bidding process for the Swiss TV rights.

One camera and one OB

Compared with the means determined by TF1 in France for instance (seven additional cameras to the EURO setup to get ‘before’ and ‘after’ interviews, fan zone coverage), SSR SRG’s camera infrastructure in France is fairly minimal during the competition: only one camera is dispatched on-site and is used for all the player and coach interviews. The broadcaster also provides an OB van which follows the Swiss team and sets up outside every stadium where the ‘Nati’ is due to play. According to Sven Sarbach, “everything so far has gone according to plan” on the production front, with no technical glitches or last minute adjustements to report. Swiss audiences in French, German and Italian parts of the country will no doubt hope that the same can be said of the Swiss football team as it continues to progress through the competition.

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