Team player: How Sky Austria’s Monika Coupkova went from a disco to a directorship

In the gallery at Sky Austria. Photos: Sky Österreich/Christian Hofer

Monika Coupkova, director of sports production at Sky Austria, had her first broadcast experience as a production assistant at public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting) in 2000. The position was temporary at the time, but the same year, she was asked to help out on a Sunday morning at a casting for a TV show.

“To be honest, I actually had other plans for Sunday, but I finally let myself be persuaded and one day later I was standing in a large disco, greeting casting participants from morning to night, having them fill out application forms and accompanying them to the actual casting part,” she says. “And that was the start of my TV career.”

After that first casting day, I got an offer the very next day from the casting agency at the time, which hired me as a casting editor for the TV show ‘Richter Alexander Hold’. “A few months later, I was headhunted by a larger agency, where I worked for a total of two years.”

At the 2022 Start of Season Event

From then on, everything happened very quickly. Coupkova was headhunted by Constantin Entertainment, the production company responsible for Richter Alexander Hold, as production manager.

“At my request, I then moved within the company and took over responsibility for many big prime-time shows,” she recalls. “From big music shows with the likes of Take That and Seal, to comedy shows, I was allowed to work on many different great TV formats.”

During her time at Constantin Entertainment, Coupkova came into contact with sports through a project. “It hasn’t let go of me since,” she says. “Entertainment is great, but it couldn’t give me those goosebumps moments in sport that unite the whole world. From the first moment, I was enthusiastic about these stadium moments, the mindset of my colleagues, and this honest and tough business. I love the technical abilities we have for delivering the best viewing experience to the fans out there at home.”

In 2006 her contract ended, and she continued with a short spell at the Prosieben production company, Redseven, where she was also responsible for big entertainment shows.

“During my time at Redseven, I got an offer to look after the entertainment formats for Sky,” she recalls. “I already knew some of the people in charge at Sky from my time at Constantin Entertainment, so the decision to switch was not difficult for me. I started at Sky Germany in January 2011 and worked in many different areas before moving to Sky Austria in 2016, first as head of sports production, and now as director of sports production.”

Fresh challenges

At Sky Austria, Coupkova brought some areas inhouse and built up a completely new department. “The first challenge was going through the change process and making the right decisions in that context,” she says. “The most important thing for me was always the interpersonal aspect, which still works incredibly well today. Offering trust, and letting people grow in their roles is very important here; that was the most important learning process for me. The team is only as good as each individual in it.

“The most difficult challenge so far has certainly been the COVID pandemic,” she continues. “Keeping the team excited about our work from home during this difficult period, keeping production at a high-quality level and having enough staff has been a big trial. In our job, it’s not possible to slack off; every single production is important, especially for our viewers, our customers who were sitting in front of the TV during that phase and couldn’t get into the stadium.

“In general, the pace of technological change is certainly challenging, yesterday’s production is no longer today’s production. You have to put yourself to the test every day.”

Those tests have been there since the beginning, but Coupkova feels that being able to deal with them very much depends on those who inspire you early on.

“As a woman, but especially as a newbie in TV, I always had extremely good superiors who gave me a lot of confidence and I was therefore able to learn and grow very quickly. Mistakes and wrong decisions are there to learn, I never let them throw me off track and worked on them even more.”

Live sport also has its own unique challenges. These include, “keeping up with the times, keeping an eye on new, future-proof ways of working, creating the best working environment for the teams in terms of workload and not forgetting the budget”.

“It’s not always easy, but that’s what makes it so exciting,” she notes.

“Our TV broadcasts unite people all over the world, the football fans enjoy the pictures, the reporting, and the technical features. It’s just great”

As for gender imbalance, she says diversity is improving. “You can certainly say that in many professions – but with us every day is actually different. With new rights come new projects, new ways of working and new processes. It’s a very creative job where you can realise yourself every day anew in the most diverse areas.

“We live in a very modern, diverse world today, the differences between men and women are not as severe as they were a few years ago,” she continues. “Women today study media technology, are very well educated in this field and bring all the skills with them, just like their male colleagues.

“Women should generally believe in themselves, ask for advice and also admit to themselves that ­– especially in the technical field – you can’t know and be able to do everything from the beginning,” she adds. “So stay authentic, stay true to yourself, be women and bring a little softness and emotion into a male-dominated world.”

Good times

In the last two years, Coupkova’s role has become more oriented around the Sky Group. “This will also become more important in 2023,” she says. “We are constantly working on innovative concepts and projects within Sky Group, both in direct TV broadcasting, which has an impact on the viewing experience of our clients, but at the same time, technical workflows behind the scenes are very important to us. Modern, future-oriented workflows in all areas are of crucial importance.”

She enjoys everything about the job and has many great memories. “I’ve been able to be part of and realise so many incredibly great productions in my professional career in TV,” she says. “From big prime time shows to boxing matches, live concerts in 3D, big football finals, foreign productions in Japan… I am very grateful for every single production and experience.

 “I particularly enjoy leading the team, having the opportunity to see colleagues grow, train them and accompany them on their professional path. It’s a task with a lot of responsibility,” she adds. “In addition, of course, there’s helping to create TV formats that the whole world follows with goosebumps, which is an incredibly great feeling every time. Our TV broadcasts unite people all over the world, the football fans enjoy the pictures, the reporting, and the technical features. It’s just great.”

Subscribe and Get SVG Europe Newsletters