Warner Bros. Discovery Sports’ Scott Young on why the broadcaster is the globe’s home of cycling
Warner Bros. Discovery Sports has launched its season of cycling with sports fans promised a bumper year of world-class two-wheeled action from all four corners of the globe.
Scott Young, SVP content and production at Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe, told SVG Europe about the strategy for the broadcaster’s 2023 cycling coverage. “Our strategy behind cycling is the same as all sport across our platforms: bring our fans closer to the action and get to know the athletes and teams. Live sport is a magnetic form of entertainment. It connects with fans as they celebrate the success and challenges of their team, athlete and sport.
“Live is paired with engaging, packaged content that supports the live story. This is where we go behind the scenes, beyond the result, and give fans the ability to enjoy the sport they love. We strive to innovate in every way possible. Not just technically but across our on-air team, our content, innovative storytelling tools by embracing artificial intelligence (AI) technology.”
He goes on: “We are the home of cycling, and all forms of cycling are part of Eurosport’s DNA. We are fans of the sport, and love being connected to the athletes, driving innovation, and focusing on the stories behind the competition.”
“Gender balance is key not only key to serving all fans but being a true partner in the sport. We have virtually all of the key road cycling events from the UCI Women’s World Tour. The UCI Track Champions League is gender equal. That is the target for Mountain Biking. This is a commitment to the sport, the athletes and fans”
As to where Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe is taking cycling beyond 2023, he says, “bigger, better, more, and new”.
“Our commitment to cycling is best demonstrated through our internal events business, Discovery Sports Events. We are the promoter, producer, broadcaster and global distributor of the UCI Track Champions League, now in its third year, and the inaugural UCI Mountain Bike World Series. This thrilling form of cycling is going through an editorial and technical lift that I’m confident will resonate with existing fans and new fans.
“We love creating content and telling the story behind the competition. In many cases we take a host feed of the event, allowing us to dedicate our team to create pre and post content, speak to the competitors, and enhance the live feed with additional content. We have reporters on site, reporters on chase bikes on a live stage, plus a series of local market programmes focused on cycling. This ensures a world feed has a very local connection.”
In 2023, Warner Bros. Discovery’s coverage across discovery+, GCN+, Eurosport and Eurosport App will feature at least: 300 days of cycling, including every key race from the UCI World Tour; 210 cycling events live; 4,000 hours of cycling coverage, including replays; 1,000 hours of live coverage, including digital platforms; over 500 locally produced shows throughout 2023; comprehensive coverage of the UCI Women’s World Tour.
Warner Bros. Discovery will once again broadcast every stage of each of the Grand Tours – Giro d’Italia (6-28 May), Tour de France (1-23 July) and La Vuelta (26 August-17 September) as well as each of the Monument Classics and every one-day Classic race on the UCI World Tour calendar. In 2023, for the first time, viewers will enjoy deeper analysis of each stage of the Tour of Flanders (2 April) and Paris-Roubaix (9 April) Classic races with the race hosted from the mixed-reality Cube studio.
Gender equal audience growth
In terms of the company’s audience growth aims, on what that audiences is, how it sees this audience growing and how it aims to attract them, Young says: “Our audience is as diverse as the various forms of cycling that we broadcast across a season. The Grand Tours brings cycling fans of all ages. The Tour de France is a standout for attracting ‘a once in a year fan’ who loves the spectacle of the Tour, but that could be their one event for the season.
“Super fans watch nearly everything we produce. The UCI Mountain Bike World Series will bring a younger, possibly more engaged viewer. We spend a lot of time cross-promoting each of the events with a target to migrate a road fan to mountain bike and vice-versa.”
“We are fans of cycling and our teams across Europe love bringing the best of cycling to sports fans across all our platforms. Big screen and small, men’s and women’s, on road and off – cycling is our DNA”
After every race of the UCI Women’s World Tour was broadcast on its platforms in 2021 and 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery continues its commitment to gender equality this year with extensive coverage of every major women’s road race including the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (23-30 July), the Giro d’ Italia Donne (30 June-9 July) as well as next month’s one-day Tour of Flanders Women (2 April), Paris-Roubaix Femmes (8 April), La Fleche Wallonne Feminine (19 April) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes (23 April).
Adds Young: “Gender balance is key not only key to serving all fans but being a true partner in the sport. We have virtually all of the key road cycling events from the UCI Women’s World Tour. The UCI Track Champions League is gender equal. That is the target for Mountain Biking. This is a commitment to the sport, the athletes and fans.”
Social media is an important part of that strategy to take cycling fans forward, Young notes.
“Social media continues to play a great role in the conversation around sport. Live sport has a dedicated window. The various social platforms allows fans to share their experiences and opinions after the live coverage has concluded. Our presence on social is informative, more than trying to drive a narrative. We share short-form content, update news and results whilst encouraging our presenters and pundits to have a voice and share their opinions.”
New era for mountain biking
2023 also represents a brand new era for mountain biking, with the UCI Mountain Bike World Series the new home of UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in the formats of cross-country Olympic, cross-country short track, cross-country marathon, downhill and enduro and E-enduro, a move which unifies the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup experience for fans.
Warner Bros. Discovery will harness the breadth of its network throughout the year to further grow the sport and ensure the widest possible audiences are reached. Broadcasts of the downhill, cross-country and cross-country short-track elite finals and all major races from each race weekend on Eurosport will be complemented by coverage on Eurosport.com and discovery+ with global coverage on GCN+. Support races from each event weekend will be available to watch for free via Eurosport.com, GCN+, GMBN Racing YouTube channel and the official UCI Mountain Bike World Series YouTube site.
As well as broadening the reach of the series, Warner Bros. Discovery will revolutionise the way mountain biking is watched by fans across the globe, the highlight of which is set to be a bumper ten-day festival of mountain biking at Haute Savoie (7-17 September). Over 20 cameras, supplemented by three camera drones, will transform the mountain-biking viewer experience at each event – offering fans entirely different angles from each venue and ensuring every major moment is captured in every single race.
Meanwhile, Global Mountain Bike Network’s dedicated race-focussed YouTube channel, GMBN Racing, will offer superfans a deeper experience of the format with a dedicated news show, highlights packages, race previews, bike checks and exclusive behind-the-scenes content from some of the iconic rounds throughout the season.
Finally, the Cube will continue to play a key role in Warner Bros. Discovery Sports’ coverage of all of its many cycling events coverage. Young explains: “Technical innovation has to help make the sport and the achievements far more impressive. It should take you there. We continue to impress this message to every sporting body and federation.
“We present the Breakaway from the Eurosport Cube. This continues to be one of the best storytelling tools we have. It brings sport to life and gives our pundits the elements they need to help our audience better understand the sport they love. You’ll see a lot more of the Cube this season.
“We had a very successful experience with Whoop last season. Some riders use the wearable device which enables us to use their biometrics live in the programme. This was groundbreaking and the partnership recently won several brand integration awards.”
Young concludes: “We are fans of cycling and our teams across Europe love bringing the best of cycling to sports fans across all our platforms. Big screen and small, men’s and women’s, on road and off – cycling is our DNA.”
New series’ and the Olympics
In January, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) announced the launch new UCI Mountain Bike World Series brand – uniting all mountain bike’s major formats under a single brand for the first time – including cross-country Olympic (XCO), cross-country short track (XCC), cross-country marathon (XCM), downhill (DHI), enduro (EDR) and E-enduro (E-EDR). Last year, Warner Bros. Discovery was appointed to advance the sport of mountain biking as part of an eight-year agreement with the UCI, tasked with deploying its extensive assets and expertise, including Discovery Sports Events and ESO Sports, to elevate mountain biking to the next level and reach a global audience.
Preparations for next summer’s Olympic Games in Paris intensify with the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow (3-13 August) and the UCI Track Champions League broadcast live on Warner Bros. Discovery platforms, including discovery+, Eurosport, Eurosport App and GCN+.
The third edition of the hugely-successful UCI Track Champions League – a partnership between Discovery Sports Events and the UCI – will this year start in October, taking place across five rounds in four cities, ensuring all of the key riders can take part in one of the most innovative sporting series in the world.
Across Europe, viewers will be able to enjoy hearing the thoughts of some of the finest minds in the sport of cycling throughout the year, including Orla Chennaoui, Adam Blythe and Robbie McEwen (all UK); Guillaume DiGrazia, Jacky Durand and Steve Chainel (all France); Laura Meseguer, Eduardo Chozas and Dori Ruano (all Spain); Riccardo Magrini, Illenia Lazzarro and Luca Gregorio (all Italy); David Marcour, Lisa Brennauer and Bernie Eisel (Germany); as well as Karsten Kroon and Sander Kleikers (both Netherlands). Iris Slappendel, meanwhile, will be back on the bike reporting from inside the peloton at the Paris-Roubaix Femmes and Tour de France Femmes.