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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 January, 2008, 12:00am

Market insiders predict Beijing Olympics will spur growth in region

New media platforms, high-quality programming and viewers hungry for more choice and specialisation mean sports broadcasters will be in big demand in Asia.

The catalyst for growth in the sports programming sector in the region will be the Beijing Olympic Games and the arrival of high definition broadcasting.

According to Arjan Hoekstra, Eurosport Asia's managing director, the run-up to the Games is creating significant business opportunities for operators.

Eurosport is relatively new to Asia, launching its service a couple of years ago, but is covering the Games for the European market.

'It's important not only to broadcast the Olympic Games on our channel but to give more exposure to sports that form part of the Olympic community,' Mr Hoekstra said.

He said business opportunities triggered by the Games included internet coverage for local and international markets.

Eurosport's website offers year-round Putonghua coverage of all Olympic sports.

'That side has become very popular, especially during the run-up to the Olympic Games,' Mr Hoekstra said.

According to Elgen Kua, corporate communications manager for ESPN Star Sports, new media platforms are a key way to reach viewers.

Through the broadcaster's sport websites, ESPN Star draws millions of users across the region by providing in-depth sports news, results and competitions.

ESPN Star Sports mobile service also delivers content to viewers on the move. Sports news channels such as Eurosport, which offers round-the-clock reporting on sports across the globe, are increasingly important vehicles for consumers to follow before and during the Games.

Mr Hoekstra said the mainland market was fairly restricted for broadcasting opportunities for foreign media companies.

'Only 30 companies worldwide have a licence to broadcast in China,' he said.

The Asian market still lags the European and United States markets. However, as Asia is far bigger than the other two markets many media companies are keen to have a slice of the pie.

With some industry estimates predicting the Asian market overtaking Europe and the United States in five to 10 years, market players are expected to boost their presence in the region.

'The market will grow significantly in coming years, with more demand for more different sports on television than is already available,' Mr Hoekstra said.

'People in Asia were quite restricted in terms of viewing exposure. [Until a few years ago] people were restricted to one, two or three channels. But now, in many markets, there are up to 10 channels, some of which are very niche and others are multisport.

'Today, sports programming operators are catering increasingly for the needs of their viewers. There's room for further growth. Some of the mature European markets cater for every need of their viewers and, in the end, the Asian market will grow towards this as well,' Mr Hoekstra said.

Although this development may take time, the Beijing Olympics are likely to accelerate progress.

The Games are boosting public interest in sports and attracting advertisers to invest in Asia. Another development is Asia's growing sophistication, with fairly rapid digitalisation across the region.

With this comes increased capacity, more consumer choice, and stronger demand for more diverse channels.

'Digitalisation allows for more distribution networks and gives people more channels,' Mr Hoekstra said. High definition allows broadcasters to show pictures and sound which are much better quality than the existing analogue broadcasting.

Job opportunities include openings across the board, from production to editorial, website creation, communications, marketing and sales positions.

Eurosport is making significant investments in commentary.

It created a commentator academy in 2006.

Students study for three weeks in Spain, although there are plans to co-operate with Hong Kong universities.

The company hopes to soon extend the academy's education - which is open to athletes and former athletes - to the public.

'We need to train and educate people in commentary in general and in the sports we broadcast,' Mr Hoekstra said.

Employment opportunities have also been boosted by the Olympics.

Eurosport will have a 100- to 150-strong team on site, producing material for its European channels.

Its mainland website editorial team will assist production, particularly in interpretation and translation work.

Key players

Director of distribution and business development

Director of programming

Head of programming

Production manager

Runner producer

Director of operations


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