EBU claims record viewing for biathlon as IBU bids to reassert its authority
A total of over 300 million hours of biathlon’s first six top-tier IBU World Cup events has been viewed so far this season, a 5-per-cent increase on last season and 12 per cent up on the 2015-16 season, with 90 per cent of the viewing live, according to the European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella body of the continent’s public-service broadcasters.
The EBU said that there have also been new record market shares for live broadcasts in various territories, including: an 81-per-cent share for Norway’s NRK1 for its coverage of the men’s pursuit at the World Cup event in Pokljuka, Slovenia; a 73-per-cent share for Finland’s YLE for the men’s pursuit in Antholz, Italy; and a 72-per-cent share for Sweden’s SVT1 for its coverage of the World Cup event in Ruhpolding, Germany.
Meanwhile, this month’s Biathlon World Championships, taking place in Östersund, Sweden on 7 to 17 March, will be shown by 17 EBU members in the territories of Austria, Belarus, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia. This coverage will be complemented by broadcasters in France and Poland together with the Discovery-owned Eurosport offering pan-European visibility, the EBU said. Beyond Europe, agreements are in place with SBS in Korea, CCTV in China and, for the first time, NBC in USA.
In addition to traditional satellite and fibre distribution services, rights-holding broadcasters and partners will be able to access content using the Eurovision Near-Live Clipping & Web Publishing platform. The tool enables users to maximise the reach of their content online by creating clips, interviews and highlights packages, and publishing them on websites, OTT platforms, and social media channels.
The EBU said: “What’s more, innovative new formats that are more viewer-friendly will actively take the sport to non-traditional markets. These include a fully immersive Virtual Reality app and video content creation solutions to enrich viewers’ second-screen experiences.”
SVT, the Swedish EBU member, will act as host broadcaster for the World Championships. Together with the EBU it will implement ‘immersive production’, using four cameras with 180° or 360° views in key areas like the start/finish line and the shooting range.
Stefan Kürten, the EBU’s Eurovision sport executive director, said: “We are always looking for innovative ways to develop biathlon and increase the profile of winter sports globally. Through our worldwide sports rights sales, we have also seen a healthy appetite in new territories such as China where we have actively worked to grow the market for winter sports.”
The approach of the World Championships coincides with the International Biathlon Union’s attempts to reassert its authority as the world governing body for the sport, after allegations that its former leadership covered up doping by Russian athletes in return for bribes.
Alf Koksvik, the former secretary general of the Norwegian Biathlon Federation, took over as interim secretary general of the troubled federation last week.
The appointment followed the resignation last month of Martin Kuchenmeister, the former acting secretary general, along with his assistant Marie-Luise Kreilinger and two members of the IBU’s finance department, Christine Schurz and Ingrid Lackner. Kuchenmeister is reported to have claimed there was a poor environment within the organisation.
The Austrian had been in the position since Nicole Resch stepped aside in April, following the corruption scandal that led to the resignation of long-term IBU president Anders Besseberg.