Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), the global media and entertainment giant, has vowed to provide the “most immersive and comprehensive” coverage of the Olympic Games in Paris next year as the major sporting event returns to its core European market.
Today (July 26) officially marks the one-year countdown to the 2024 games in the French capital and WBD has marked the occasion by unveiling new, exclusive, and original content to gear up for the event.
WBD will broadcast an evening of programming across Europe as part of its ‘Road to Paris 2024’ campaign as it counts down to the return of the Olympics to the region for the first time since London 2012.
Its main offering will be a new documentary – Paris, La Vie Sportive – focusing on Paris and the 100 years since it last hosted the Olympic Games in 1924.
With the games taking place in France, home to WBD’s pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport, the long-time Olympics broadcast rightsholder in the continent, the games have added significance for the brand.
Scott Young, senior vice president of content and production at Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe, told GlobalData Sport: “These are our games. As we say as a team, the games are coming home. The cultural center of Eurosport is Paris and France and has been for a very long time.
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“Not just for our teams in France, but for the wider Eurosport network, this is our backyard and whilst the last three games have been fantastic, they've started in a time zone that hasn't been ideal for a European audience.
“This time, we will create programming early in the morning that will be a great launchpad for the start of competition that goes right through to 10PM or 10:30PM (CEST) where we then reconnect market by market to their NOC (national Olympic committee) houses and directly with those athletes to make it as relevant as possible back into the market they're broadcasting.”
Young continued: “The time zone piece is more than just being awake at the right time, it's making sure you can tell the story of the games to a fan base and audiences also with you.
“The Eurosport app, as we've seen in many other games before, will be an incredibly important tool for everybody to have as a product side by side with the linear experience, as the data that will flow through there will be equally immersive.
“From a broadcast perspective, we're looking at the most immersive and comprehensive coverage of any Olympic games that we've tackled.”
The Olympics in Paris are the last under WBD’s current agreement for four editions of the games running from 2018 to 2024 as part of a €1.3-billion (then $1.45 billion) deal struck in 2015.
The exclusive agreement covers 50 European territories (excluding Russia), comprising rights in all languages across all platforms, including free-to-air (FTA) and pay-TV, internet, and mobile phones.
However, WBD has several sub-licensing agreements with FTA broadcasters in place across Europe.
In January, WBD succeeded with a joint bid with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the alliance of public service networks, to acquire European media rights to four editions of the Olympics between 2026 and 2032 (winter and summer).
The parties will hold European rights in 49 countries. The deal, which starts with the 2026 Milan Cortina Winter Olympics, will see the EBU hold FTA rights across the continent on both linear and digital platforms.
Paris 2024 will be the first Olympics since the merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery, which was finalized last year.
This will enhance WBD’s production capabilities for the games and significantly increase its output across multiple platforms.
Young explains that through the merger, and with WBD’s other media outlets such as CNN, Bleacher Report, and TNT Sports in the US and Latin America, there is non-rights content that it can produce and distribute.
Asked if this will be the company’s biggest project in terms of production and content, Young replied: “By far, absolutely. The great thing about this business now and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe and the expansion of the last couple of years and the recent launch of TNT sports, is we take on some big sporting events.
“As with tennis’ big grand slam events, and grand tour cycling, we are used to tackling multi-week, story events but nothing comes close to the scale of the Olympics.
“At the highest point in Tokyo, we had 56 live sports on our platforms at the same time. We will significantly outstrip that for these games and that is mostly a by-product of what we're being sent. We get sent some of the world's best coverage that OBS [Olympic Broadcasting Services] provides.”
Since delivering its first Olympic Games in 2018, WBD has continued to attract record audiences across Europe across all platforms, which it described as “an endorsement of its innovative year-long approach to storytelling in the lead-up to each Summer and Winter Olympics.”
WBD claimed during the last edition of the Summer Olympics, in Tokyo in 2021, that 372 million people across Europe engaged with the games, of whom 175 million did so through WBD platforms.
The media heavyweight also said that during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the number of visitors to its platforms from European countries was 156 million, 19 times more than during the previous winter games, Pyeongchang 2018.
Young expects to generate even bigger viewership figures for Paris 2024.
He said: “I'm confident that we can definitely get very strong numbers across what we're doing. Again, it's a by-product of the hours so it’s unfair to compare the previous Olympics with Paris because the time zone is very relevant.
“The last games started at 1AM or 2AM (CEST), depending on where you are across Europe. That's a tough ask no matter how much of a sports fan you are. So yes, we're going to see a big uplift in not just time zone but also the sports that are there, we're seeing more urban sports starting to come through.
“Therefore, we'll have a much bigger lift across our digital and social platforms because there is a certain audience, and if you look at BMX, sport climbing, and 3×3 basketball, that leans into a very different audience than the typical Olympic audience that has always been there through athletics, gymnastics, swimming, or cycling.
“We're starting to see a parallel audience arrive at the Olympics, not necessarily a layered audience, which gets you high numbers.”
WBD has enlisted several high-profile figures to support its preparations for the games, including former French soccer star Thierry Henry and British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith.
Henry will narrate the Paris, La Vie Sportive documentary, which will be split into two 60-minute episodes, while Asher-Smith, who will be competing in Paris, will serve as an Olympic ambassador in the build-up to the games.
As well as promoting the Olympics, the Brit will appear in new and original programming airing from 2024 in the lead-up to the games.
In addition to the documentary, WBD will create extensive non-live content focused on the athletes.
WBD’s ‘Road to Paris 2024’ will see it release additional short and long-form programming, with upcoming content highlights including a multi-episode series titled 'The Super Six' which follows six different athletes, and a new 25-episode series of 'Athletes to Watch'.
Young explained: “Our non-live product is absolutely instrumental to the story because the Olympics isn't about 17 days. For us, it's about 12 months, it's about 365 days, one year to go, and that's why we have commissioned the Paris, La Vie Sportive documentary.
“That's an evergreen piece of content we produced that will continue to run right up until the start of the games. For us, the next pieces of non-live content that we roll out will start to be far more athlete focused. There's a very particular roadmap as to what we're going to do around our road to Paris 2024.”