Peter Hutton’s LinkedIn profile shows he likes a joke, but the Eurosport CEO is deadly serious about how bespoke content from the Olympic Games, and possibly other events, could help mobile operators.
On the social network, the Paris-based Englishman (pictured) describes his 18-month reign as co-CEO of sports rights company MP & Silva as “herding cats”, his former role as MD of ESPN STAR Sports as “letting Fox into the ESPN hen house” and his time as Senior VP of Sports at Fox International as “shopping”.
Hutton joined Eurosport as Chief Executive in 2015, six months before it won European broadcast rights to the Olympics Games for the 2018-24 period.
The Discovery-owned company spent €1.3 billion to take the rights from previous incumbent the European Broadcasting Union – an alliance of 73 public service media organisations.
A key reason was Eurosport’s promise to make the Olympics available on more screens and to an even wider audience.
“A mobile strategy is very much part of that, particularly for younger audiences who consume much of their content on mobile devices,” Hutton tells European Communications.
Although it was somewhat lost in the white noise of this year's Mobile World Congress, Eurosport launched an Official Mobile Broadcaster product in Barcelona.
This promised mobile operators access to a 24/7 linear news and highlights channel, exclusive short-form content and co-branding with the Olympic Rings.
TIM became the first and so far only operator to sign up for the service last month.
The deal with the Italian operator took “several months” to negotiate, according to Hutton.
The CEO says his company is in discussions with 10 other operators that are “really strong leads”, before adding that it is “important we don’t bite off more than we can chew”.
“What’s important for us is to give the mobile operators a unique content story that they can be proud of and can have genuine ownership of,” Hutton says.
Eurosport can customise its offering to different markets to take account of different tastes – TIM, for example, might want to focus on shooting given that discipline delivered seven medals for Italy at the Rio games last summer.
“Given we make a lot of short-form content and deal with a lot of simultaneous streams, we have a certain amount of knowledge that can help mobile operators create a product that works for them,” says Hutton.
The Italian operator’s subscribers will get their first taste of the partnership next February when the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, get underway.
But the complex nature of sports rights means that the final product TIM gets will be dependent on others.
Eurosport is obliged under the deal with the International Olympics Committee to offer up a certain number of hours to free-to-air broadcasters, for example, but is yet to secure a deal with such a broadcaster in Italy.
The company is also in talks with social networks as it looks to maximise exposure and recoup its outlay.
Given this, can telcos be assured of getting something that is unique?
“We are trying to package the content in different ways,” Hutton responds.
“For a telco looking to supply content on mobile, a lot of this is about short-form content.”
Eurosport will look "to create some space for each partner to work within", according to Hutton.
“That jigsaw puzzle is at the heart of what we’re trying to do between now and the Games,” he adds.
Of course, telcos have their own challenges. Although several have made strides in hiring content people, the suspicion remains that many simply do not have the people in-house to deliver what customers want.
When this is put to him, Hutton says: “You see ambition [from mobile operators] to be in the content space.
“[That ambition] is really powerful and really has potential.
“If we can use our experience in rights and production to come up with a good story then there is a real win-win situation.”
The win for telcos will only materialise if they work out how to monetise their Olympics coverage.
TIM has not disclosed how much it paid Eurosport. Indeed it has failed to say anything at all about the deal to date.
Hutton says there is a “sliding scale” of prices linked to how much content is made available, but he is optimistic that the Olympics will deliver financially for telcos.
“The number of sports events in the top 100 [most watched] TV programmes in every market is increasing year-on-year,” Hutton says.
“The amount of people who will build their lives around a football World Cup or Olympic Games is incredible.
“Sport can be such a powerful telco story and we know people will pay for premium sport.
“We can unlock some of the power and emotional intensity behind it.”
Crucially, Hutton sees the Olympic Games as a springboard to a much deeper relationship with telcos.
“There is so much content around big sporting events, you can slice and dice it in different ways,” he says.
The likes of Grand Slam tennis and cycling’s Grand Tours, which Eurosport also owns the rights for, are clearly on his mind.
“We want this to be the start of a relationship with the mobile operators around Europe where we can provide [them] with a different angle on a story that strengthens your brand,” says Hutton.