Host City: Sunset+Vine is the Host Broadcaster for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – what are the key aspects of the service you will offer?
Jeff Foulser: We are providing the broadcast coverage (Host Feed) for all 19 sports plus ceremonies as well as running the International Broadcast Centre which rights holders can book space and facilities in. We also provide a Games Channel which is essentially a channel showcasing the best live sport at any given time and a multi-channel service if broadcasters want to take just one sport.
Host City: What led to Sunset+Vine winning the host broadcasting contracts for the 2012 Paralympics and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games for Sunset+Vine, and how transformative were these projects for the company?
Jeff Foulser: For the 2012 Paralympics we were approached by Channel 4 along with IMG for a joint production of the Games. This was the first time a UK broadcaster had committed so much airtime to a Paralympic Games and led to us running the Rio Games in 2016 on our own. The biggest challenge was to integrate talent with disability into the coverage as well as to find ways to educate the viewing audience. It transformed our company’s perceptions of disability and we’ve trained and employed a number of those who are still with the company today.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games were even more transformative for the company because they signalled our arrival as a truly global player in the world of Host Broadcasting. There was historically a small number of ‘specialist’ companies who were the ‘go to’ people for major events, and Glasgow proved to ourselves and the wider industry that we could deliver outstanding coverage of multi-sports events. This led to a number of major contract wins including ICC cricket and World Rugby Sevens.
Host City: Sunset+Vine also produced numerous live sporting events over the past 18 months. It must be quite a challenge working through times like these – what were the qualities that have enabled your team to navigate this turbulent time?
Jeff Foulser: It has certainly been the toughest time any of us can remember working in the industry but what impressed me was just how adaptable our staff have been to working in completely different ways. We pride ourselves on the culture of our business and the willingness of our people to just knuckle down and handle whatever was thrown at them was incredible. They constantly went the extra mile to keep on delivering top quality productions.
Host City: How do you think the pandemic changed the business of host broadcasting on an ongoing basis?
Jeff Foulser: The pandemic accelerated the move to remote production by a number of years and it has been a transformational way of working. Instead of all staff going to a football/rugby/cricket stadium and working together, we now have significantly fewer people on site as the programmes are predominantly delivered for remote hubs. This way of working is not universal because remote production only works if there is good connectivity at the event but as that improves, the move towards more remote working will continue to evolve.
The danger though is we have to make sure the teams stay personally connected to each other and the on-screen talent and they only get that if they can share ideas over a coffee and reflect on how well the show went afterwards over a beer in the pub. It’s also vital that the more junior members in the team have mentors to help them develop their skills.
Host City: How would you describe the impact of OTT streaming services on the sports broadcasting industry – who are the winners and losers from this media disruption?
Jeff Foulser: Massive, as we are starting to see in many different territories. Companies like Amazon have very deep pockets and at the moment are testing out which rights work in different countries. We’ve just seen their presence in the North American market drive up the price for Premier League football, forcing NBC to pay £2 billion for a new rights cycle versus £740 million last time. As always in the sports rights market, those with the biggest cheque books will be the winners and it will be impossible for the free to air broadcasters to compete.
Host City: Content is also being generated by fans and athletes themselves – how do you believe this impacts the broadcasting industry (and rights holders)?
Jeff Foulser: This is absolutely complementary to the live rights and really helps to promote the events. As long as the live experience is protected from piracy the value to the rights holder is huge. Content generated by fans and athletes creates excitement and a buzz that feeds interest in the sport and draws even more people to it.
Host City: Thank you very much Jeff, we really look forward to finding out more from you at Host City 2021 on the panel “Broader casting – who owns the rights?”. Readers, check out Jeff’s speaker profile here: and don’t forget in all the excitement and buzz to REGISTER HERE NOW – and enjoy the show!