It’s an event that captivates unlike any other, uniting nations and transcending borders at the same time as the world witnesses some of the most impressive displays of athleticism. The Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which begin on August 5 and will be held in the colorful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are quickly approaching, and ESPN is gearing up for its coverage of the event, for which it has rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.
We spoke to Maria Soares, the senior coordinating producer for the events and an admitted Olympics junkie, to get all the details about the programming the network will be offering on a variety of platforms.
It’s a daunting task to create content for a region as large and varied as Latin America. “It’s impossible to produce a one-size-fits-all coverage for LatAm,” Soares said. So the network has developed one operation in the Portuguese language for Brazil, an English-language production for the Caribbean, and two unique operations for the Northern and Southern halves of Latin America each. The team consists of about 450 journalists, athletes and specialists and is planning to generate more than 1,000 hours of live TV, digital and multimedia content.
Soares has overseen the development of a detailed plan for digital and social, to generate a constant flow of content. The same talent featured on TV will be featured in the digital and social spaces, and the network will be offering between 40-70 hours a day of coverage, and exclusive digital live events. Soares emphasizes that one of the most important aspects of the coverage will be providing viewers with options, as today’s audiences want power over their viewing, and expect networks to cater to their preferences. Viewers will be able to pick between six and seven different programming options on digital, and watch full live events for their events of choice.
A First for the Network
Soares explained that the coverage ESPN has secured is exciting, both because of the scale of the event, and also a series of firsts that it marks for the network: “This is by far the largest scale that we have done, because it’s the first time that we have this expansive of rights in Latin America. We have a unique relationship with our Caribbean broadcast partner, and they really wanted to bring incredibly relevant Caribbean coverage of that region, so we were able to cover that piece that hasn’t really been there before.”
The networks have been covering the event for months now, launching the #YoRio studio show in February to celebrate 100 days before the opening ceremonies. It airs monthly for Mexico and Central America, and is hosted by Jose Ramon Fernandez, who takes viewers on the road leading up to August and keeps them up-to-date on qualification news, updates and the host city, Rio. The program also features behind-the-scenes looks at different athletes’ training routines.
As soon as you tie a country flag to a scoreboard, there is something much more captivating about that. Every single country absolutely knows where their athletes are competing.
Soares highlighted that because Latin America is so diverse, ESPN “wanted to make sure that each region has easy access to coverage of the most relevant sports,” as sports like field hockey and rugby are extremely popular in countries like Argentina while they have almost no presence in others, like Mexico.
The Big Question: How Ready is Brazil?
Soares affirmed that one of the most frequently asked questions relate to Brazil’s recent political woes. But she assured us that there was no reason to worry, and that production had continued relatively smoothly: “We’re planning a sporting event, so we keep a close eye on what is occurring, but it doesn’t really affect us, because all of our planning is with the organizer. We look out for the safety of the large team, but the political structure has not impacted any of the actual sport planning. The IOC builds Olympics all over the world and they are complete professionals.”
According to Soares, the IOC “has been quick to adjust to the reality,” adjusting security and transportation swiftly.
“Everybody Loves the Olympics”
While the Olympics is a gargantuan event, its appeal is universal. “What we found in study after study is whereas in some of your sports you have a core target, with the Olympics, everyone sort of has an interest in the Olympics,” said Soares. “About half the viewership is women, and there is a lot of family co-viewing. It’s special because it encourages people to gather around and watch as a family, even for sports you usually never watch.”
The event also evokes a strong sense of patriotism, no matter how many medals a country hopes to, or actually wins. “As soon as you tie a country flag to a scoreboard, there is something much more captivating about that. Every single country absolutely knows where their athletes are competing.”