Yiannis Exarchos is a specialist in the management and coverage of global sporting events. With an impressive career spanning culture, art and broadcast, the CEO of OBS is sure to draw an Olympic- sized audience when he shares his experiences on IBC Digital on Wednesday 8th at 12.30 (CET)


Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) was created by the International Olympic Committee in 2001 in order to serve as the Host Broadcast organisation for all Olympic Games, Olympic Winter Games and Youth Olympic Games. In March 2018, a co-operation agreement between the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was signed, ensuring that OBS will serve as the Host Broadcaster for future Paralympic Games as well. Headquartered in Madrid, Spain, the OBS team includes

more than 160 full-time employees coming from more than 30 different countries. The organisation consists of nine departments which grow during the Games-time operation.

Heading up the team in Madrid is CEO Yiannis

Exarchos, appointed to the position following the Olympic Games London 2012. Athens-born Exarchos had previously served as a top executive for all Olympic host broadcasting organisations since Athens 2004. In 2015 he was also named executive director of Olympic Channel Services (OCS), the corporate entity charged with creating and operating the IOC’s Olympic Channel. Launched in 2016, OCS is now the core hub for content creation, technology and digital development, as well as data analysis for and the wider Olympic digital ecosystem. Exarchos is also a member of the OCS SL board of directors. He received an award from the Greek National Olympic Committee for his long- term contribution to the Olympic Movement, and the Great Wall Friendship Award in acknowledgment of his contribution to Beijing’s progress and development. Specialising in the management and coverage of global sporting events, Exarchos’ background in radio, television, music and fi lm brings a comprehensive perspective to the planning and management of the broadcast of major events. After studies in law and fi lm directing, he produced and presented cultural and art programmes on Greek TV and radio and held several management and senior executive positions in a number of broadcast organisations, including time as executive director of Greek national broadcaster ERT.

Such in-depth media experience and leadership have

earned him numerous nominations and recognitions, including fi ve Emmy Awards, fi ve Webby Awards and more than ten Telly Awards. His most recent project has, of course, been the OBS coverage of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and he will be recounting that experience today at the Showcase Theatre session, ‘Looking to Beijing: Lessons in live production from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics’ (10:00).

TAKING TOKYO TO THE WORLD As host broadcaster, OBS is responsible for delivering the pictures and sounds of the Olympic Games to billions of viewers around the world. It produces and transmits unbiased live radio and television coverage (International Signal or the World Feed) of every sport from every venue

Yiannis Exarchos, CEO of OBS, speaking at the 135th IOC Session, which was held at the SwissTech in Lausanne in 2020

consumption was so massive on every single platform,” he observes.

Following the success of Tokyo 2020, OBS and RHBs

around the world are now preparing for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, which commence on 4 February next year. Exarchos admits that holding two editions of the Games so close together has presented several challenges, but says it has also provided a number of exciting opportunities.

“At OBS, having to operate all the time in different

environments in different countries, we know that it doesn’t really work to apply the same blueprint and try to do the same things exactly,” he says. “Over and over, you constantly need to think of new ways, and we tend to perceive challenges and big opportunities. Of course, the pandemic has been a very big challenge, but behind that there have been huge opportunities, [such as] the massive acceleration of digital, and the massive adoption of remote working.”

“This is perhaps the biggest technological change in the broadcasting industry for more than half a century,” Yiannis Exarchos, OBS

to all rights-holding broadcasters (RHBs) around the globe.

Although beset by uncertainty and delayed by a year due to the impact of the pandemic, Tokyo 2020 was a watershed moment in the history of Olympic broadcasting, with more content made available to fans on more screens than ever before through TV, digital, apps and social media. Spectators were not able to attend events in person, but fans around the world were still able to experience the emotion and excitement of the Games. According to Exarchos their enjoyment was further enhanced by cutting-edge innovations in broadcasting. “For OBS, these Games were a major milestone due to the advances we introduced,” he explains. These innovations included producing coverage of all sports natively in UHD HDR for the fi rst time, allowing viewers to enjoy a more immersive experience. Audiences around the world were also introduced to never-seen- before camera angles, 360-degree replays, multi-camera live VR coverage and more analytical data processed by AI. This included 3D Athlete Tracking (3DAT) technology, developed by Worldwide Olympic Partners Intel and Alibaba, a broadcast enhancement which offered near real-time insights and overlay visualisations. Of course the world-class sporting action and the inspirational performances of the athletes were a major factor, but OBS claims the advances helped drive record- breaking viewing fi gures, in particular on digital streaming platforms. Exarchos refers to Tokyo 2020 as the “fi rst streaming Games”. “These were the fi rst Olympics where streaming was so prominent, but also they were the fi rst Games where

CLOUD CONTENT In particular, Exarchos highlights the development of OBS Cloud, built using cloud technologies from Alibaba to deliver short-form content, content asset management and content production. During Tokyo 2020, up to 9,500 short-form content clips were produced by the OBS Content+ crew to help enhance coverage. Some 17 RHBs and four news agencies signed up to the service, with clips accessible by the RHBs’ digital and social media teams through a web-based interface from any location in the world to supplement their own Olympic coverage. Content+ also allowed RHBs to access all Olympic content produced by the OBS, including live content as it was being produced. Thirty-one such organisations signed up for this full service and were able to browse through the low-resolution fi les in near real-time and retrieve any content in any of their global facilities. The access to live coverage allowed RHBs to mark part of the live content and download it for their own post-production needs, simultaneously with the Games still happening. “It is a combination of services and technology that enables broadcasters to have very easy access from all over the world to all of this content […] and to be able to publish all that very fast, and very, very effi ciently,” explains Exarchos. “This partnership with Alibaba Cloud is transforming how we broadcast the Olympic Games to the widest possible audience. This is perhaps the biggest technological change in the broadcasting industry for more than half a century, since the introduction of satellite.”

Satellite was introduced to Olympic broadcast coverage for the fi rst time at Tokyo 1964, and while OBS Cloud was introduced for Tokyo 2020, Exarchos believes Beijing 2022 could see even greater adoption of the platform by RHBs. “In terms of broadcasting, it is still relatively early days in the full change to cloud technology, and Tokyo 2020 marked a fi rst step,” he says. “The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics may then become a facilitator for its wider use.”

Photograph by Christophe Moratal/IOC

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