Benjamin Li
Aug 16, 2010

Profile: Eurosport APAC chairman Arjan Hoekstra

After 17 years with Eurosport, Arjan Hoekstra, the broadcaster's Asia-Pacific chairman and managing director, has few complaints.

Profile: Eurosport APAC chairman Arjan Hoekstra

"I still think I have a great job and it is hard to imagine doing anything else," he says. "Running a sports channel is like a young boy's dream."

Hoekstra joined Eurosport in 1994, five years after the channel first aired in Europe. He worked his way across a number of posts, including heading up the UK, Ireland and Nordic markets, before switching to Hong Kong in 2005, ahead of the launch of Eurosport in Asia in 2007.

Since then, Hoekstra has been kept busy creating value for the sports channel, both in terms of revenue and content. A hard task in the region due to the number of competitors in the category. Not only does Eurosport compete against the more established sports broadcasters such as ESPN Star Sports, but it also has to contend with cash-rich pay TV channels that buy up much of the best sports content and sign up consumers to subscription packages.

In Europe, Eurosport earns 70 per cent of its revenue from distribution, with the remaining 30 per cent coming from advertising. In Asia, it is closer to 100 per cent from distribution. Therefore, a big part of Hoekstra's mission here is to look for growth in advertising.

"We want to create a new revenue stream, so we can invest in better rights, infrastructures and channels," he says.

In term of advertising, Hoekstra says the pay TV market in Asia is, to use an expression from his native Dutch language, still "wearing children's shoes". He says industry bodies such as the CASBAA need to educate advertisers in the value of advertising on pay TV.

"We need to convince advertisers that there is a real upside in spending money on Pay TV, because the audience is more upmarket, we can do a lot in terms of giving advertisers creative solutions to their requirements."

Persuading advertisers that Eurosport is a viable ad platform will depend to a large extent on the broadcaster delivering the right content. So far, the channel's focus has been on specialised sports - something that has led them to be thought of as a niche broadcaster.

"If you mean niche as insignificant, that is not how we see it," says Hoekstra. "If you say niche as in specialised, that's more how we see ourselves. We chose to steer away from football, and instead focus on sports that are under exposed in this region. Sports like tennis, athletics, cycling and
motorsports."

Hoekstra acknowledges the trend for certain Asian broadcasters to sew up what is seen as the best sports content, but argues that big ticket events do not always means big ticket returns. "As a business, we always need to look at the tension between acquiring a sporting event at a certain price, and being able to generate enough returns for us to make our business work," he says.

"Sometimes when you speak about those big ticket events, that balance is completely lost."

Hoekstra cites the purchase of the broadcasting rights of the English Premier League (EPL) and the 2010 World Cup by the Hong Kong cable station i-Cable as a good example - the company announced profit warnings to the market immediately after obtaining the EPL broadcasting rights.

"Basically they were saying that they had paid so much for the sports rights that they are unable to make a good return for themselves," he says.

Rather than try to simply compete with such broadcasters, Hoekstra points out that Eurosport has instead relied on innovation, particularly in terms of how it is using digital media to deliver its content.

Eurosport.com, the channel's network of 10 different language websites is already the sixth-highest ranking online sports brand worldwide, according to comScore.

Meanwhile, in China, Eurosport is working with Tencent and has a domain on EurosportQQ.com. In July, the broadcaster also launched two pan-regional websites for the Asia and Pacific (Australia) markets.

In terms of mobile applications, Eurosport has an iPhone application, which it says has been downloaded more than two million times. Eurosport was also one of the first to launch an application for the iPad and, in many territories, it is now the most downloaded sports application.

"We want to be very close to these new technologies, and we like to keep our consumers and viewers with us as long as we can, even if they are moving away from their TV sets and onto their computers or iPads. We need to create products that are dedicated and customised for their use."

However, while digital technologies may be opening up new pipelines, the traditional pay TV market in Asia is a tougher hurdle to overcome, especially in the region's two largest markets.

China, Hoekstra acknowledges, is not a true pay TV market as it is closed to foreign broadcasters. And, while the India market is expanding rapidly, and is more open to international channels to land there, there is intense competition among distributors who compete mainly on price.

For the future, Hoekstra says issues relating to piracy, over-regulation and under investment need to be addressed for some of the industry's biggest stumbling blocks to be removed. "There is fantastic potential, with expanding wealth and economic growth, but there are also huge issues," he explains of business in the region.

Arjan Hoekstra’s CV

2005 Chairman and managing director, Eurosport Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong
2003 Director of business development, Eurosport, Paris
2002 Managing director, Eurosport Nordic, Stockholm
1999 Deputy managing director, British Eurosport, London
1997 Addition of UK and Ireland
1996 Area manager, Benelux market
1994 In-house legal counsel, Eurosport, Paris

This article was originally published in the 12 August 2010 issue of Media.

Source:
Campaign Asia

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