What does a sports broadcaster show when there’s no sport?
That’s the question that has befallen Optus Director of Sport Richard Bayliss and his team in recent week, as Optus Sport scrambled to meet the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 crisis gripping the globe.
One by one, a carefully collated line-up of competitions that Optus held in its stable were forced to bow in the face of the inevitable and suspend their operations.
The broadcaster’s newest addition, the J-League, was suspended on February 25, while the Premier League and FA WSL were forced into hibernation on March 13.
March 13 was also the date that UEFA announced that the Champions League and Europa League were to be suspended and international tournaments Euro 2020 and the 2020 Copa America, the latter of which was set to feature a guest appearance from the Socceroos, were postponed to 2021.
For a platform that had built itself around the broadcasting of and reaction to live sport, a landscape completely bereft of it– something that would have been unthinkable as little as six-months ago – presented an entirely new challenge.
Suspending subscription fees until May 30 and working remotely – Optus moved to ensure that staff were able to work from home in the weeks leading up to football’s sudden halt – new content was needed.
And the solution?
Everything old is new again.
“We’ve gone deeper into the archives than we ever have before,” Bayliss told FTBL.
“Obviously, when you are so focused on live football – and your whole content and editorial strategy is built around live football – you don’t get to go as deep into the archives as you would sometimes like.
“We’ve spent so much time on it now that we’ve unearthed so much archive material that we’ve had access to but maybe didn’t have the time to unearth.
“There’s the classic breakfast football every morning at 7 am from the Premier League, and European nights every evening at 7 pm eastern.
“We do a classic Champions League match and then we do mini-classics as well – turning classic matches into minis. We have a feature game of the day among a stack of matches to choose from.
6 goals 😍 2 red cards 🤬 1 kung fu kick 👟— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) April 6, 2020
European Nights is back tonight with another classic from 2018/19 🇪🇺
Re-live it all over again from 7PM AEST 📲 https://t.co/z8zOLy2DOi#OptusSport #UCL pic.twitter.com/s4fWbux4q4
“There’s an eye-watering amount on there.
“We’ve sort of turned now into more of an archive channel or an archive companion rather than a live football companion, but that’s a sign of the times.
“We’re doing a few other things such as starting a nightly isolation trivia show on Tuesday night, which we’ll do live weeknights at 9 pm eastern with Mark Schwarzer, John Aloisi, Michael Bridges and myself. We’re cooking up a few other social ideas as well.”
And as for how back into the archive Bayliss and his team can go?