If you tuned in to last weekend’s Québec World Cup cross-country races live via the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) website, you’ll be happy to know that there’s more where that came from – potentially close to 20 more, in fact.
In the immediate future, USSA will stream live footage from the Canmore World Cup, which includes races Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Just like last weekend, online access will be free of charge, and if all goes according to plan, USSA could broadcast a total of 20 cross-country, nordic combined and ski jumping events this season.
“Exposure for the sport I just feel is important overall,” Jaquet said of the project he’s been working on since July to draw more eyes to nordic and jumping. It came together fewer than five days before the Québec event and offers at-home viewers a way to watch the races without downloading or streaming them illegally.
After making a trade deal with Universal Sports – in which USSA gave up broadcast rights for a total of five alpine, freestyle and ski cross World Cups in exchange for 20 nordic and jumping World Cups – Jaquet wanted to make the races viewer-friendly.
“We knew that we were going to have access to this feed in November,” he said on the phone Saturday. “I just felt having English commentary was really important.”
As it works now, the footage is sent to the InFront Sports & Media headquarters in Europe then to Salt Lake City, where USSA matches the live video with a voice over. USSA Vice President of Communications Tom Kelly commentated last weekend, but Eurosport announcers could be used for audio later, Jaquet said. The videos are also archived on the site.
While the process might seem a little backwards (why not just stream from Canada?), Jaquet explained it makes the most sense financially. Instead of sending a camera crew to Québec or Canmore or Europe for $10,000 to $15,000 dollars or more, USSA will spend less than $1,000 per event.
“My goal is to put as much content as possible up there and be fiscally responsible about it,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to take anything away from the athletes.
As for scheduling, Jaquet plans to finalize a list of events USSA will broadcast in the next week or so. They might not fit all 20 in and won’t be able to show events like the Tour de Ski and parts of World Championships (which Universal still holds rights to), but Jaquet was confident in the initiative.
In the first two days of cross-country World Cup coverage (despite a glitch that caused a delayed feed on Friday), he said the USSA Network received more than 7,000 page starts – more than double what he expected to get from the Live Super G in Beaver Creek (part of the trade).
“When you’re able to captivate a live audience and get people excited about it, that’s a very good thing,” he said.
So one small step for U.S. cross-country viewership, one giant leap for nordic sports? Jaquet thinks so.
“It’s good for the manufacturers to back up their investment of the athletes; it’s good for the athletes to raise their profile in America,” Jaquet said. “This is a very important step to make the content available. If the content is not available, it’s very detrimental to the sport.”
Back when Jaquet started at USSA in April after five years as a senior executive at CBS Sports Network, he stated his priority to make U.S. snowsport athletes household names, especially with visuals.
“It’ll work for cross-country skiing, it’ll work for alpine, it’ll work for snowboarding, and it’ll work for freeskiing, just creating heroes and superstars out of our athletes and making them accessible and creating some inspirational content as well,” he said.
Last weekend, the results spoke for themselves with Kikkan Randall’s double victory at the World Cup in Québec City – a first for the U.S. Nordic Ski Team.
“I know the sports-rights landscape incredibly well,” Jaquet said. “I knew that I could work with the Universal guys and I also looked at my own domestic package and decided my five events that I gave up weren’t going to work with my package because of scheduling. The overall goal was to just provide as much exposure and as much audience as possible to all seven sports that we represent.”