Note From USEF CEO, Chris Welton, Regarding Coverage of 2015 Pan American Games Equestrian Events

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


We have had a number of inquiries regarding the fact that only a small portion of the equestrian events held at the Pan American Games in Toronto are being broadcast or streamed in the United States. Before explaining the reason for this, I want to extend my personal congratulations and that of our entire Federation to all who participated in winning the Team Gold medal in Dressage these past two days. Our team faced enormous pressure, the highest stakes, and fierce competition from our Canadian hosts. It took a tremendous effort from everyone involved to insure that we qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio, and we should all be extremely proud of them.

Now on to the business of television and streaming… The body that governs the Pan American Games is an organization called the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO). PASO selects the host city and owns all media rights to the Games. The Organizing Committee created by the host city (in this case Toronto 2015) is obligated to select a single Host Broadcaster to produce a signal of the events at their Games. Toronto 2015 received a number of bids, and, not surprisingly, chose the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to serve as the Host Broadcaster. Unfortunately, CBC was not required to produce a signal from every event. The reason for that is one of simple economics; the production costs outweigh the revenue that can be garnered by the distribution of the signal. In the case of the Olympic Games, the IOC requires that every bit of the sport action be produced. They can afford to do that because of the high broadcast rights fees received by the IOC. The Pan American Games are a net money loser, require large subsidies from host governments, and cannot, with today’s technologies and economic models, afford to produce every bit of sport action. So, CBC will only be producing equestrian coverage of the show jumping competition on July 21, 23, and 25.

With respect to the distribution of broadcast rights, PASO has granted EXCLUSIVE broadcast rights in the United States for ALL sports at the Pan American Games to ESPN, and ESPN has paid a significant sum for those rights. Those rights fees are in turn used to put on the Games. ESPN has scheduled to stream on its ESPN3 network the three days of show jumping that is being produced by CBC. Times are still tentative and will be posted here when they are confirmed.

Please understand that the USEF would do anything it could to stream or facilitate the streaming of all equestrian events at the Pan American Games. We just do not control production, and broadcast rights for each country are sold in total, not by sport. ESPN is broadcasting what gets produced. The good news is that for the Olympic Games in Rio, NBC has committed to stream all 5,000+ hours of competition, and I believe that as streaming evolves the Pan American Games will get to the same point before Lima 2019.

Yesterday was a great day for equestrian sport in the United States. I am as disappointed as all of you are that you could not watch the performance of our team. We are working hard to insure that you will able to see our international teams as they perform, but we have to deal with commercial realities and technology. The best news of all is that our opportunities to see performances live will only improve at a rapid pace.

Thank you all for your support of USEF, our athletes, and equestrian sport.

Chris Welton