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ESPN News Platforms Chronicling Summer Olympics Games Despite Video, COVID Restrictions

Video usage restrictions and COVID protocols are continuing to evolve, and ESPN’s news platforms are navigating the restrictions and changes as they cover the Games

Fernando Palomo, ESPN Deportes soccer commentator and host, is reporting from Tokyo for ESPN and ESPN International. (Tony Florkowsk/ESPN)

Despite restrictions on use of video, as well as COVID-19-related limitations in Tokyo, ESPN’s news platforms, including ESPN.com and SportsCenter, are presenting news coverage of the Summer Olympic Games for the entirety of the event.

Video usage restrictions and COVID protocols are continuing to evolve, and ESPN’s news platforms are navigating the restrictions and changes as they cover the Games.

With a special section dedicated to Olympics coverage, ESPN.com has had Games coverage in the weeks leading up to the start of the event and has plans for multiple features dedicated to the Olympics that will continue to roll out over the 17 days of competition. ESPN.com and the ESPN App also have scoreboards, medal counts, and other statistics that are constantly updated in real-time.

In addition, SportsCenter is reporting on results and presenting Olympics information and features while working within restrictions. ESPN’s set on Tokyo Bay is the network’s secured location for broadcasting.

ESPN.com reporters Brian Windhorst and D’Arcy Maine are among ESPN’s contingent at the Games, with Maine concentrating her reporting on the scene and story of the day and Windhorst’s primary focus on basketball and any breaking news. Both also will be available to report for SportsCenter, working with on-site producer Tony Florkowski.

Also at the Games for ESPN is Fernando Palomo, who is reporting in two languages for ESPN International in every region ESPN touches as well as for domestic news platforms, working with on-site producer Fernando Spannaus. In addition, multiple commentators normally associated with ESPN are in Tokyo to assist with NBC’s coverage by special arrangement and most can also contribute to ESPN’s coverage.

Since the number of worldwide media personnel on-site at the Games is limited due to COVID restrictions, organizers have taken steps to make information and online interviews available for media outlets covering the Games remotely. ESPN has multiple reporters assigned to do so for both television and digital news platforms.

ABC News reporters Kenneth Moton and James Longman are in Tokyo and also are available to assist with ESPN’s coverage if needed.

Video Usage Restrictions

With NBCUniversal being the U.S. rights holder for the Olympics, ESPN is, as has been the case for past Olympics, operating within restrictions on usage of video. Already in place, the restrictions continue through the Games’ conclusion on Aug. 8. All other non-NBCU U.S. news outlets are following News Access Guidelines that NBCU distributed on June 28.

Restrictions that non-rights holders follow include delayed availability for the use of highlights; a limitation on how many minutes of highlights may be shown; and limited access to interview U.S. or International athletes directly. Such limits are common in the industry for many significant sports events.

ESPN and NBCU work amicably to discuss opportunities for ESPN to secure the most complete coverage possible for SportsCenter and news platforms, particularly with the regularly-scheduled SportsCenters starting at 6 p.m., but ESPN does not have the ability to produce and show its own Olympic highlights on its digital platforms in the U.S., and SportsCenter has limited use of Olympic highlights prior to the conclusion of NBC’s prime time telecast window each night.

COVID Restrictions

All ESPN personnel on the ground in Japan are adhering to strict COVID protocols put in place for the Games that began 14 days before their departure for Japan and will be in effect until they return to their homes. Protocols include mask-wearing, social distancing, using only approved transportation, eating meals in designated places, screening tests, daily health monitoring, and more.

Protocols also apply to coverage of athletes and events, including specially-designed media work areas to create space, limited seating in news conference rooms, limited photography areas, etc. Access to athletes also is limited with COVID safety measures in place, and news conferences will be available online. Pre-booked media interviews can be conducted in the Olympic Village with protocols in place.

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT)
(Kelly Backus/ESPN Images)
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