It has been many years since Arnaud Simon left Lyon. But the Masters graduate still has much to thank the picturesque French city for.
“EMLYON offers students the great opportunity of studying outside of Paris,” said Arnaud, talking about the prestigious French business school. “It forces a lot of Parisian students, in particular, to leave behind what's familiar.”
He left Ecole de Management de Lyon – EMLYON Business School to most businessmen – back in 1991. Since then the sports-savvy executive has risen to the helm of Eurosport France, the leading television sports network.
“I spent three wonderful years there,” said Arnaud, who studied media – fittingly. But so much has changed since then. And he still has so much more to do. From his Parisian base, the sports director will hope to boost viewing figures and expand Eurosport’s offering. Just last month he announced a deal with MotoGP, which will see the racing world championship broadcast exclusively on the channel until 2017.
He will also have a keen eye on the football broadcasting rights battle that is gripping France. Major broadcasters Al Jazeera and Canal Plus are set to enter a competition to secure Champions League football. The sport’s television rights have proved lucrative. Eurosport may also bid.
US television network Discovery has just bought a minority stake in the company. “The channel itself is changing,” said Arnaud. “We are now part of a powerful group, which has vast experience in international pay-tv.”
But he sees the changing nature of the corporation’s structure as his good fortune. “Whenever I have arrived at the end of an experience, I've been offered the chance to move forward within the group to another stage,” he said. "Working at Eurosport is like sports: full of adventure and excitement.”
At 45, Arnaud has seen plenty of change. He has had to get to grips with social media. His feat of 5,000 or so Twitter followers is impressive. “It's a valuable tool for identifying true sports fans,” he said.
It is not all serious business, though. “People who apply to us and who are active on Twitter and make comments and post relevant, funny remarks about sports, start out with an advantage,” he hinted toward Eurosport’s recruitment.
Arnaud started out with an internship at TF1, the parent company of Eurosport, several years ago. He first broke into Eurosport as its program controller, he said. “I had the good fortune of reporting to an English head of broadcasting. The Anglo-Saxons have a more open view of business practices than their French counterparts,” he joked.
After managing the international Eurosport channel, whilst also acting as project manager for Eurosport 2, he became head of broadcasting for the channel, he said. Three years ago he became managing director of Eurosport France and director of TV content for international programming.
It is some climb to the top of the corporate ladder. It has taken Arnaud more than a decade. Eurosport is broadcast to more than 130 million homes across 54 countries in 20 languages. Although falling slightly, Eurosport reported revenues of €342.5 million for the first three quarters of 2013. Operating profit soared €8.2 million to €54.7 million.
This year is the company’s 25th year of in the business of broadcasting. But Arnaud has clearly lost none of his zeal for the sports business; the company still gets his juices flowing.
“What excites me the most is definitely working all day long with very different profiles and trades: managers, creative talent, specialists in sports law [and] program buyers,” he said. “We also have to manage our relationship with the audience in a highly competitive market.”
The television network was just awarded the rights to the French Football Cup for the next four years, Arnaud said. The channel has exclusive rights for most of the games. “I really love this mixture of rationality, professionalism and at the same time, a large share of intuition and feeling.”
His business school, EMLYON, has been gaining more international recognition. Arnaud admitted that the media program 20 years ago may have “lacked” – but the school is “pragmatic and produces profiles that correspond precisely to real needs”.
He added: “At present, I would be delighted to get back in touch with the current classes, through debates about sports on TV.”
But if there is one thing that has led him to achieve such success, it is passion. “You can't lie about your passion or your knowledge of sports,” he said. “Because at Eurosport, my job is more than just a profession – it's a passion.”