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Bulletin length: 2,460 words – it’s an 8-minute read
Broadcast Disruptor of the week: Amanda Lawson
DAZN tweaks the model for boxing
TikTok ups maximum video length to 10 minutes
Alex Willis to leave Wimbledon for intriguing new Premier League role
LaLiga Tech’s all-in approach to digital
LFP looks for private equity investment for commercial arm
Stu Rowson on the responsibility and challenge of creating kids content
LEADERS BROADCAST DISRUPTOR OF THE WEEK
Who? Amanda Lawson What? Founder, Hang Loose Media Why? A start-up worth watching this week, as Lawson, who most recently headed up esports company Gfinity’s content operation, confirmed the launch of her own production host, which will specialise in sports and esports content. Lawson has worked for the likes of Octagon CSI, IMG, ITV and UFC. She has headed up production operations for three Fifa World Cups, three Uefa European Championships and two Rugby World Cups. She has spent the last five years with Gfinity, building out its content and production capabilities which now sees the London-based company generating over 300 hours of live broadcasts across its game portfolio. Hang Loose Media will be an ‘end-to-end production partner’, with the aim of building longstanding relationships and developing high-end clients. Announcing the formation of Hang Loose this week, Lawson said: “I’m incredibly excited for my next chapter channelling my passion, expertise and creativity into Hang Loose and our clients.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Thanks for clicking and welcome to the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin – your fortnightly guide to everything that’s worth knowing about sports broadcasting, content creation, distribution and monetisation.
Wherever you are, hope you’re staying safe and holding up.
The week has of course been dominated by the cancellation of events due to be staged in Russia, sponsorship agreements with Russian firms abruptly ended, Russian participation in sport significantly impacted and Russian ownership of sports organisations under the microscope.
Next may be the broadcast contracts rights holders around the world have in place with Russian media organisations, especially those where significant rights fees have been involved as international organisations look to disassociate themselves with the country.
In July, Match TV, owned by Gazprom Media, agreed a deal to broadcast the Premier League from next season. The rights are currently held by Rambler, which broadcasts games via its OTT service Okko. Match TV, which launched in 2015, also holds rights to Uefa’s club competitions, as well as LaLiga and rights in other sports, notably an agreement with Formula One, last renewed in 2020 until the end of 2023.
A consortium of broadcasters – state-owned Channel One and VGTRK, as well as Match TV – hold the media rights to the 2022 Fifa World Cup, as they did for the 2018 edition staged in Russia. The Telesport agency has the rights to the Olympics in Russia until 2024, with Beijing 2022 broadcast by Match TV and Channel One.
The expectation must be that several if not all of these arrangements will soon be terminated.
EYES ON THIS – Watch how these three things develop to understand the future
DAZN tweaks the model: DAZN has confirmed it will screen undisputed super-middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez’s next two fights as a pay-per-view offering in the US and Canada, the first time the subscription service has adopted the model. Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, which has a global deal with DAZN, will promote the Mexican’s next two fights. DAZN has set the pricepoint at US$59.99 for existing subscribers and US$79.99 for new subscribers. It’s a shift in approach for DAZN but, according to Hearn, one which was a necessity in order to win the bid to work with one of boxing’s true superstars. “The world changes, the market changes,” Hearn told IFL TV last week. “Is DAZN’s strategy now different to four years ago? Yes, of course – virtually every businesses strategy has changed. The fact remains that every now and then, for certain huge global stars, they will have to have the pay-per-view functionality for these kind of fights and these kind of fighters. The truth is when you’ve got Fox or Showtime doing Canelo Alvarez at US$80 or US$90, how do you compete without replicating that model?” Confirming that, should DAZN win the right to broadcast Anthony Joshua’s next fight, that too will be a pay-per-view offering, Hearn is also bullish on likely numbers for Canelo’s light heavyweight fight with Dmitry Bivol in May. “They [DAZN] have such a huge subscriber base in America, they have a captive audience of American boxing fans already, plus the database who have been on DAZN and experienced the platform, plus the ability to cross-sell that pay-per-view with other platforms, like DirecTV and many others. I think it’s going to do tremendously well.”
10-minute TikToks: Earlier this week, TikTok increased the maximum length of videos on the platform to 10 minutes, up from the previous limit of three. The company hopes the move will ‘unleash even more creative possibilities for our creators around the world’. The move has been coming for a while, although it’s less than a year since the platform elected to increase the maximum video length from the original 60 seconds to three minutes. While undoubtedly opening up new content opportunities for creators – and from a sports point of view the ability for broadcasters and rights holders to share longer-form highlights packages, for example – the expansion continues a pattern that sees TikTok and YouTube moving closer together, albeit from different starting points. YouTube has recently indicated that its ‘Shorts’ feature, which appeared to move it towards TikTok’s primary offering, will be more of a development and business focus this year. It’s as yet unclear whether TikTok will be working on enhanced functionality to make it easier to rewind and fast-forward through longer videos, and make them easier to view vertically.
A game-changer for the Premier League: Alex Willis has been appointed to the position of Director of Digital Media and Audience Development at the Premier League. Lauded for her work revolutionising Wimbledon’s approach to digital and reaching audiences around the world, Willis will leave the AELTC, where she is currently Communications & Marketing Director, for the Premier League in September. She will report into Chief Media Officer Paul Molnar and will focus on the development of a new D2C strategy at the league, which saw international media rights revenues outstrip domestic takings for the first time this year.
Connective tissue: As several rights holders have discovered in recent years, the business of running and sustaining an OTT platform is not straightforward, but that isn’t stopping new entrants – Premiership Rugby, Clemsen University and Tottenham Hotspur are among the latest – stepping into a busy market. As our latest special report, available to read for free here, indicates, however, doing so in a silo is not recommended. The report examines LaLiga Tech, a wholly-owned subsidiary of LaLiga, which exists to develop, maintain, service, market and share the various technological assets that LaLiga has built over the course of the last decade, in the areas of fan engagement, content enhancement and protection and competition management. As it was officially launched late last year, it already had a foundational roster of 12 clients, including a full service deal with the new World Padel Tour, and agreements with MotoGP promoter Dorna Sports, Belgium’s top football league, plus broadcasters Sky Mexico and Tigo Sports. The concept is based on the idea of data providing the connective tissue which interlinks each of the systems and solutions within the LaLiga Tech portfolio, including OTT broadcast and content platforms – and in the belief that these ecosystems are not common amongst sports organisations. “To invest money in building digital assets separately may bring results, but it doesn’t allow you to optimise campaigns,” says Loreto Quintero, LaLiga Tech’s Production and Delivery Manager. “It doesn’t allow you, for example, to understand the behaviour behind the content across different platforms. Our users don’t expect the same from our social networks and in our OTT. If you cannot link the experiences they have in these different platforms, you cannot build the correct product for them and put the correct content for them in every platform.”
A Financial Times report this week named four potential bidders for the new media rights company being created by the Profesional Football League (LFP) to house rights for France’s Ligue 1. The shortlist has been whittled down from over ten initial expressions of interest. The newspaper report that offers will follow in the next week, ahead of any decision by the LFP.
LFP is reportedly looking to sell up to a 15% stake in the company, with the aim of receiving in cash €1.5 billion.
Reports in France suggest there may be a new split of revenues out of the new entity amongst Ligue 1 teams, with one report suggesting Paris Saint-Germain alone could receive 30%, six other clubs with recent European experience sharing 40% and 30% for the remainder.
Private equity investment has been identified as a way for the LFP to try and recover, following the collapse of its previous domestic rights deal with Mediapro. That deal, worth some €800 million annually, broke down at the end of 2020.
In the Mixed Zone with… Stu Rowson, Consultant, Chelsea FC
Coming up on the next edition of the Broadcast Disruptors Audio Bulletin – dropping shortly on the Leaders Sport Business Podcast feed on all your favourite platforms – Stu Rowson, the former senior leader at BBC Sport who went on to oversee the corporation’s younger audiences strategy. Rowson is now consulting for Chelsea FC, as part of his mission to help brands and media companies engage with kids and younger audiences.
When you’re producing content aimed at 9-12 year olds, to what extent is patronising the audience one of the major pitfalls and what are some of the ways that sports organisations targeting that group can avoid doing that?
There are loads of pitfalls and patronising them is certainly one of the dangers. The way I came into BBC Children’s and became a children’s content expert was almost a happy accident. I’d done some years at BBC Sport, I’d then done the younger audiences strategy and then when I came into BBC Childrens I had a bit of an epiphany moment, suddenly realising the way you need to target those younger audiences is in very specific segments. In the BBC, there’s CBeebies for 0-6-year-olds, then CBBC for 6-12s and then what you do in the 12-16 space. What I learnt quite quickly was that when kids are mopping up content it’s obviously got to be relevant and suitable for them, but it’s also got to be aspirational for them – what we see with kids is they want things that are older. If I’m eight, I want to be at secondary school. It’s similar with content, so one of the things we’re doing with Chelsea and Perfect Play is using under-17 and under-18 players knowing that that feels aspirational to 12 and 13-year olds. The other pitfall with 9-12-year-olds is social media. You’re not supposed to be on social media until you’re 13, but the reality is that kids are and I think you’re far better off taking a mature, appropriate approach to that rather than closing your ears and pretending they’re not there.
How much more challenging is producing content for these demographics for commercial entities looking to ultimately bring customers into an ecosystem and generate revenue through them?
Fundamentally, you’re talking about the youngest, most innocent, naive, not yet fully educated audience and you’re giving them a brand, wanting to have a relationship with them and keep them coming back. For all of those reasons I would urge anyone who tries to get into this game, so to speak, to do so in a massively responsible way. It’s not that dissimilar to how the BBC goes about it. It’s a long-term play. Chelsea are not trying to get into the hearts and minds of 9-12-year-olds because they think it’s going to unlock a large pile of cash in the next six months, it’s a long term play to try and build the Chelsea name into families so that you end up with a long association. That’s one of the reasons I like working in this space. Yes, of course there are KPIs and bottom lines and budgets, but the only way to do a segmented children’s approach really well is to know it’s a long term strategy and by it being a long term strategy, that takes away some of the rush to the lowest common denominator.
What do you make of Nickelodeon’s NFL live broadcasts?
The headline for me is that it’s great somebody is trying something different. But it can only be one part of the answer. Putting some CGI slime on the pitch where nobody actually gets covered in slime feels a bit cheap and nasty on screen, but the fact they’re using a kids presentation team so you’ve got that peer-to-peer conversation, rather than adult-to-child, which feels far more accessible. That’s absolutely crucial. That conversation and relationship with the audience has been going on a long time, but in a world of video on demand and YouTube I think the really interesting challenge for what are effectively live broadcasts is how do you transfer that to have any value in a video on demand world – probably through clips and clever use of other platforms, but while live events still do well, the repeatability of live events is effectively zero. You have to have programming that runs alongside it. To have two million people watching was incredible, but what do they hold out of it – how many of that two million did they hold on to for something else that they did?
Imagine you’re talking to the CEO of a rights holder – a team or league – who has worked out their audience is ageing and wants to bring some young blood into the fanbase: how would you advise them?
I think it’s knowing what your product is but also knowing all the spin-off, satellite entry points into your sport. What’s fascinating in the kids and younger audiences space is how you take all of those satellite points – whether it’s a Spotify playlist or something around fashion – and use those audience entrance points in and of themselves. The other thing for me is massively doing the work to segment the audience, so you know who you want to target – just saying you want to reach kids is meaningless; is your target audience 9-11-year-old boys, or 11-15-year-old girls? You absolutely and intrinsically have to know the differences in your audience, because that determines where you put your content, the type of content and how often you do it.
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