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Bulletin length: 1,925 words – it’s a 7-minute read
Broadcast Disruptor of the week: F1’s Dean Locke
Get your entries in for the Leaders Sports Awards
Pressure on the subscriptions model
How Fifa is aligning its gaming and OTT strategies
Bill Simmons to oversee global sport at Spotify
Conan O’Brien sells podcast business to SiriusXM
TalkSport and BBC split Premier League rights again
Nielsen’s snapshot of US consumer trends
Inside the W Series broadcast strategy with Catherine Bond Muir
LEADERS BROADCAST DISRUPTOR OF THE WEEK
Who? Dean Locke, What? Director of Broadcast and Media, F1 Why? Driving a culture of live broadcast innovation
Locke has one of the most challenging jobs in live sports production, directing Formula One’s race broadcasts. The sport has received plenty of plaudits in recent times for its enhanced digital content strategy and, of course, Drive to Survive. But steadily, impressively, F1’s live production has continually been tweaked and improved – fresh camera angles to emphasise speed, informative and smartly visualised graphics detailing timings, gaps and car performance and, notably, the introduction of helmet cam this season have all added to the show. Locke is at the forefront, calling the shots and ensuring that the narrative of a race plays out on screen for the global audience. Clearly, he is also leading a team willing to innovate and try new things, even if they don’t always work. One such example was in evidence last weekend, at the Spanish Grand Prix, when F1 trialled a live drone cam. It’s fair to say there is room for improvement – the drone was only able to operate on the circuit infield, due to regulations set by world motorsport’s governing body, and the resulting shots of the cars were, to say the least, poor. Nonetheless, the willingness to try – and sometimes fail – to provide new perspectives under such a global spotlight can only be admired. The next time you see a drone cam at an F1 race, you can expect the final result to be significantly better.
THE BIG PICTURE
This is the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your regular briefing on who’s uploading, downloading and influencing in the sports broadcast and content space. Thanks for spending a little of your day with us – and do forward this on to your best colleague so they can get it direct-to-inbox next time; sharing is caring.
Whilst you’re at it, don’t forget about another important deadline on the road to this September’s Leaders Sports Awards. Tomorrow evening (Friday, 23.59 BST) is when nominations close for this year’s company categories and our annual Leaders Under 40 class.
We’ve got awards in all the key categories, notably Content Creation – where Drive to Survive from F1, Netflix and Box to Box Films – took the honours in 2021, and Fan Experience, where the NBA’s next gen telecast won big last year.
Head here for all the entry information and key criteria. And best of luck to you all. Awards night, at London’s Natural History Museum is on Tuesday 27th September, part of Leaders Week London.
EYES ON THIS – Watch how these three things develop to understand the future
Pressure in the system: The pressure in the media and content subscription model system has been increasing for some time, as more and more services have sprouted up in previous years – major streaming services from broadcasters, media and audio providers, direct-to-consumer products from leagues, teams and events, as well as niche, independent offerings via the likes of Substack and Patreon – but the cost of living crisis being experienced in many parts of the world feels like it may be about to take a real stranglehold. One British building society, Nationwide, has this week reported that spending on subscriptions (via card transactions) has dropped by 10 per cent month-on-month. Spending on subscriptions also fell 2% this April compared to April 2021. For comparison, spending on dating has also dropped by 10% month-on-month, while charity donations fell 16% (although in the latter case spending remains 17% higher than in April 2021). There was also an 8% drop in spending on TV, phone and broadband in April, compared to March (a 12% drop compared to April 2021). The warnings signs for anyone invested in a subscription product appear to be clear.
Game on: The somewhat acrimonious end of Fifa’s long-term relationship with EA Sports will splinter the football video games marketplace yet further, but in revealing its new non-exclusive gaming strategy world football’s governing body has offered further clues to how critical its new FIFA+ streaming platform is to its future plans. Fifa plans to work with a range of partners on a new set of games in 2022 and 2023, and says it is ‘currently engaging with leading game publishers, media companies and investors’ in relation to a new simulation title for 2024, effectively in replacement of its EA Sports partnership. That new gaming model has been developed in parallel with FIFA+, which launched last month. It’s clear that service, currently offering a range of live, original and archive content, has been conceived and designed less as streaming product and more as a broad fan engagement platform, incorporating live, original and archive content, gaming, esports and perhaps in time betting.
The Ringer founder Bill Simmons has been promoted to a new role overseeing Spotify’s global sports content strategy. Spotify acquired The Ringer for around US$200 million in 2020. Simmons will continue in charge of the sports and culture website and podcast network, in addition to his new role. Simmons will report to Julie McNamara, who will head up The Ringer and the two other major brands Spotify has acquired in recent years, Gimlet Media and Parcast, as well as partnerships with the likes of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Archewell
US chat show host Conan O’Brien has sold his podcast and digital media business, Team Coco, to SiriusXM for a reported US$150 million. Team Coco podcasts reach 17 million people across social media and average 180 million downloads annually. “When I started in television my ultimate goal was to work my way up to radio,” quipped O’Brien.
Talksport and the BBC have once again split the audio commentary rights to the Premier League in the UK for the next three-year cycle, covering 2022/23 to 2024/25. Of the seven packages, the BBC has secured the first pick on Saturdays at 3pm, Saturday evening and Sunday’s games, while Talksport has picked up Saturday lunchtimes and midweek games, including Fridays and Mondays.
At our inaugural sports, entertainment, lifestyle and culture event experience, 4SE, last week, founding partner Nielsen provided a punchy snapshot of the current consumer landscape and current US attitudes towards NFTs.
Sports fans are very plugged in. Other top activities they’re engaged in are watching TV at home (87%) and listening to music (86%).
However, they still have interests in entertainment: attending a concert (66%), music festivals (60%).
Nearly half are also interested in sports betting & gambling (47% & 46%, respectively).
(Source: Nielsen Fan Insights, US, Q1 2022)
38% of U.S. sports fans are interested in NFTs (72% more likely than the general population).
Lack of knowledge is currently the biggest barrier to why fans aren’t investing (47%), so education is how stakeholders can close the gap.
A top reason why fans invest in NFTs is because they feel it’s a great way to engage with the team (24%)
Specific types of NFTs sports fans are particularly interested in are: memorabilia pictures, player highlights, digital avatar skins and match highlights and digital in-game audio.
Crypto providers such as Coinbase, FTX, Crypto.com and WeBull who have invested in NBA sponsorships have received over 250 hours of exposure, equating to more than $88M in media value since the start of the 2021-2022 season.
(Source: Nielsen Fan Insights, US, Q3 &Q4 2021)
In the Mixed Zone with…Catherine Bond Muir, CEO of W Series
The new W Series season began earlier this month in Miami, with the all-female motorsport championship agreeing a new broadcast deal for the UK with Sky Sports. The pay broadcaster has committed to live coverage of every qualifying session and race for a multi-year period, with live coverage moving away from free-to-air Channel 4. Channel 4 has retained a highlights package.
What does the new deal with Sky mean for W Series?
I’ve always said from our first season and now as we just start our third season that we will always prioritise reach in any TV deal we do. We don’t intentionally go behind a paywall; we want as many viewers as possible. Last year we were with Channel 4 exclusively and our Spa race actually wasn’t shown, because there was a huge crash in the session before us and then the heavens opened and we were delayed and delayed. We ended up against the news on Channel 4, so they just had to cut the broadcast even though we’d been on for nearly one and a half hours. As a result of that we had a highlights show on the Sunday and we got really good audience figures for that. That started us thinking about going over to Sky, which obviously has this fantastic pedigree and channel devoted to motorsport, and then stay with Channel 4 with a highlights package on the Sunday, knowing that already was a successful format. With our live numbers on Sky [for the first race of 2022 in Miami], we’ve already hit our second-largest viewing figures and that was only beaten by last year’s Silverstone race. With Sky, we didn’t know how our audience figures were going to compare but actually we’ve knocked it out of the park. We’re absolutely delighted – and then people on Sunday can watch the highlights too.
Why are deals like this so important for women’s sport?
They give us a platform to grow the sport. I met Stephen van Rooyen, the CEO of Sky, and what was interesting from him – and I was amazed at this – was his personal commitment to growing women’s sport. He said it’s not about the business figures now, because our commitment is to grow that audience. Fortunately, we came out and had really good viewing figures from the word go. He said ‘Catherine, we want this long-term deal with you, we want long-term deals with women’s sport because it is going to take a few years for women’s sport to grow its audiences’. I’m not saying we’re going to have the same audience as F1 in five years, but at the moment, this last weekend [in Miami], we had 20% of their audience, so if we can continue to grow that in the next three years with Sky, that would obviously be amazing.
What’s the thinking behind the deal with ESPN in the USA?
ESPN is such a large platform in the States, it’s not just about the live broadcast, it’s the power of promotion and having the time and space on all of their platforms to put on a load of subsidiary content in order to promote W Series – to have time for those platforms to introduce our drivers. Nobody’s interested in who I am, everyone wants to know the stories about the drivers, their back stories and in W Series they are really fantastic stories, so it’s incumbent on all of us to encourage these great new broadcasters to help to tell those stories.
The full interview with Catherine Bond Muir will be available on the Leaders Sport Business Podcast in June.
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