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Bulletin length: 1,494 words – it’s a 7-minute read
Broadcast Disruptors of the Week: Gary Lineker Leaders Sports Awards entry details Serie A mulls plan to buy Sky Italia Reddit refocusing on sport? Investments in generative AI Premiership Rugby’s CEO on its ideal media mix
LEADERS BROADCAST DISRUPTOR OF THE WEEK
Who? Gary Lineker
What? Host of BBC’s Match of the Day
Why? Lineker, the BBC’s highest paid presenter, has been reinstated as host of the UK broadcaster’s flagship football highlights programme, following a dramatic weekend of ultimate disruption when he was taken off the air and much of BBC Sport’s output was reduced or cancelled as colleagues downed tools in solidarity. An issue of impartiality – or not – that spiraled way beyond Director of Sport Barbara Slater’s paygrade seems to have been resolved with a promise to have the BBC’s social media guidelines independently reviewed. In some ways this was a uniquely BBC issue, but, much as athletes have greater individual platforms than ever before, the whole affair has only underlined the supreme influence of broadcasters such as Lineker – the “world’s best sports broadcaster” in the words of Director General Tim Davie – and the new and fluid challenges that is posing for the media organisations that employ them.
THE BIG PICTURE
This is the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, back in your inbox and on a mission to offer a few nuggets on what’s happening and about to happen in the sports broadcast and media space.
Firstly, thanks to those who joined our private think tank a couple of weeks back in Abu Dhabi – a fine way to spend a morning, and it was superb to have senior figures from the NBA, Serie A, Snapchat, Bundesliga, FIDE, ICC and more in the room sharing expertise, ideas and solutions. Look out for invites to the next couple, in London next month and in New York on Monday 22nd May. Hit us up for more details. We’re at [email protected] and [email protected].
There’s just a few weeks left to finish off and submit your entry for October’s Leaders Sports Awards, which each year highlights and celebrates only the best work in the sports industry from around the world. Entries are currently being accepted in all the key company categories, including for our always hotly-contested Content Creation award.
The NBA picked up the gong last year in this one, for its NBA lane short film, starring Michael B. Jordan and a host of NBA stars. The film was created and shot to celebrate the league’s 75th anniversary season, and it was the final product, plus the activation campaign that surrounded it, that caught the eye of our independent panel of judges.
The entry window slams shut on Friday 31st March – you can find all the key information, including a decidedly handy and downloadable nominations guide, at leadersinsport.com/lsa. Best of luck.
EYES ON THIS – Watch how these things develop to understand the future
Plan A: Serie A used the Leaders Sport Business Summit in Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago to launch a six-month global roadshow as it takes its media rights to market. As well as the MENA region, a major deal in North America and several markets in Asia will be key priorities. CEO Luigi De Siervo, a former Infront and RAI executive, says the league will focus on its competitiveness relative to other major European leagues and a ‘Made in Italy’ lifestyle approach as it makes the case for the league around the world. Closer to home, it appears De Siervo may have similarly grand ambitions. A report in La Stampa this week suggested Serie A is considering a surprise bid for Sky Italia, currently owned by Comcast but a division that may be spun off by the US media giant. Serie A clubs met with league officials in Milan on Monday, where no agreement was reached but the Sky Italia plan was reportedly one of several options placed on the table. Such a move, were it to happen, would, at a stroke, give Serie A an enormous data pool, plus a raft of technical and payment infrastructure – and be an expensive but innovative way to create a league-owned streaming service. At a headline level at least, it makes a deal of sense – it’s worth reading Carlo De Marchis’ typically-sensible take. The league is already in business with Sky, which is the minority broadcaster in Serie A’s current domestic coverage arrangements. That three-year deal, worth around €262.5 million, gives Sky a package of live games, although the bulk of the current live domestic rights are held by DAZN.
/r/sportbizreddit: The most striking element of the NFL’s annual infographic highlighting some of the key digital and social numbers from the Super Bowl was the presence of Reddit, alongside TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat. It also reflects how little the sports industry talks about Reddit compared to other platforms. It certainly feels like the least understood. And that despite a global user base of around 50 million (38% female, 62% male, according to We Are Social’s annual digital report). The NFL and NBA both agreed content partnerships with Reddit in 2021, largely focused on AMAs (‘ask me anything’ for the uninitiated), but beyond official relationships the community-focused platform has a user base well drilled in sharing and in some cases amplifying clips and gifs. And Reddit has made two moves over the last week that perhaps indicate its future intentions: like every other platform, it’s aiming to become TikTok and has confirmed it will split its text and video into separate feeds – ‘watch feed’ and ‘read feed’. The company has also hired Sarah Rosen, who oversaw North American sports, entertainment and news partnerships for Twitter, as its new Senior Director of Content Partnerships. Her brief at Reddit will include oversight of sports, media, gaming and entertainment relationships.
Early stage technology investor Kelvin Mu, of Translink Capital, has done everyone a service by attempting to map out at least some of the myriad investments happening in and around generative AI.
~ Source: Kelvin Mu/Translink Capital
In the Mixed Zone with… Simon Massie-Taylor, CEO, Premiership Rugby – the top tier of club rugby in England is preparing to go to market for its latest round of domestic media rights.
How satisfied are you at present with Premiership Rugby’s TV and broadcast mix?
We’ve got a really strong long-term partnership with BT Sport, which announced a few weeks ago that they’re going to rebrand as TNT next season. They have built the product up to be a well-renowned rugby broadcast platform – they really have built a good quality product there and with it brought in a really loyal fanbase. We’re continuing to see growth there. Last season was our best ever, I think we were 20% up on anything in the previous cycle and we’re continuing to see growth. What was important to us coming into last year was distribution. We’ve got a whole strategy around being accessible for all. The partnership with ITV to give seven live games, including the final, was an important addition to that, plus the fact they’re doing highlights shows as well. We’re getting to the stage where we’re getting around a million people tuning into this at peak. We hope for well beyond that when we broadcast the final later this year. ITV have been a great partner, to help appeal to a wider audience, and it’s definitely been complementary to rather than cannibalising the BT audience. That’s a real positive.
The third element that was important was making all games available. We launched pretty quickly back in March last year PRTV, our streaming platform for all games that weren’t picked by BT. That’s been really popular, a fan favourite for people who have season tickets but want to watch away games. More broadly, people have picked up on it. How that evolves and pivots going into the next cycle is a topic of conversation at the moment. Stage one of it being accessible, getting the distribution out there and having partners is great. The other thing about ITV that’s great and part of our wider strategy is it’s aligned with the international game – we’re in the middle of the Six Nations at the moment, seven, eight million people watching. And that’s just a funnel into club rugby and ITV have been great at signposting audiences into the club game via the international window, which is exactly what we wanted.
A fundamental question for any rights holder going to market with their media rights is reach versus revenue – do you think you have the right mix there?
I think we have got a good balance for where we are at the moment. You have that strong core with BT and that mass distribution of ITV. When you think of club rugby it’s not just the Gallagher Premiership, you also need to think of ECPR competitions, the Heineken Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup, where again we’ve got this balance of distribution between ITV and BT. Collectively, we’ve got 14 live games on ITV plus all the volume that BT produce – and that’s really positive.
Simon Massie-Taylor was speaking on March’s Leaders Live, available to watch back here or listen to via podcast here.
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