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Bulletin length: 2,989 words – it’s a 10-minute read
Solving the Olympics’ discovery problem
The future of punditry, ESPN-style
Breaking news: CNN launches streaming service
Barstool Sports breaks into live broadcasting
Netflix’s latest numbers
The Tour de France’s ‘smart stadium’ concept
Premier League unveils new Chinese partner
NBC renews Indycar deal
Rodriquez steps up at Univision Sports
NFL teams up with Hawk-Eye to speed up the game
Opportunistic Amazon strikes Olympics deal
NBC and Snap delivering five daily shows
The Hundred makes successful broadcast debut
THE BIG PICTURE
Hi there, hope you’re staying safe and sound, and welcome along to the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, where we note down all the important bits when it comes to sports broadcasting and content creation.
The world is watching and, as usual, the first few days of the Olympics have been a whirlwind of dramatic moments, painful defeats, emotional victories and heroic performances across a range of sports. Exactly what you’ve watched will depend partly on your own interests, partly on what your local broadcaster is offering up and partly on your access to the multitude of live Olympic Broadcasting Services streams.
In the UK, for example, much of the country appears to have been taken by surprise that the BBC, for so long considered the Olympic broadcaster, no longer has live coverage of every sport at all times. Under the terms of its agreement with Discovery – itself heavily pushing its own new Discovery+ service rather than Eurosport – the BBC can only show a maximum of two live events concurrently. In the United States, meanwhile, the regular topic of time-shifted, delayed coverage on NBC seems to have been replaced with whether events will be live for free or available only via NBC’s new subscription streaming service, Peacock.
For all its magic, discovery – small D – remains a problem for the Olympic viewer when there’s so much good stuff happening at once. As AP’s sports newshound Rob Harris noted on Twitter over the weekend, rights-holding broadcasters and the IOC might have missed a trick by not creating a rolling Red Zone-style news and key moments service, with the ability to dip in and out of sports at key medal moments, closing stages of close events and generally zip around the venues throughout the day (and night).
While for a rights-holding broadcaster full channel offering, fuelled by live data and results from across the sports, may not be viable, for the IOC – through its Olympic Channel, which goes effectively dark during Games-time – it is surely more attractive. Indeed, insiders suggest a similar idea has previously been pitched to the IOC but, so far at least, failed to reach fruition.
As well as the hugely popular and acclaimed NFL Red Zone, the most relevant model here, perhaps, is The Wimbledon Channel, the IMG-produced in-house global service which shoots between courts keeping viewers up to date with everything important during the two weeks of The Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. So as not to infringe on the rights sold to broadcasters, it is permitted to show one game per set, an allowance supplemented by analysis and colour from around the grounds.
There are obvious complexities in providing a global service, but the Olympics are the perfect product for such a fast-paced, ‘whiparound’ channel, which could effectively be used to point viewers towards full local broadcast coverage of particular events and provide an additional platform for the rich data sets the Olympic Games generates.
Time to dust down that pitch.
EYES ON THIS – Watch how these three things develop to understand the future
The future of punditry
The alternative live broadcast, be it ESPN’s MegaCasts or the CBS/Nickelodeon NFL tie-up, is beginning to move from novelty to the norm in the United States; but in confirming Peyton and Eli Manning as hosts of an alternate Monday Night Football stream, ESPN may have just ushered in the next phase of live sports punditry. Via a deal with Peyton Manning’s company Omaha Productions, the brothers will front an alternate broadcast of MNF for the next three years, broadcast on ESPN 2 and potentially other Disney and ESPN platforms. ESPN said ‘fans will be treated to a mix of in-the-moment analysis, big picture NFL dialogue, knee-jerk reaction, historical perspective, and more’, with athletes and celebrities set to appear as guests. The live game coverage will always be available to viewers in a box on the screen. Rights-holding broadcasters building a dedicated stream around individual pundits – part-analysis, part-chat show, part-DVD director’s commentary, part-entertainment show – is no small undertaking, but if it ultimately gives viewers more options and creates a bigger pool of viewers it may well be an investment worth making.
It seems strange that a media brand as large and recognisable as CNN has not, to date, had a dedicated streaming service, but that is about to change. The company has announced that CNN+ will launch early next year as ‘an additive experience that complements the core CNN linear networks and digital platforms to serve CNN superfans, news junkies and fans of quality non-fiction programming’. It will include 8-12 hours a day of original live programming. CNN has been unable to stream its regular programming due to existing relationships with distribution partners. It has not released a pricepoint for the new service, which has been announced off the back of May’s announcement that CNN parent WarnerMedia is merging with Discovery, who are heavily promoting their own Discovery+ streaming product. Much like the sports streaming market, the competition in US news streaming has become more intense in recent times, with the traditional broadcast networks, specialists like Fox News and successful, albeit largely text-based, subscription services from the likes of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal all in play. CNN is the latest to join a battle that ought to be monitored by sports media organisations, as the number of ways for consumers to spend a finite amount of disposable income on subscription services grows yet again – the latest timely reminder that sport is not just competing with sport.
Pull up a stool
It’s fair to say opinion on Barstool Sports is divided, but whether you’re in the too brash camp or see it as the future of sports content, it is even harder to ignore now it has confirmed its move into the live sports rights game. On Tuesday, it was announced as the new title sponsor and broadcaster of the Arizona Bowl, the annual New Year’s Eve game between teams from the Mid-American and Mountain West college conferences. The newly-named Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl will be broadcast via Barstool’s various digital and social channels. CBS was the previous broadcast partner for the game. Barstool is promising the ‘full treatment’ for the game, including a week of festivities in Tuscon, a charitable initiative and various of its well-known personalities involved in coverage of the game. There will also likely be a strong betting element in the coverage, with Barstool a co-partner of Penn National Gaming and with the state of Arizona in the final stages of approving sports betting. Founder Dave Portnoy, who uses the moniker El Presidente, put it this way: “I’ve said many times that our ambition at Barstool is to own the moon. This is a major breakthrough in that regard.”
Netflix’s second quarter results revealed the service has one million new subscribers, with a significant drop in new younger subscribers. This is the lowest number of new signups since 2011, when Netflix was operating as both a new streaming platform and as a postal DVD rental service. It is also a huge decrease from 2020, which set a new record of 37 million new subscribers, with entertainment-hungry audiences seeking new film and television content throughout lockdown. The result was a global user base of over 200 million. “Netflix has become a victim of its own success,” Richard Broughton, media analyst at Ampere Analysis, told The Guardian. “It is so mass-market in many of its more established territories, that it has largely signed up all the young audiences already.” A study by Ampere showed 80% of 18-34 year olds in the UK have access to a Netflix account, with similar results in the US. This figure drops as the age of the audience increases, with 70% of 35-44 year olds having access and 62% of 45-54 year olds. Broughton suggested that Netflix is changing its strategy to focus less on action and horror and more crime dramas and documentaries, popular with the 55-64 year old market, to attract an older audience. At the same time, Netflix has confirmed it will launch a free gaming service in 2022.
Source: Guardian graphic/Ampere Analysis research
In the Mixed Zone with… Julien Goupil, Media Director of ASO, and Pascal Queirel, Chief Information Officer at ASO as they discuss how the Tour de France has been working to transform the way it delivers content to fans at home and on the road.
Where is ASO in its digital transformation journey? Julien Goupil: Digital and technology have always been key on the Tour de France. We created our website in 1995; and we had our first official mobile app in 2001; then we had first social network presence in 2004; and then the next big step we did was in 2015 with our agreement with NTT where we reached a time when we understood that people had some difficulties to understand the race and how it works, to understand the strategy of the teams. We have now created many things together – and we have increased the storytelling on the Tour de France – with data on television, with graphics, with charts – on digital, on gaming with the fantasy game. We haven’t done everything yet, of course, but all that has been done over the last two years is key for the event, it’s key for the fans, it’s key for the partners – when you are LCL, Tissot, Lerclerc, NTT of course – you need brand content activation; you want those 10 million fans on social networks, you want to reach those 12 million unique visitors on the website.
What are the next steps? Pascal Queirel: The first part of the digital journey was to be able to deploy a live tracking system on each rider. The second step was to be able to process this data in real time. And now our main goal with NTT is to develop the world’s largest smart stadium: having the possibility to connect the fans with the race and with the riders. All this evolution has had to be done in a specific environment, compared with other major events: we are moving every day, so we need to use scalable technology, pragmatic technology and simple technology to deliver on our projects. We are in the middle of the evolution of the product.
How does a ‘smart stadium’ concept work in a sport like cycling? Pascal Queirel: The idea behind the Smart Stadium concept is to give a better experience to the people watching television and bring new services for people on the roadside: new things like wayfinding, what are the best spots for viewing the race, gaming and engagement activation, eshop – the idea is to build a digital stadium experience for people on the climb of Mont Ventoux.
Julien Goupil: It comes with the fact that we have somewhere between and 10 and 12 million people along the route. They are waiting something like five hours for the riders to come. It made sense for us to propose an activation: all of them have a mobile phone in their pocket. The idea is to propose targeted services. I’m pretty sure that is something where NTT will help us. It’s a big challenge; we are not in a stadium; it’s not a football game; it’s the middle of nowhere, it’s logistical challenges; it’s changes at the last minute – we all remember changing the finish line in the Mt Ventoux the day before and everyone has to adjust. That’s the concept of this biggest stadium in the word smart stadium.
To read more about how ASO and NTT have partnered on the Tour de France, plus case studies and insight from across other sports, download the latest Leaders special report, Enabling Digital Transformation.
Premier League partners with iQiyi
The Premier League’s latest Chinese broadcast partner was unveiled last week, with video platform iQiyi Sports agreeing a deal to take live games until the end of the 2024/25 season. iQiyi Sports was formed in 2018, through a partnership between Baidu-backed iQiyi and DDMC’s Super Sports Media. The streaming service has been building a football portfolio ever since, including live coverage of LaLiga and Euro 2020, plus a partnership with FC Barcelona to create a dedicated Chinese channel. From a revenue standpoint, the deal is believed to be worth significantly less to the Premier League than the agreement signed in the last rights cycle with PP Sports, a Suning-owned platform. But after that deal collapsed and Tencent stepped in on a short-term basis last season, the stability of an experienced partner is likely to have been particularly attractive – prior to the deal with PP Sports, Super Sports Media broadcast the Premier League for six seasons. It is unclear whether an additional China rights deal with state broadcaster CCTV will follow, but iQiyi says it will stream live games for subscribers without adverts and in multiple languages
Indycar and NBC sports renew US rights deal
NBC Sports and the NTT IndyCar Series have announced an extension of their US rights agreement. The current agreement ends at the end of 2021, and is estimated to be worth US$20 million a year; the new deal extends this agreement for another three years. The NBC network will broadcast a record 13 races, while USA Network and Peacock Premium will broadcast two races each. John Miller, President of NBC Sports Programming, said. “We have demonstrated NBCUniversal’s ability to make big events bigger with our presentations of the Indianapolis 500, we have worked closely with Roger Penske, Mark Miles and the entire team to expand IndyCar’s reach across the US, and we are thrilled to build upon our collaborative successes of the past few years.”
Rodriguez promoted at Univision
As part of a wider management restructure Juan Carlos Rodriquez has been promoted to President of Univision’s global sports enterprises. Olek Loewenstein has been named President of sports content. The changes come after Univision was acquired by SearchLight Capital Partners and ForgeLight and with plans for a merger of many of Univision and Televisa’s assets.
NFL teams up with Hawk-Eye Innovations
Following an approval of rules earlier in the offseason that would allow replay officials to provide on-field officiating crews with more information during games, the NFL are now taking an additional step to make its review process more effective, by partnering with Hawk-Eye Innovations. Hawk-Eye has been used for the optical tracking system in tennis, pitlane officiating in Nascar, as well as goal line technology in football, and will here be providing the league with camera systems that will offer additional angles for more accurate replay review. The hope is also that it will help speed up games. “This is all about having the comforts of replay but also doing it as quickly as possible,” said NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. “It’s all for internal use, but all to allow the NFL to keep the game moving while also reviewing things as well as they possibly can.”
Amazon primed for Olympic delivery
A newly announced partnership between Canadian rights holder CBC and Amazon has seen coverage of the Tokyo Olympics broadcast live and on-demand via Amazon Prime Video. This venture marks the first time that Prime Video has streamed live coverage of the Olympic Games at no additional cost for its members. The opportunistic move on the eve of the Games came as the streaming service looks to further expand into sports broadcasting. Chris Irwin, executive producer and head of production for CBC Olympics, said of the need to adapt programming to the new age of content consumption: “It’s definitely part science, part art form…the idea that people [might watch the Olympics] on their phones, and in their beds and on trains and planes and everything, was just non-existent until this cycle.”
NBC and Snapchat partner for the Olympics
NBC Olympics has partnered with Snap Inc. once again to produce five daily shows on Snapchat for the Tokyo Games. NBC, the exclusive broadcaster for the Olympics in the US, has collaborated with Snapchat twice previously – once for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and a second time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. The five Snapchat shows are: NBC Olympics ICYMI, a studio show hosted by Jacques Slade, NBC Olympics IRL, a roundup of social media clips, Chasing Gold, a series focusing on individual athletes of team USA, NBC Olympic Highlights, which uses NBC’s broadcast footage with suitable captioning, and NBC Olympics Spotlight, which provides commentary on the biggest events on the day as they happen. These shows are available for the US audience, but Snap Inc. are also featuring daily highlight shows with France TV in France and Eurosport across 17 other European countries, including Germany, Italy and the U.K. Snap has reported that 90% of viewers of the 2018 Winter Olympic Snapchat coverage were under the age of 35. Do join us later today for an Olympic-themed edition of Leaders Live, as we – and you – discuss the future relevance of the Games.
The Hundred launches with record-breaking women’s game Cricket’s innovative new format, The Hundred, launched last Wednesday with the most-watched women’s cricket match ever in the UK. The match between Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals, broadcast across BBC Two and Sky Sports’ Cricket, Main Event and Mix channels, drew a peak audience of 1.95 million, breaking the previous record of 1.24 million for the 3rd IT20 against India on July 8th. Initial interest in the 100-ball format was music to the ears of The Hundred Managing Director, Sanjay Patel, who said: “We couldn’t have asked for a better start…a thrilling match which went down to the wire, a brilliant atmosphere inside the crowd with lots of families and children, and record figures watching at home.”
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