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Bulletin length: 2,801 words – it’s an 8-minute read
Broadcast Disruptor of the week: Lucas von Cranach
Join us for our new event experience in New York
The case for Channel 4
FIFA+ launches with free model
DAZN finally makes its big bet
Fresh Olympic content for broadcasters?
The IOC publishes headline Tokyo 2020 stats
How the Bundesliga approaches matchday with Andreas Heyden
LEADERS BROADCAST DISRUPTOR OF THE WEEK
Who? Lucas von Cranach What? CEO and Founder, OneFootball Why? A momentous week for the football content company Cranach founded in 2008, as it completed a US$300 million Series D funding round, including investments from the likes of Animoca Brands and Dapper Labs. OneFootball, which bought Dugout in December 2020, currently has around 100 million users, but the funding round has also led to the formation of what Cranach calls a ‘new and exciting joint venture’, called OneFootball Labs, with Animoca Brands and Liberty City Ventures partnering to enable football clubs, leagues, federations and players to create new digital fan experiences on blockchain. ‘When OneFootball was founded in 2008 as one of the first sports apps on the app store, we were at the forefront of the next evolution of the internet,’ Cranach wrote in a Medium post announcing the news. ‘And now, we want to bring the football industry with us as we shift to Web3, defining a new era of football fandom ad creating mutual benefits for everyone. We’ve already built credibility and trust in the football ecosystem with the biggest clubs as our shareholders. We have the produce, the distribution, and most importantly, direct access to fans at scale who want a new model to enjoy and experience football.’
THE BIG PICTURE
Thanks for your click and welcome to another edition of the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, breaking down what’s essential across sports broadcasting, content creation, distribution and monetisation – and then building it back up again.
We enjoy all your correspondence, whether it’s official news or unofficial gossip – keep emailing [email protected] and [email protected]. We’ll make sure it goes in the folder marked ‘important’.
Last call for expressions of interest in our next Broadcast Disruptors Think Tank. We’re back on the road for this one: destination, New York City, on Tuesday 17th May. Drop us a note if you’d like to be in the know and in the room with a group of senior executives from across sport and media.
The Think Tank is part of a week of event experiences we’re staging throughout the w/c 16th May, all under the banner of 4SE – the idea is to examine the changing relationship between sport, entertainment, lifestyle and culture. We’ve got TikTok, we’ve got Dapper Labs and we’ve got a few surprises in store. If you’re in town or you’d like to know more, do get in touch.
It’s time to start talking about Channel 4 as a serious player in the UK sports rights market. The broadcaster has over the past few years carefully and creatively upped its sports output, striking opportunistic simulcast deals with Sky Sports to broadcast the 2019 men’s cricket World Cup final and last season’s championship-deciding Formula One race, as well as with Amazon Prime Video for Emma Raducanu’s US Open final.
Moreover, it has carved out live free-to-air packages in both codes of rugby, the Champions Cup and Superleague; last year it signed a late deal to screen England’s series against India, returning Test cricket to terrestrial TV in the UK for the first time since 2005; earlier this year, it surprisingly nabbed the rights to the Fifa Club World Cup, showing Chelsea’s victory in Abu Dhabi live; Formula One highlights have become a primetime staple on Sunday evenings; since 2012, its coverage of the Paralympics and para-sports has been genuinely groundbreaking.
Its latest move is to secure the rights to live England men’s football in the UK for the next two years, including Nations League games, Euro 2024 qualifying matches and friendlies. In all, the broadcaster – publicly owned and funded by advertising, but, despite major opposition in the media sector, facing the prospect of being privatised by the UK government – will show 20 live games until 2024.
It’s an admirable commitment to sport you won’t find everywhere.
EYES ON THIS – Watch how these three things develop to understand the future
(More) Plus points: A good or bad few weeks for streaming platforms? Hard to say: Netflix is (perhaps for the first time) challenged; CNN+ is no more, having fallen into the yawning gap between two divergent corporate strategies. And yet, the launch of FIFA+, the unimaginatively named but at first glance really quite impressive new streaming platform from world football’s governing body, feels like a positive. FIFA gets much bad press but its quiet and careful development of FIFA+ has, it seems, delivered – the result is a crisp initial user experience and a vast library of live (over 29,000 men’s matches and 11,000 women’s games this year alone), archive and original content. According to Dave Roberts, one of the key figures in the platform’s development, speaking on something called the Unofficial Partner podcast, FIFA has so far reached out to around 110 of its 211 national member associations to understand how each of them can best leverage the large global audience the service expects to build. That model is also noteworthy: FIFA+ is (for now at least) free, with no requirement to submit personal details (for now at least). Instead, it will be funded – in order to, in Roberts’ words “wash its face” – through advertising and sponsorship.
DAZN’s big bet: After much speculation, following the appointment of Entain executive Shay Segev as the streaming service’s new CEO, DAZN has finally confirmed a significant step into betting. Expect a soft launch later this year of the DAZN Bet service, to coincide with the start of the European football seasons. A more piecemeal, gradual approach will have to be taken in the United States, where DAZN’s core product is its boxing business but where sports betting legislation is determined on a state-by-state basis. “That’ll be a major part of our business going forward,” Joe Markowski, DAZN’s EVP, Global Platform told The MMA Hour earlier this week. “It’ll be led out of our major markets, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy – it’s probably easier to roll out in different parts of the world [to the US] where betting is more evolved. Businesses are looking for new ways to develop relationships with consumers and find ways to make our products more sticky with different services. I think that’s the next phase of OTT, how we can make the experience of watching on a streaming platform significantly better and different to watching on traditional, linear television. The criticism I would make of our business – and the industry of sports streaming more broadly – is what have we actually done fundamentally to change the consumer experience? Ten years ago if you were watching any sports broadcast on ESPN or Sky Sports, you’d have done so sitting back, watching the linear channel. That’s what most people still do now; there’s not a significant change in terms of the user experience. What we have the opportunity to do now with new technologies and the reduction of latency is to make that experience significantly better than watching on a linear platform. Betting, watching with friends, alternative broadcast streams – what we’re doing with Canelo and Barstool Sports this week – are other things we can layer into the broadcasts that traditional linear television cannot do. That’s where I think you significantly enhance the quality of the user experience and that’s where the consumer, the viewer, the fan, ultimately gets more value out of a product like ours than a traditional linear television network.”
Olympics: Three intriguing developments in the Olympics world in recent weeks, each with potential broadcasting and production ramifications. First, the International Olympic Committee announced it will be grouping Olympic qualifying for four sports – BMX freestyle, skateboarding, sport climbing and new sport breaking – in a series of three festivals, in the build-up to Paris 2024. Second, the IOC confirmed last week it is in discussions with Singapore about hosting a ‘festival of virtual sports and gaming’ early next year, the next iteration of its Olympic Virtual Series. There is no detail yet about whether those events might be packaged up for existing Olympic broadcast rights holders, or, in the case of the qualifiers, whether each respective international federation will retain the ability to sell the rights. Nor too, have the broadcast plans around the virtual sports event been finalised – although it seems certain that Olympic Broadcasting Services will be engaged to ensure the final products have the Olympic production values. This is also additional content that can be packaged up for the Olympic Channel. Perhaps most intriguing – and controversial – is the third development, this week’s news that the UIPM, governing body of modern pentathlon, is to trial obstacle racing as the new fifth element of the modern pentathlon. The sport had previously announced that a replacement would be sought for showjumping, as it battles for relevance (read: its future as an Olympic sport). A 21-strong working group has been mulling over potential additions. The group includes sports broadcasting heavyweights Peter Hutton and David Hill, International Sports Broadcasting CEO Ursula Romero and former IOC Broadcast Rights Director Michael Payne. As the latter hinted at, following the initial working group meeting in January, making modern pentathlon a more attractive proposition for broadcasters should be high on the list of priorities. “I think it’s important to also broaden the whole discussion and review that one is not just looking at the replacement discipline, but at the overall presentation of your sport,” Payne said. “Don’t just look at what sport you’re adding but how it’s all integrated to create the best possible narrative presentation structure to the broadcaster.”
The International Olympic Committee has published coverage highlights in selected markets from last year’s rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games.
At least 76.5 million viewers in the host nation watched the Games every day
More than 91% of the Japanese population – 115.8 million – watched Tokyo 2020 coverage on TV
Digital video views in China accounted for approximately 75% of all digital views worldwide
Over 50 million watched coverage on France Televisions’ channels – six million more than Rio 2016
French viewers spent an average of 7.53 hours each watching Games coverage
Seven recorded the biggest primetime share for commercial free-to-air networks, with more than 60% share across all days of the Games
More than 20 million Australians tuned in to watch Seven Network’s coverage – the biggest television and streaming event in Australian history
Viewership of the opening ceremony was three times higher compared with the opening ceremony of Rio 2016
Source: IOC Marketing Report – Tokyo 2020
In the Mixed Zone with… Andreas Heyden, CEO at DFL Digital Sports and EVP, Digital Innovations, DFL Group
DFL Group’s Andreas Heyden was a guest on last week’s edition of Leaders Live – available to watch here or listen to here – to discuss how the Bundesliga approaches matchdays in 2022. As he explained, with a wealth of new technological innovations at its fingertips and a growing group of domestic and international broadcast partners to tailor content towards, it’s a far more complex operation than even a few years ago.
How does the increased complexity of devices, habits, ways of consuming content manifest itself within an organisation like DFL Group?
I would say for the time between the kick-off and the final whistle, not much has changed. On various devices, we offer more interactivity; with a second screen application you enrich the customer experience; with on-screen AR and data you give greater insights into the game. But it is live. I think the dramatic change has been what happens before and after in this limited timeslot of three hours on a Saturday afternoon. The way we produce content, the way we interact with clubs and players, the way we tell the story afterwards and before has been a big change for us. I would say if you calculate the cost-per-minute, this is where we make the highest investment. Yes, we’re doing HD, HDR, 4K, UHD broadcasting and that is expensive, but over time that gets cheaper, because it is more quality. But the ratio between how much live TV, 1,000 hours roughly per season, versus how much shoulder content we are creating by ourselves, with our partner or with our broadcasters, this has grown, I would say, by a factor of 100 over the last five years. The interesting part is that in a sports league rights organisation you’re always working in cycles, so you always have, say, a four-year period with your main contracts and during that time you learn a lot about how to work together with your broadcasters. Some broadcasters emphasise everything that happens after a match because of their timezone.
Your ESPN+ broadcast partnership in the US; what kind of discussions and market-specific ideas do you share with broadcast partners like them?
American customers are in a very interesting phase right now. We’re coming from a world where media usage was disrupted, there’s been cord-cutting etc. Now we have a playback of the traditional broadcasters, who now enrich their OTT products. It’s a market where there is constant change, so it’s not an easy answer. What we do with ESPN is evolving over time and when we closed the contract we didn’t even know what we were going to do in years three and four, but as it is a relationship of trust in the framework of our agreement we find new ways to execute. We introduced, in that context, a social media matchday feed; it is a special service we offer as part of the licensing where we create additional footage, out of the stadium, out of the changing room, generated by mobile phones – raw, authentic, feels good, can be used on social, on TikTok and has great credibility – and we mix that with the broadcasting product. The contest on the pitch can be told afterwards in additional ways and there are more and closer insights into what happened in the 90 minutes. That’s important because the big brands of the NFL, NBA are traditionally free TV-led, so we have to somehow create content that gives context to the game but doesn’t give away the value of the live rights. It’s careful balance we need to strike. Future-wise, we are discussing features like ‘scores on, scores off’, so on a Sunday morning when you switch on the Bundesliga app or a partner app do you want to see the final score of Der Klassiker or not? Stuff like that is very, very relevant for us.
What is the balancing act like as you introduce innovations and new broadcaster products between protecting what is important to existing fans and doing what you need to do to attract a new audience?
It’s a pain point for the whole industry right now, because we are in transition. If we were to only cater for the paying audience, the family father who pays the subscription that the son also uses on their devices, then we would do something which fails in fashion: if you make clothes for seniors, no senior is going to buy it, you always have to go a bit younger. Overall, our first approach is on any platform we’re on we try to be 10% or 20% under the age average at least. We always try to be, depending on the platform, five to ten years younger than the audience itself. This helps us to keep the content fresh, keeps us on our toes, see what’s working or not, as there’s a trickle-down effect: if the kids love it, the parents love it, at some stage the grandparents will love it.
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