Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Nov 14, 2019 | 8 min read

Disney+ launches in a fragmented marketplace; UK football fans admit to watching pirate streams; NBC’s Olympic chief moves on

By James Emmett and David Cushnan

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Short form

Disney+ launches and CBS scoops the Champions League
Join us at our latest Broadcast Disruptors think tank
US pay TV subscriptions 2004-2019
Accedo’s Luke Gaydon on the future of broadcast
ABC ends Olympic live coverage run
Andrew Ryan joins FIBA Media
NBC searching for Tokyo 2020 executive producer
J-League adopts AI-powered replays
Chelsea launches US-focused podcast
Discovery confirms Polish OTT plans
Nielsen splits in two
New UK piracy survey results


Long form


Hello from us to you and welcome to the latest Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your fortnightly analysis of what’s happening in sports broadcasting, how media habits are changing and, perhaps most important, what’s next?

Happy Disney+ launch week to you. Mickey Mouse and co’s new service, which debuted on Tuesday in the United States, is the most talked about streaming product since the last one and there’ll be plenty of media executives who’ll be keenly observing its progress – and the inevitable teething troubles – over the coming weeks and months.

With Apple’s new service now in market, and several other high-profile products set to launch over the coming months there has inevitably been a battle to create new content, acquire content or in some cases take back content that had previously been distributed elsewhere. The fragmentation of the market is striking and there must be a limit to the amount of ‘smaller’ subscriptions consumers are prepared to take out.

A similar story of fragmentation is, of course, playing out across sport. This week’s reports that CBS and Univision have acquired the US rights to the UEFA Champions League for the period between 2021 and 2024 brings a new player to the soccer table in CBS, and means that to watch ‘all the football’ in the United States in a few years’ time will require subscriptions to multiple services – CBS’s dedicated sports network, a so-far quiet player in a noisy marketplace, will reportedly carry the bulk of Champions League games, while NBC Sports Network remains the home of the Premier League. ESPN+ has Serie A and from next season Germany’s Bundesliga, while BeIN Sports has a long-term deal in place with LaLiga.

It makes for a complex consumer picture, even with a degree of bundling and share distribution underway and inevitable.

As a soccer fan based in the US, you will have to pay your money and – more than ever – take your choice.

Before you read on, a word about our next private, invitation-only think tank which is coming up fast on the rails. We’ll be gathering a group of senior executives from across sport to discuss ‘modern production methods: costs, impact and engagement’ in London on 4th December. Do get in touch with us if you’d like more details: [email protected] and [email protected].



Three-quarters of American TV households subscribe to a form of live pay-TV service, according to new research published Leichtman Research Group (LRG). That 75% figure, however has dropped from 84% five years ago. Meanwhile, the average spending on a pay-TV service among subscribers has reached US$109.60 per month, an increase of some 6% since 2016.


Source: Pay-TV in the US 2019 report; Leichtman Research Group




In the Mixed Zone with… Luke Gaydon, Head of Strategy & Solutions at software development company Accedo, which specialises in designing and building applications for the multi-screen use case.

Who are you working with and how do you work with them?
We work with four of the UK national broadcasters in the shape of ITV and STV, which is the Scottish version, and Channel 4 and Channel 5. We provide dedicated technical resources to those broadcasters to help them manage and evolve specific parts of their digital estates; so if you’re Channel 4, that means All4. On the other hand, we have projects such as the one we did for the biggest telcom in Indonesia which is called Telkomsel, where in conjunction with a couple of other technology providers like Harmonic, we have built them an all-singing all-dancing live, catch-up and on-demand streaming service that is available to Telkomsel subscribers which is tens of millions of people.

Our innovations team look at things like VR and AR. In conjunction with France Televisions, the broadcaster for the French Open Tennis, we built a really cool AR experience that sat in the innovation hub at Roland Garros, and you could go and see interactive maps, and split screen and holographic things. It’s a bit like the Star Wars chess game in the Millennium Falcon.  And finally we have a solution in markets with a company called Brightcove which is called OTT Flow, and this provides a more out-of-the-box OTT service.

What products are serving your sports industry clients well?
I would say that ten to 15% of our revenues are generated by the sports use case, or by projects involving sport. What our sports clients really care about is that the live stream works and it doesn’t buffer and it’s a decent quality and people can get to it by whatever mechanism is required. And so whilst a lot of that is down to other partners in the ecosystem we sit in, that is obviously a huge area of focus for us. So some of the things that we do is to make that the applications and services we build are done in the most efficient way – to ensure that they load as quickly as possible, and there aren’t delays and stutters and issues that cause people to complain or go elsewhere.

Personalisation is a concept that’s been around for a while in the OTT context, but it’s not so far made it into sports in a big way. A lot of our product investments are in building capabilities and features that enable service providers to identify and then superserve those different types of fan.

What do you think will catalyse the creation of more personalised viewing experiences in sport?
I think if you look at other industries – whether it’s ecommerce or entertainment services – they’ve figured out that you need to talk to the customer or the audience at as individual a level as possible. I’m not sure that sports is quite there yet. But what we do see is a desire to get there; and that desire is being driven by a growing appreciation of the significant and material differences in the way that sports fans look at their sport and want to engage with it. If you try a one-size-fits-all approach, or even a two-sizes-fit-all approach, you’re not going to be serving a large chunk of your existing or potential audience.

What is catalysing that move towards personalisation is that growing appreciation of the differences that exist within the fanbase. And also within sports themselves, they have different characteristics so that digital engagement with those sports looks different. Something like cricket or tennis really lends itself to having lots of interactions or points throughout the game where you can engage or spark interest or ask for interactivity. That is better understood now, and the opportunities are better understood as well.



ABC elects not to go live in Tokyo
Australia’s ABC has come under fire from the Australian Olympic Committee after deciding not to acquire live radio broadcast rights for next year’s summer Games in Tokyo live. It will be the first Games since Helsinki 1952 that the broadcaster has not covered live, with ABC citing “budget pressures and the changing broadcast environment” for its decision not to buy a package of sub-licensed rights from Seven Network, who hold the multi-platform rights to the Games. “The AOC believes the decision is monumentally short-sighted and a great let-down to Australians who rely on their national broadcaster – from the smallest of communities to our suburbs,” responded the AOC’s chief executive Matt Carroll.



Ryan switches from IOC to FIBA
Andrew Ryan has been hired as FIBA Media’s new Managing Director. Former Head of Media Legal and Business Affairs at the International Olympic Committee’s television and marketing service arm Andrew Ryan has been hired as the new Managing Director at FIBA Media, the media offshoot of world basketball’s governing body.

NBC Olympics chief departs
NBC Sports executive producer Jim Bell has left the organisation, leaving the US rights holder searching for a new person to head up its coverage of next year’s Tokyo Games. Bell had for the last year been sharing his Olympic role with a new position as The Tonight Show showrunner.



J.League utilising AI
Japan’s top-tier football league, the J.League, has begun a partnership with WSC Sports to create tailored highlight clips using machine learning and artificial intelligence. WSC’s machine learning platform has been integrated with the league’s production arm and its Imagica Live live streaming platform, allowing clips to be automatically edited, created and distributed.

Chelsea launch in-house podcast
English Premier League side Chelsea have launched a new official podcast aimed at American fans. Chelsea Mike’d Up will ‘explore creative ways to provide Chelsea fans in the US with a show that appeals to the American fan’s diverse sporting interests’, according to a statement by the club.



New Polish streaming service to launch
Sports content will form part of a new global streaming service targeted at Polish speakers which is being launched by Discovery and pay TV producer Cyfrowy Polsat. The service, which does not yet have a name, will also include Polish movies, entertainment, news and documentary programming. Discovery has a similar model in place in Germany, where it works with ProSiebenSat.1 on the Joyn streaming service.

Nielsen splits
It was announced last week that Nielsen Holdings is splitting into two distinct companies: Nielsen Global Connect, focused on marketing and consumer data services outside and TV and content; and Nielsen Global Media, in which the traditional media measurement services will sit. Nielsen Global Media will be led by David Kenny, the current CEO of Nielsen.

UK football fans use pirates
According to a recent survey carried out by online betting platform OLBG, 22% of UK football fans have admitted to knowingly using pirated broadcast streams. 40% of respondents claimed to be unaware that unofficial online streams were illegal. The findings, which come from a survey of 1,000 football fans, were published shortly before Premier League side West Ham United caused a measure of controversy by becoming the first top tier football team to sign a sponsorship deal with a VPN provider. The partnership with Ivacy IPN is designed to ‘educate the club’s fans about potential threats on unsecured networks and to emphasise the need for encrypted internet connections.’


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