Broadcast, Digital, Digital & Media, Sport Business | Aug 30, 2018
Edition 3 of the fortnightly Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin - 11 things you need to know about the shifting sports media landscape today.

Broadcast Disruptors: 11 things you need to know about the shifting sports media landscape today

By James Emmett and David Cushnan

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Short form

Screaming about streaming at Amazon and DAZN
YouTube’s growing ‘1 billion’ club
Rob Manfred on the durability of the cable model
Facebook enters sublicensing game
Premier League takes up Saudi piracy fight
Ross Bernard takes NHL content role
Amazon hires former ESPN documentary exec
ESPN to debut Goodyear BlimpCast
Scottish brewery launches innovative SVOD network
Netflix and Sunderland aim for December release
The future of content portal ownership

Long form


Welcome to the third edition of the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your fortnightly guide to the latest cutting-edge thinking and practices in the sports media industry – from production to distribution, rights to new technologies.

Thanks for the feedback – the good, and the improving – on the first two editions. We’re always eager to hear from you – whatever you have to say – so do drop us a line on [email protected] and [email protected]

And talking of feedback, three days into Amazon’s major live sporting coverage UK bow and tempers are fraying among the tennis faithful. The retail giant’s reported $40 million deal to broadcast the US Open in the UK on an exclusive basis will remain a landmark step in the evolution of sports media, regardless of the ultimate success of the coverage of this tournament, but it’s fair to say that things have got off to a patchy start. The review facility on the US Open highlights service was closed down after just two and half days of action after 96% of the reviews consisted of just one or two star ratings and complaints are manifold, despite the studio set-up at Flushing Meadows that features a host of comfortably familiar names.

Amazon’s travails are not surprising. Live sports streaming is hard, especially so when demand – for whatever reason – even marginally outstrips what was anticipated. YouTube, Optus, any number of in-house sports platforms, and DAZN will willingly attest to that.

“As @RalphRivera rightly pointed out at @Eurosport,” new Facebook rights chief Peter Hutton recollected on Twitter yesterday, “live sports streaming means your list of technical assets needs to include a thick skin. Tough learning process for fans and businesses, but it gets better with time and experience!”

And whoever emerges as the go-to spokesperson for sport on Amazon – whether it’s upcoming Leaders speaker Alex Green, James DeLorenzo, new recruit Marie Donoghue, or someone else – they could do a lot worse than take a leaf out of James Rushton’s book. The DAZN CEO has made it a point of principle to address consumer criticism head on and with a level of transparency and technical detail that’s both admirable and revealing of just how challenging the technical environment still is for this emerging band of broadcasters.


The hills are alive with the sound of music
When it comes to media disruption and the adoption of new models of distribution, consumption and monetisation, the music industry is the one to watch for clues as to what comes next in other areas, it having undergone significant iterative shifts over the last two decades. And recent MIDiA research into YouTube’s role in the music economy is instructive. As young consumers abandon traditional music distribution platforms – notably radio – in favour of streaming options, YouTube is the global standard bearer. According to MIDiA’s recent ‘State of the YouTube Music Economy’ report, penetration for YouTube music viewing peaks at 73% among 16-19 year-olds in Brazil, but the platform has become the main way that all consumers aged 16-44 discover music. 1 billion video views used to be represent a monumental milestone. That kind of engagement should now be a standard target for producers of the biggest hits, with ten videos already having achieved the mark by July this year.

Source: MIDiA Research report ‘State of the YouTube Music Economy’


In the mixed zone with…. Rob Manfred, Commissioner, Major League Baseball

What one question are you often asked that you don’t have the answer to?
The toughest question I get that I really don’t know the answer to is ‘what does the media landscape look like in 10 years?’ It’s a question that, whether they admit it or not, all sports are wrestling with. I’m a believer that a core of the cable model is going to survive. I think that as options – particularly a la carte options – proliferate, people are going to realise that cable bundles are pretty good value in terms of what they deliver. So I think there’s going to be a core that remains. But I think that around that core there will be a proliferation of options via various technologies that people will be able to pick and choose in a more discriminating manner what they want to pay for.

How are you navigating such a challenging media environment?
It’s talking and experimenting. I do try to take advantage of opportunities to talk to people on the sports side and on the media side who are living in this world, but I think it has to go beyond talk; it has to go to experimentation. And I think a great example is our Facebook deal – last year’s Facebook deal, and this year’s Facebook deal. We learned a lot from those deals. We’re fortunate in that we play 2,430 times per year; we have a lot of product. And that gives you the opportunity to do small experiments that can be very educational in terms of what the future might look like.

Give us an example of where you’ve tested and learned?
Think about the issue of exclusivity. Exclusivity is obviously a really important issue in terms of sports media. We can give an exclusive Wednesday afternoon game to Facebook. Not every sport can do that. And it really is and has been a learning experience in terms of attracting an audience that’s a lot different than our core broadcast audience.

Rob Manfred was talking to Leaders CEO Jimmy Worrall for episode 42 of the Leaders Podcast, which was released on Friday.


The hat game
Peter Hutton’s arrival at Eurosport coincided with the pan-continental broadcaster’s move into sub-licensing as it worked out the best way to slice, dice and commercialise a hefty package of European Olympic rights for the 2018 Winter Games. The multi-purpose hat – buyer/seller/producer/broadcaster – is one that Hutton wears well, and he’s donned it again at Facebook. The social giant signed a landmark acquisition for La Liga rights in India this month, before promptly confirming a landmark sublicensing arrangement with the incumbent La Liga broadcaster it had dislodged in Sony Pictures Networks India.

Satellite of love
The Premier League has become the latest rights holder to take up the fight against what is widely perceived as a coordinated rights piracy operation in Saudi Arabia. The ‘beoutQ’ pirate channel has been broadcasting sports content – much of it licensed to Qatar’s beIN Sport – for months. The Premier League, which is forging a reputation for itself as one of the most active rights holders in the fight against media IP theft, appointed legal counsel in Saudi Arabia earlier this month and has joined French league body the LFP in complaining to the European commission. The latest efforts are focused on Saudi government-controlled satellite operator Arabsat, which carries beoutQ.


Puck yes
Attorney-turned-content executive Ross Bernard has been hired as the new VP of Programming and Development at the NHL. He’ll be responsible for programming – including the development of original content – at the league and will report into EVP and Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer. He joins from Epix, where he produced unscripted sports, comedy and music programming as well as documentaries.

Hail Marie
Amazon has hired former ESPN EVP Marie Donoghue as a VP of its sports video division. Donoghue played a key role in ESPN’s celebrated 30 for 30 documentary series, earning a credit as EVP of Global Strategy and Original Content on the Oscar-winning ‘O.J.: Made in America’ documentary in 2016. She joins just over a week after the release of Amazon’s eight-part ‘All or Nothing’ documentary following the exploits of 2017/18 Premier League champions Manchester City.


Blimps and Noles
ESPN has received rave reviews for its ‘MegaCast’ broadcast coverage of the college football championship game, a signature six-option viewing offering that lets consumers choose their own mix of views, pundits and calling teams. The network will be rolling out the MegaCast for the ACC Top 25 telecast this 3 September – Labor Day in the US – and including something new: the Goodyear BlimpCast – in which Marty Smith and Ryan McGee will be stationed alongside a camera, providing commentary – as far as they can – from 1,000 feet above the Hokies-Seminoles game at Doak Campbell Stadium.

Dogs Chance
Scottish indie brewery BrewDog has nailed its colours to the lifestyle marketing mast and is launching an SVOD service aimed at tapping into the demographics that view craft beer as a cultural choice rather than a product preference. The BrewDog Network will be priced at $4.99 a month and launches with 14 original series and hundreds of hours of programming, covering beer, of course, cocktails, food, travel, comedy, game shows and documentaries. BrewDog has partnered with LA-based production company Redtail Media to launch the network.

Through the lens – A view on the productive tension between content producers and content aggregators

Nick Finegold is the founder and CEO of content management and software solution company Curation Corporation. A financier by background, Finegold has made a name and a fortune for himself in identifying trends and growth paths in all manner of industries. He gave his predictive analysis on the disruptive media environment in sport for the Leaders Sport Business Forecast.

“The commercial lesson is that it’s not good enough to own the content going into the portal, you have to own the portal. It’s like all content. The FT wants to push the FT, Dow Jones wants to push the Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs wants to push Goldman Sachs, but the portal is one place which is content agnostic. The trend that we’re talking about is what I call mutualisation. There are some clubs, I think, that are mutual. At some stage, that’s where the vulnerability in the aggregators is, but it isn’t going to happen quickly. Selling content into a portal means that you lose control because you don’t have collaboration; you’re only worried about putting your content out there, you’re not actually looking at solving a problem for the customer. Why Google is worth $800 billion is because it’s content agnostic. It doesn’t care what you want to watch, it makes it super easy to do whatever you want to do. And actually the portals may well become more specialized: highly curated content sets where you get exactly what you want rather than a one-size-fits-all solution may well be the way the portals go. The idea that you can beat them at putting 50,000 different types of content in there is another thing.”

“It’s not good enough to own the content going into the portal, you have to own the portal.” 


Amazon-Man City vs Netflix-Sunderland
If there hasn’t quite been the same fanfare surrounding Netflix’s decision to run a documentary series on the plight of Sunderland in the 2017/18 season as Amazon’s blockbuster ‘All or Nothing’ series following the protagonists in the all-conquering Manchester City side of the same season, it’s understanding. Sunderland slipped to a shambolic second successive relegation as City swept all before them. But the Netflix-Sunderland-Fulwell73 production company collaboration now has a release date – 14 December – and an eight-part format. And struggle is the backbone of all great storytelling. Expectations should be high.


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