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13 things you need to know today about the shifting sports media landscape
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A year like no other
The National Theatre goes PPV
Walmart toying with content offering
Discovery to phase out Eurosport Player
How Facebook helped drive Manchester City kit sales
Paralympic rights given to African free-to-air broadcasters
Doubts over Téléfoot future
Grace and Pilgrim step up at YouTube
Sky New Zealand names new CEO
Former Spotify exec joins FuboTV
AC Milan latest to join Twitch
Accedo pondering the future of OTT
Extreme E links up with Red Bee
Hi there and thanks once again for clicking. This is the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, a briefing on all things sports media – from remote production to rights models, distribution channels to content creation and all things in between.
As a wretched year draws towards a close, we’re reflecting on how this segment of the sports industry has coped with all that’s been thrown its way in 2020. Through our regular private Broadcast Disruptors community calls, hastily assembled when the pandemic took hold in March and a fortnightly fixture since, we’ve listened in as many of you have adapted, reset and problem-solved to face the new and daunting challenges of the day.
If April and May were about sharing battle stories and understanding what others were thinking and doing in order to formulate entirely new plans, the conversations in June, July and August honed in on the broadcast enhancement opportunities empty venues opened up as sports events were gradually given the green light to resume. This last portion of the year has seen the conversations shift again. Longer-term planning seems back on the table, accelerated change in areas like remote production and broadcast technologies has opened up new conversations about efficiencies and sustainability, and digital transformation is now being talked of less as a concept but as an absolute necessity for content houses, broadcasters and rights holders.
It’s been a pleasure bringing so many of you together during a year when everything changed. Hopefully we can do it in person again sometime soon. Come what may, we’ll be continuing the conversation in 2021 so do tell us what you’re excited by, concerned about or working on at [email protected] and [email protected].
For now, if you’re able to take a break over what is traditionally a busy sports programming period, all the best for a safe and enjoyable festive period.
All the world’s a stage
With live performances continuing to be halted completely or severely restricted, The National Theatre in London has launched its own streaming service. The National Theatre at Home platform is operating on a pay-per-view basis, offering a selection of current productions, building on the in-cinema broadcasts around the country prior to the pandemic, and recordings of archive plays. Ostmodern has worked to develop the global platform. After a free trial of several streamed filmings earlier this year, which attracted some 15 million views, price points of UK£9.98 per month or between UK£5.99-£7.99 per play have been set.
Retail giants assemble
US retail giant Walmart has been flirting with a content offering for some time, with speculation last year suggesting it was mulling over launching its own streaming service. Alongside Oracle, meanwhile, it remains in talks with ByteDance about acquiring TikTok’s US business. Further investment in content certainly seems plausible as it finds itself increasingly in competition with Amazon Prime. Walmart’s ecommerce sales grew 79% in the US during Q3 and its Walmart+ delivery service launched recently with a cheaper annual membership than Prime. Building out its offer to members seems inevitable and last week’s move to drop its $35 minimum spend has been interpreted by analysts as its latest move in a bigger plan to knock Prime off its US ecommerce perch.
Voyage of Discovery
Confirmation that Discovery has become the latest major broadcast group to launch a new subscription streaming service will see the current Eurosport Player gradually phased out in various markets between now and the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics next July. Eurosport content and live rights will ultimately be folded into the Discovery+ product, opening up opportunities for Discovery to cross-pollinate content, produce more original sports-themed programming and expose more casual sports fans to live events such as the Olympic Games, for which the company, save for a number of sub-licensing agreements with free-to-air broadcasters, holds the blanket live rights across Europe
Manchester City has credited Facebook and Instagram as a “fundamental part of our strategy”, as the club recorded record kit launch sales this season. With access to physical retail outlets restricted due to the pandemic, the club worked closely with Facebook to optimise the launch of its three kits for the 2020/21 season. A content strategy encompassing long-form videos on the creative inspirations behind each of the kits, a half-hour Facebook live reveal and the new Reels short clips product to engage fans, as well as utilising the customisation and collection features of Facebook Shops and Instagram Shopping. “With this year’s kit launches we’ve seen excellent commercial results through combining great content and authentic storytelling with product tagging and an effective Facebook advertising strategy,” confirmed Serena Gosling, City Football Group’s Director of Retail and Licensing. The key results are below and the full case study from Facebook is available here.
IPC aiming for reach and to change attitudes in Africa
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has handed rights to the Tokyo 2020 Games to a number of free-to-air broadcasters across Africa for no fee. The organisation is working with Loughborough University in the UK and the UK Aid charity on an initiative, Para Sport Against Stigma, to change attitudes in Africa towards disability. The IPC is working with the TV Media Sport agency to secure commitments from broadcasters to show live coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies, plus a 52-minute Games highlight package, and is expecting 24 countries with an estimated reach of 150 million to come aboard. The coverage will be made available in English, French and Portuguese. The broadcasts will be funded jointly by the IPC and UK Aid, with the hope that it will not only help to change attitudes but open up future commercial opportunities for para-sport in Africa.
Doubts over Téléfoot future
There appears to be significant doubt about the future of Téléfoot Chaine, the French channel set up to house the bulk of Ligue 1 rights acquired by Mediapro this season. Various reports this week have indicated that the channel could be shut down entirely within days, as Mediapro continues to battle with the Ligue de Football Professionnel over a discount on the €830 million rights fee it originally agreed to pay prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. A court mediator in France is due to deliver a verdict on that dispute today. The well-sourced Get Football News France service reported on Tuesday that Téléfoot staff have been advised to prepare for two options; fewer live games on the channel or a complete shutdown of the service which was launched amid great fanfare at the start of the season. The broadcaster was not able to confirm whether it would be in a position to broadcast the Paris St Germain versus Lyon game this Sunday. Reports have also suggested a dire financial outlook for Ligue 1 clubs should it be left without the agreed broadcast income and no broadcast partner. Although long-term rights partner Canal Plus would likely step in, it is understood that it would not be prepared to pay close to what Mediapro agreed for the rights.
New roles for Grace and Pilgrim
Tomos Grace has been promoted by YouTube and will now head up the company’s media and sport activities across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Rob Pilgrim, who previously headed up sports partnerships for YouTube in EMEA, has also been promoted to take on Grace’s previous responsibilities as head of sport in the region.
Maloney replaces Stewart at Sky NZ
Sophie Maloney has been named Sky New Zealand’s new chief executive, following Martin Stewart’s surprise decision to leave the organisation for family reasons. Maloney was previously chief commercial officer. In the sports rights space, Sky has come under increasing pressure from Spark Sports in recent times although a year ago it did agree a new five-year deal with New Zealand Rugby Union.
Mike Berkley joins FuboTV
Former Spotify, Comcast and Viacom executive Mike Berkley has been hired as FuboTV’s new chief product officer. Berkley will report directly to the streaming service’s CEO David Gandler.
AC Milan start Twitch channel
Serie A club AC Milan has become the latest European football club to launch its own channel on Twitch, as the streaming platform, working with digital agency Seven League, continues its foray into sport. The new channel launched last week, with the club planning to roll out a variety of live formats developed in collaboration with club partners. The channel, which has started with three weekly shows, will cover Milan’s men’s, women’s and youth teams as well as delivering archive content to fans.
OTT in focus
In a week when DAZN has launched its much-anticipated and pandemic-delayed global streaming proposition, based around live boxing, and Discovery has confirmed plans for its new streaming product, a webinar today, hosted by Accedo, is extremely timely. Accedo’s North America Vice President Mrugesh Desai, plus Buzzer founder Bo Han, Roku pay product team executive David Weis and Accedo’s engineering manager Dima Svetov will be sharing their thoughts on what OTT in the Covid era looks like and how OTT technical and business strategies ought to be shaped. You can join them later today at 14.00 ET by heading here.
Extreme E teams up with Red Bee
New electric off-road motorsport series Extreme E has linked up with Red Bee Media to support its distribution when it launches next year. Red Bee will provide satellite distribution services to rights-holding broadcasters around the world as well as a digital distribution hub to provide content to Extreme E’s various digital platforms. Extreme E, an offshoot of Formula E which will visit remote locations in the likes of Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Greenland and Patagonia to draw attention to the negative impacts of the climate crisis, will also stream via Red Bee’s OTT platform. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are two of the team owners confirmed for the championship, which begins in the Saudi Arabian desert in March.
Thanks for reading this edition of the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin. We’ll have another for you a fortnight today; and if you haven’t subscribed yet, do remember to opt-in here.