Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Jan 30, 2020 | 8 min read

13 things you need to know today about the shifting sports media landscape

By James Emmett and David Cushnan

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Short form

Fox’s blanket Super Bowl coverage
Betting on the big game
Blackbird on the power of cloud
YouTube makes major esports play
RTL snaps up German European rights
Amazon turns to Wood
Bleacher Report’s new CFO
Copa90 promotes Joyce to management team
Snap and NBC confirm Tokyo plans
ESPN confirm digital focus for 2020
Britain’s Olympic sports unite around OTT
Facebook adds PGA Tour to portfolio
Infront snaps up AI-powered video measurer

Long form


Welcome to the latest Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your all-in-one guide to the latest and greatest in sports broadcasting and production.

Keep your feedback, plus news, gossip, intelligence and opinion, coming to [email protected] and [email protected]

We’re hosting another of our Broadcast Disruptors Think Tanks, private, invite-only sessions for senior sports industry executives, on the afternoon of Thursday 5th March, in New York – please send us a note if you’d like to be considered for a place.

It’s Super Bowl week, which, much like the Olympic Games, has always provided a showcase for broadcast innovations. Fox takes its turn to broadcast the big game this year, and it plans to deliver a 4k HDR fed – although in reality an upscaled 1080p HDR feed – to various pay-TV providers on Sunday.

The game itself, which will be produced by Richie Zyontz with Rich Russo as lead director, is, however, only part of the story.

The broadcaster’s Super Bowl coverage is already underway, utilising three separate broadcast points in Miami for some 100 hours of programming on Fox, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes before the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs take the field at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday evening.

Its South Beach location includes 50 square metres of LED walls and 25 cameras, plus a demonstration field. The areas are the temporary home of myriad preview, discussion and studio shows throughout this week.

At the same site, Fox is taking the chance to promote its other programming, running fan activations around its upcoming Daytona 500 coverage, as well as The Masked Singer.

As far as adverts during the game broadcast are concerned, Fox moved last week to add more commercial time after selling out its original inventory by the end of November. It has added one further commercial break, placed flexibly. In all, there will be 28 adverts of more than 45 seconds during the broadcast.

The numbers

The American Gaming Association predicts Sunday’s 49ers versus Chiefs clash will be the most legally bet on Super Bowl in history, although broadcaster Fox is not expected to include explicit references to the latest odds.

26 million Americans will bet some US$6.8 million

+15% up on last year’s total

25% more betting via physical betting outlets

5 million will bet online via mobile – +19% on 2019

Source: American Gaming Association


In the Mixed Zone with… Ian McDonough, CEO of professional cloud video editing platform Blackbird, which specialises in providing fast and powerful solutions for enterprise level companies and their brands to drive awareness, engagement and monetisation through video.


Why does cloud based editing suit sports video producers?
More and more organisations are embracing cloud workflows for efficiency and speed. Blackbird offers professional grade video editing all in a standard web browser tab. By professional we mean a feature rich toolset with a responsive user experience that feels like desktop NLE. The fact that it can be used on any standard laptop and at low bandwidth means it is scalable at very low overhead. Our customers consistently tell us that that Blackbird can also ingest, edit and publish faster than any other editing platform on the market. That’s a real core strength. It’s due to the efficiency of our unique patented Blackbird codec. Speed to market and the efficient use of resource and technology are becoming increasingly important to the video creation market.  Should you require it you can have a couple of editors, 100 editors or 500 editors all editing collaboratively across your organization in real time; we have been described as the Google Docs of video.

Once you log in, all your video editing tools are there and you can have all that without compromising on the published quality because we publish from the source material. We work with lots of sports companies including Eleven Sports, Deltatre and IMG. In the case of Deltatre, we are core to the NFL Game Pass workflow and we also work on the European Tour with them. We were used extensively by IMG on last year’s Open Golf Championship and have more recently been involved in the Rugby World Cup, where they used Blackbird to distribute highlights packages to all their global media partners. We are very easily interoperable with and inside their infrastructure. We’ve become part of their stack rather than an add-on to their stack and having to use another public cloud.

How do you see the trend for moving towards OTT playing out in sport over the short and medium term?
There is continuing fragmentation, which is very exciting. There is a trend for sports leagues, federations and teams carving out individual rights packages to gain some control back of their rights. These companies are non-traditional broadcasters who have not been creating videos for decades and therefore they have a greenfield site where they can leverage the most appropriate state of the art technology such as Blackbird.  They don’t have lots of bespoke equipment and technology in their back offices that they need to sweat or amortise. The future is cloud-based. That’s because it removes all their overheads; it’s quick, it’s efficient and it’s easily updated. It’s also seamlessly scalable.



YouTube doubles down on esports
Last Friday’s news that Activision Blizzard has entered into an exclusive streaming agreement with YouTube for its Call of Duty and Overwatch leagues, is another significant move both in the development of esports and the continuing battle for gaming honours between Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Activision Blizzard is effectively switching away from Amazon-owned Twitch, where it has previously streamed much of its content, mirroring the move gamer Ninja made when he moved late last year from Twitch to Microsoft’s Mixer platform. YouTube has also signed a number of creators to exclusive deals, but has now committed to live esports broadcasts as a way of driving traffic and engagement. Meanwhile, Verizon has signed an agreement with esports team Dignitas which will see the opening of the world’s first esports training facility to incorporate 5G, in Los Angeles. The facility will sit within Verizon’s existing 5G operation.

RTL reups for exclusive Europa League games
Free-to-air RTL has won exclusive German rights to the Uefa Europa League from 2021 until 2024. The games will be split across RTL, its Nitro channel and the broadcaster’s OTT platform. In the current agreement, Europa League games are shown in Germany by RTL and DAZN. Last year, Uefa sold its next round of Champions League rights in Germany to DAZN and Amazon, ending its longstanding relationship with Sky Deutschland. The RTL deal from 2021 also includes Uefa’s new Europa Conference League, which has been created to give smaller European clubs an opportunity to play in a continental tournament.



Amazon turns to Wood
Amazon has hired IMG executive Tim Wood as Head of Sports Business Affairs for its Prime Video service in Europe. His final role at IMG Media was Senior Vice President of Content and Channels, overseeing business development of services such as the in-flight Sport 24 channel.

Rapp promoted by Bleacher
Stefanie Rapp has been promoted by Bleacher Report to Chief Revenue Officer. She was previously Senior Vice President of Revenue-Strategy but in her new role she will continue to oversee the company’s integration with AT&T’s other properties, including Turner Sports and WarnerMedia.

Joyce steps up at Copa90  
Simon Joyce as been named Chief Business Officer at Copa90, replacing the recently departed James Kirkham. Kirkham has joined Defected Records, with Joyce stepping up from his previous role at Head of Global Partnerships to join the Copa90 management.



Snap decision  
Snapchat is to co-produce four daily shows with NBC as part of the US broadcaster’s plans for blanket coverage of the Olympics in Tokyo later this year. In all, the partnership will result in triple the content produced at the 2018 winter Olympics in PyeongChang. NBC has retained the rights to sell all advertising around its content on Snapchat. The network has so far sold US$1.1 billion worth of advertising around its Olympic coverage, across all its platforms. Four years ago it sold US$1.2 billion worth of advertising around the Rio Games.  

Raja’s new house  
ESPN has revealed details of its refreshed approach to digital programming, following last year’s appointment of House of Highlights founder Omar Raja. According to a Digiday report, it has plans to broadcast over 500 live original digital-first shows this year, across its own platforms and the likes of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat, with the aim of going where the audience is rather than always driving them back to ESPN’s own channels. By comparison, it aired over 400 in 2019 and 180 in 2018. ESPN has also converted one of its main studios to give its digital output, which Raja oversees, its own physical home.



British governing bodies to form OTT platform  
A group of British Olympic and Paralympic sports federations have come together to announce the launch of GB Sport Media, a new organisation which will work to create an OTT platform that will distribute 2,600 hours of content across 26 sports. Former BBC Sport and Discovery rights specialist Dominic Coles will chair the new entity, with a launch date pencilled in for after this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo. Omnicom’s Fuse agency has been working on the idea for the past two years. Yesterday’s announcement confirmed plans to broadcast a host of national and regional championships, as well as international competitions on a non-exclusive basis as well as shoulder programming profiling British athletes. GB Sport Media is now hunting for a media organisation ‘that understands the strategic and commercial potential inherent in Olympic and Paralympic sports in the UK’ that can help co-create the new platform.

Facebook to share PGA Tour highlights
Facebook has added the PGA Tour to its list of sports relationships, agreeing a deal to distribute daily highlight packages via its Watch service. The deal kicked in at last weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open. The agreement covers 30 events during 2020, with content coming from live network broadcasts as well as PGA Tour Live, the tour’s OTT platform. Plans are also afoot for PGA Tour-themed Facebook Lives and Watch Parties via its Facebook group, called The Gallery.


Infront back in the lab
Infront Labs, the new investment arm of Wanda’s Infront Sport agency, has acquired a stake in AI-based video tracking and analytics firm Videocites. The Israeli company’s ‘unique fingerprinting technology’ tracks all copies of live, on-demand and promotional content across all platforms, providing partners with a deeper level of insight into consumer habits. It also has the ability to identify and remove pirate streams. Infront plans to incorporate Videocites’ technology into its current and future rights relationships.


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