Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | May 28, 2020 | 8 min read

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

By James Emmett and David Cushnan

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Short form

Big fall in US pay TV subscriptions predicted
The Last Dance Executive Producer on the creative process
Polish league in international rights spree
Turner scores big with The Match
Amazon explores local sports podcasts
Bundesliga moves forward with broadcast tweaks
Kevin Mayer swaps Disney for TikTok
CFG hires JOE Media executive
Graham Wallace joins Eleven Sports
Facebook and friends working on African connectivity


Long form


Hello and welcome along to the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, a fortnightly snapshot of all that’s interesting and relevant for those interested in sports broadcasting and how sports content is created, packaged and distributed.

Do keep all your correspondence coming to [email protected] and [email protected], or by posting on our Broadcast Disruptors Guild group – let us know if you’d like to be considered for access. And thanks, too, to all of you who joined us for LeadersWeek.direct/ last week; hope you enjoyed it and for those of you registered it’s all there to enjoy until 8th June.


Almost two million subscriptions were ended by consumers in the US across the top seven pay TV providers in the first three months of the year, up from 1.2 million during the same period last year. The figures, from Ampere Analysis, suggest that overall US pay TV penetration is set to fall below 60 per cent this year, down from around 80 per cent just five years ago. Ampere Analysis said the biggest hits in Q1 were taken by DirecTV and Dish, two operators which do not offer alternative services such as broadband.

Source: Ampere Analysis


In the mixed zone with… Libby Geist, Vice President at ESPN Films who is one of the Executive Producers of the acclaimed documentary series The Last Dance.

What does an Executive Producer do in a documentary like this?
Each project we work on is different – I’m an Executive Producer on all of our 30 for 30s and all our documentary projects under the ESPN films banner. In this case, I joke that I ‘wrangled’ – we had a lot of partners, there’s a lot of cooks in our kitchen so it was trying to keep our partners happy and the communications working; making sure marketing is working at full throttle; PR is working; who we have access to. It’s also evolved over time through production. We were of course watching rough cuts, we were very involved when they were shooting and figuring out who the right people to interview were, but I was much more involved hands-on later in the process as we’re distributing and figuring out how to get people to watch. And in this incredibly weird time, just making sure we’re doing right by the project. It’s been a very tricky balance. It’s very strange to be celebrating and taking praise for a project right now, but I have to say the response we’ve got, the positivity around it, and the appreciation we’ve been getting is really special.

There needed to be agreement between Jordan and the NBA to release the footage – and you had the NBA, Jordan, the Jordan brand, Disney, ESPN, Netflix all involved, big players. What challenges did you have to overcome to get this done?
We all had a place at the table. This footage was sort of a legend in our office, so I think there was excitement. Once everyone was in the room, the deal was signed, everyone just wanted it to be great. I had concerns – ‘are there things that are off the table?’ That’s always a question I ask when we’re doing any documentary or interview. Michael’s team has managed his brand and PR brilliantly since the beginning of his career and I thought about that, for sure. And then all of a sudden we saw rough cuts about gambling, politics and the story of his father’s death – and it was all there. We all held our breath when those notes came back – and they were like ‘this actually isn’t what happened, let us tell you what did happen’. They stepped up. There is not anything in there where they said ‘this is too touchy, we don’t want people to know this’. The NBA is supportive generally. They know what an icon Michael is – he’s a huge piece of their history. I know everyone was looking for a big battle story. As always, there are creative discussions that get heated sometimes about what’s more interesting, or what music we should be using.

It’s a 10-hour episodic documentary  – how was that format arrived upon?
That was decided pretty early on, which is not usually how we work. Those creative decisions were made fairly early because we knew there were 500 hours of 97/98 footage – we knew there was a tonne there. We knew we had a list of between 80 and 100 people we wanted to interview and we knew Michael was willing to open up. He did three very lengthy interviews with Jason [Hehir, the director] through the process. So we knew it was going to be a big story. We also knew that the interest was there to sustain something longer than a two, four, six-hour part. It was assumed early on that that was about the length we were trying to hit. There were a lot of early paper cuts of how we were going to go back and forth in time, and how we were going to tell the story of these characters going in to 97/98. There was a lot written down, talked about and planned ahead, which is what you have to do with a story of this length, before the editing began.

The full interview with Libby Geist is available on the LeadersWeek.direct/ platform until 8th June.



Ekstraklasa latest to strike international TV deals
Ahead of its return this weekend, Poland’s top football league, the Ekstraklasa, has agreed a range of fresh rights deals as broadcasters continue to scramble to find live action. Deals have been reached with UK broadcaster FreeSports, Spring Agency covering Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and Israeli pay service Charlton. The deals cover two games per match round and are non-exclusive, with the league’s own platform also broadcasting games. Ekstraklasa rights have also been sold in Germany, Austria and Sweden, with Sportdigtial Fussball adding to its existing deal. Eurosport has acquired delayed rights in the same territories.



Turner Sports scores big with The Match
The Match, which pitted Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady on Sunday, was the most-watched cable television golf broadcast in US history. The charity competition, which raised US$20 million for Covid-19 relief funds, drew 5.8 million viewers for Turner Sports across TNT, TBS, TruTV and HLN. In addition, Bleacher Report’s social and digital platforms recorded 38 million video views in the lead-up and during the contest. Outside the US, coverage was carried by CNN International.

Amazon explores local sports podcasts
Joe Rogan’s extraordinary deal to take his podcasts exclusively to Spotify, confirmed last week, saw the platform add some US$1.7 billion to its market cap within 23 minutes of the announcement, another indication of the power and influence of podcasts. An Axios report this week, meanwhile, says Amazon is actively exploring investments in localised podcasts in the US across news and sport. The move, which has some echoes of The Athletic’s strategy to provide localised sports content in various markets in the US, potentially gives Amazon access to an enormous and enduring US$150 billion local advertising market in the US. It remains unclear, according to the Axios report, whether any future podcasts would sit under Amazon’s Alexa, Audible or Music brands.

Bundesliga gradually introducing broadcast enhancements
Bundesliga executives made a conscious decision to shy away from obvious broadcast enhancements during the first match round back after its enforced break, understandably keen to strike a cautious tone. However, innovations in its coverage of behind-closed-doors games are beginning to appear. Broadcasters are giving viewers the option to hear recorded crowd noise during live games, while coverage of Tuesday’s Borussia Dortmund-Bayern Munich game featured new real-time analysis as part of a deal between the Bundesliga and Amazon Web Services (AWS). For the first time, AWS provided average positions and expected goals statistics for the broadcast using data captured from tracking player locations on the pitch and the probability of a player scoring a goal.   



Mayer jumps to TikTok
Kevin Mayer has been named as the new CEO of TikTok. The Disney executive, who was overlooked as Bob Iger’s replacement earlier this year, will join the company on 1st June. He will also be Chief Operating Officer of ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent. Mayer ran Disney’s streaming services, overseeing the hugely successful launch of Disney+. He has been replaced as head of the direct-to-consumer and international division by Rebecca Campbell. However, as part of the shuffle, Disney Media Distribution President Justin Connolly and Ad Sales President Rita Ferro will now report to ESPN President and Disney Media Networks Co-Chair Jimmy Pitaro. Both previously reported  to Mayer.

CFG hires JOE Media’s Johnson
Gavin Johnson has been hired by City Football Group, which oversees a network of clubs led by Manchester City, as group media director. Johnson arrives from JOE Media, where had been managing director for the past three years. In his new role, based in London and Manchester, he will be responsible for developing CFG’s media and entertainment strategy ‘focusing on content creation, distribution and commercial media’.

Graham Wallace joins Eleven Sports parent
Eleven Sports’ parent company Aser Ventures has appointed former Gfinity executive Graham Wallace as Chief Corporate and Finance Officer. Wallace is a former Chief Financial Officer at MTV Europe and IMG Media, as well as senior roles at Manchester City and Rangers.



Facebook at forefront of Africa internet project
Facebook has announced a project in collaboration with a group of companies including Vodacom, China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange and Telecom Egypt to build what will be Africa’s most substantial subsea cable. The 2Africa project will connect Africa with Europe and the Middle East and span around 37,000km. It is designed to improve internet capacity and help the growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadcast access across much of the continent. The system is expected to go live in 2023 or 2024. 


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