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Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Jun 25, 2020 | 8 min read

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

By James Emmett and David Cushnan

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Germany’s football rights market in focus
Marie Donoghue on Amazon’s sports plan
ITV picks up PGA Tour highlights
Broadcasters make job cuts
Premier League rates well on return
New boss at Disney Plus Hotstar
Blackbird appoint new non-executive director
Football Association hires new digital executive
Rugby League World Cup 2021 appoints digital lead
Saudi Arabia takes steps after WTO piracy verdict
Microsoft to shut Mixer

 

Long form

THE BIG PICTURE

This is the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your fortnightly window on the world of sports broadcasting and content. Hope you’re well and staying positive.

We’re always delighted to hear from you, with your news, views, gossip and speculation on what’s happening and what’s about to happen. You can get in touch via [email protected] and [email protected].

A big week in the German sports television market, with confirmation that the Bundesliga has sold its latest round of live rights to Sky Deutschland, DAZN and ProSiebenSat.1 for a total of €4.4 billion across the four seasons from 2021-22 to 2024-25.

There are multiple strands to the story. Sky Deutschland and DAZN have scooped the bulk of the live games. Sky will broadcast 511 of the 617 games per season across the top two divisions of the Bundesliga, with some 472 of those exclusive, thereby retaining its position as the dominant broadcast partner. DAZN, meanwhile, has secured 106 games per season, taking the Friday and Sunday packages.

DAZN Group CEO Simon Denyer went as far as hailing it as a “watershed moment in the growth and maturity of sport streaming services”, pointing out it is the largest package of major domestic football rights ever awarded to a streaming service in Europe. It represents a bold response to  recent media speculation about the long-term viability of DAZN’s subscription model following the Covid-19 crisis. It remains unclear whether Amazon, which in December acquired the major package of German rights to the Uefa Champions League from 2021, submitted a bid for any of the available packages.

The Bundesliga has sold a package of live rights to free-to-air broadcast ProSiebenSat.1, including the opening fixtures of the season and relegation play-offs. That news broke at almost the same moment as Formula 1 confirmed Sky Deutschland as the exclusive live broadcaster of the sport in Germany from 2021, with free-to-air coverage provided by RTL for the past 30 years ending at the end of the year. RTL said it is doubling down on its own football rights portfolio, which will soon include exclusive coverage of the Uefa Europa League and new Uefa Europa Conference League from 2021-24, as well as live German national team games.

The overall value of the various agreements to the Bundeliga has inevitably been the subject of much discussion in recent days, with the €4.4 billion total down on the €4.6 billion accrued through its current deal. Christian Seifert, the league’s Managing Director, said the deals offered clubs and fans “the greatest possible stability in uncertain times,” adding: “This refers to both largely preserving the revenue situation and to viewing habits.”

A warning shot to other major European leagues looking to their next round of domestic broadcast sales, or a good result given the circumstances and macro financial picture? Perhaps it’s both.


PRODUCTION NOTES

In the mixed zone with…Marie Donoghue, Vice President of Global Sports Video, Amazon

 

What is sport for Amazon?
It’s not that complicated. I run global sports content for Amazon and it’s pretty simple. We’re part of Prime, a very robust membership programme and Prime Video is a part of that membership programme. My job is pretty simple: how do I use sports to drive the value of that membership? I think it’s always helpful to remind folks of that because we’re actually quite different from the other OTT players and broadcasters. In addition to being part of a membership programme, we’re not just sports – it’s been great during Covid-19 particularly that we have such a robust entertainment offering. We’re also international, in over 220 countries, on virtually every device. We have some live exclusive rights like the Premier League in the UK; in the US we have had great success with our NFL partnership where we are the OTT exclusive – those games are also shown on Fox and the NFL Network; and then we also have a very robust channels business, where we bring sports to our customers through channels – MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, PGA Tour Live. We know our Prime members love sports and so we’re just trying to figure out how to use sports to drive value and improve their experience.

How do you measure the value of rights when you’re weighing up a bid?
At Amazon, you’ve probably heard how customer obsessed we are – and that is true. We start with the customer and work backwards, and we look at everything. We’re willing to be misunderstood for a while if it makes sense, to serve customers. It’s essential we provide value – we want them to consider their membership more valuable based on what we bring them. We also look at convenience and innovation – what packages are available, what the customer proposition is? We love to innovate – that’s what we loved about the Premier League, to be able to show all those concurrent matches. We don’t have a formula per se, but if our customers find it valuable, we will consider getting them that selection.

Amazon Prime’s presenters Gabby Logan, Thierry Henry, Peter Crouch and Roberto Martinez speak prior to a Premier League fixture in December 2019


Do you see Prime getting into tier two or three sports and how do you decide on which territory or geography you’re going to make an acquisition in?
We don’t talk in detail about specific acquisitions or conversations we’re having, but what I will say is we look at everything and if there’s an opportunity to serve underserved fans that would be very interesting to us. That may impact who we talk to. I’m the global lead for sports at Amazon and I talk to all our territory leads. We always start with the customer and we know fans in India are different from fans in Japan and fans in Brazil, and I’m learning a lot about that.

We understand what the customer needs and interests are, but what we really like to zero in on are what some of their pain points are. If it’s a business opportunity, that’s great – but that’s not where we start. What are the pain points? What are the opportunities? How can we better serve the customer? And then can Amazon serve that customer and is there something unique and distinctive we can bring to do that better than others? It could be an underserved audience of a particular sport, our different locales are in different maturities in their Prime business – there are some territories where Prime Video is their introduction to Prime, so we’ve been there with video longer than we’ve been there with Prime. It’s really quite fun, but it’s definitely not one-size fits all. We also do global deals and we’re excited to do those – our NFL package is global, some of our tennis events have been global deals. We look at those as well but sport is ultimately pretty local, so we work pretty closely with our local leaders to serve those local fans best.

The full interview with Marie Donoghue, from May’s LeadersWeek.direct/ can be viewed here.


 

RIGHTS WATCH

ITV picks up PGA Tour highlights
In a surprise move, British broadcaster ITV has acquired a highlights package to the PGA Tour for the rest of the 2020 season. The hour-long weekly series began last week with highlights of the Charles Schwab Challenge, broadcast on ITV4. Sky Sports’ live PGA Tour coverage is unaffected by the move.


 

CONTENT/PRODUCTION

Layoffs at BeIN, Golf Channel and Fox Sports
The impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt across the sports broadcast world. BeIN Media Group has confirmed another round of redundancies, with 100 jobs set to be cut from its headquarters in Doha. The broadcaster said the economic situation had been compounded by the ‘rampant piracy’ across the MENA region. In the United States, Sport Business Journal’s John Ourand reported on Monday double-digit layoffs at Fox Sports 1, as the broadcaster announced plans to scale back production of regular WWE and Premier Boxing Series shoulder programming. And a major round of layoffs was also announced at NBC-owned Golf Channel, following a decision to close its Orlando offices and move the entire operation to Stamford, Connecticut.

Premier League rates well on return
The resumption of the Premier League over the last week has been well received by viewers, with Sky Sports’ coverage of Sunday’s Merseyside derby between Everton and champions elect Liverpool becoming the UK’s most watched game in the history of the league. A peak of 5.5 million watched Sky’s coverage, which was simulcast on its free Pick channel, beating the 4.4 million who watched the Manchester derby in 2012. The BBC recorded a Saturday evening audience of 3.9 million for the first Premier League game ever on terrestrial TV, a game between Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, has confirmed it will stream its four additional live games on Twitch next month.


 

THE JOBS BOARD

Rayan to lead Disney Plus Hotstar
Sunil Rayan has been hired by Disney Plus Hotstar, becoming the Indian organisation’s new President. Rayan most recently worked at Google, as General Manager and Managing Director, Cloud for Games. Disney Plus Hotstar has brought together Disney Plus, Disney’s new streaming service, and the established Hotstar OTT platform. Rayan will report in to Uday Shankar, the President of Disney’s India operation.

Honeycutt joins Blackbird board
Cloud video editing platform Blackbird has confirmed former Google and Discovery executive John Honeycutt has joined its board as a non-executive director. Honeycutt was Discovery’s Chief Technology Officer between 2003 and 2019, before switching to Google as Vice President of Telecommunications, Media and Entertainment Gaming.

Cocker heads to FA
Mark Cocker has been hired by the Football Association, to oversee digital content and activation. The former Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur executive, who has most recently consulted in the sports digital space, will take up his new role next month.

RLWC2021 hires new digital lead
The organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, which will be staged in the UK, have appointed James Gaukroger as new Digital Lead. Gaukroger joins the organising team from British Cycling.


 

DISTRIBUTION

Saudi Arabia take steps after WTO piracy report
There’s been notable movement in Saudi Arabia following the publication of the World Trade Organisation’s report last week, which stated that the country had “acted in a manner inconsistent” with international law by facilitating the pirate beoutQ service across the Middle East. In a response which has been interpreted by some as Saudi Arabia’s attempt to smooth the proposed takeover of Premier League club Newcastle United by a Saudi-funded consortium, the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property announced its intention to block 231 websites that violate IP rights, with a view to ultimately shutting them down. Separately, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s President Yasser Hassan Almisehal has written to major rights holders, including Fifa, the Premier League and the International Olympic Committee. He wrote: ‘With our sporting ambition comes a responsibility to help [fight] piracy and as a nation we already have the rigorous governance framework to do that’.

BeIN Sports, the major victim of the beoutQ operation, has spent the past two years trying to rally support from its major rights holder partners in a bid to have the pirate service shut down. At the weekend, BeIN confirmed it has suspended its coverage of Serie A, for which it holds rights across the Middle East and in other territories including France, Indonesia and Turkey, ‘for legal reasons’. The Qatari-based broadcaster’s decision stems from the relationship between Serie A and Saudi Arabia, which includes the country’s hosting of Italy’s annual season-opening Supercoppa. Yesterday, meanwhile, the Financial Times reported that Saudi Arabia has made an approach to Germany’s Bundesliga about acquiring the rights to the league in the MENA region. Those rights are currently held by BeIN Sports, with negotiations about a renewal underway between the two organisations before the Saudi approach.

Microsoft shuts down Mixer
Microsoft has admitted defeat in the gaming wars by announcing it will close its Mixer operation on 22nd July. The announcement, made earlier this week, came as a surprise, but amid an increasingly crowded battleground where Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Gaming are all competing for market share. Microsoft is linking up with Facebook Gaming and will transition its partners and streamers to that new service. That may include Ninja and Shroud, who made high-profile transfers from Twitch to Mixer last August and October respectively.


 

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