Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Feb 25, 2021 | 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

The blank sheet of paper broadcast
Spotify’s spate of announcements
The case for more flexible broadcast windows
Twitch and FIBA putting basketball in creators’ hands
Nielsen’s NBA social value prediction
In the Mixed Zone with FIBA Media’s Andrew Ryan
RDA to handle Rugby League World Cup sales
Eurosport expands RCS cycling deal
Duncan Pointer joins Mailman
Wimbledon promotes Alex Willis
Snap and Eurosport team up for Olympics
Hibernian join forces with Recast
UFC signs up with TikTok and Migu


Long form


Welcome to the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your fortnightly briefing on all things sports broadcasting, content creation, packaging, distribution and monetisation. Thanks for having us in your inbox.

As always, please do stay in touch and send through anything you’re proud of, intrigued by, or set against. [email protected] and [email protected] are your go-to addresses. We love hearing from you.

We’ve also really enjoyed keeping in regular touch with so many of you through our fortnightly ‘Broadcast Disrupted’ calls throughout the pandemic. They’ve been a splash of colour on an otherwise gloomy palette and we’ve come to relish them. Last week’s call was particularly instructive. We brought 30 sharp minds from across the sports broadcasting spectrum together, gave them a few instructions and a virtual blank sheet of paper and asked them to envision what sports coverage will look and sound like if the industry further embraces a change mindset. Here are a few of the ideas that resonated:

  1. Personalisation – it was the thread that tied almost all the ideas together, and the starting point for so many discussions about sports production in 2021. As ever richer customer data feeds ever more sophisticated automation engines, It’s the direction of travel for many industries, not just sport.
  2. Multiple feeds and bespoke highlights packages – the age of the single global feed is behind us, to be replaced by the era of choice: choice in commentary feeds, in camera set-ups, in graphical overlays (stats feeds for the gamblers or fantasy players, slime feeds for the Nickelodeon fans etc). Those choices will feed into bespoke AI highlights packages sent direct to your phone.
  3. Using tech to get closer to the emotion of the game – mics on players, mics on refs, tighter apertures and closer cameras. And, for pity’s sake, public access to referee comms feeds.
  4. Giving fans a say – the ultimate in fan engagement; it’s driven interactivity in Formula E, where viewers vote to give drivers power boosts, why not in other sports? When broadcasters own sports events, and don’t just lease rights from them, this will happen.
  5. Blurring the line between virtual and reality – pandemic-driven investments in virtual/remote studio and production facilities are beginning to bear fruit across the board. Eurosport’s award-winning Cube set-up is the model to follow. And who will be first in the sports world to follow the major recording artists inside video games for exclusive virtual events?

What’s the single most significant change you expect to see in sports broadcasting this year? Get in touch; let us know.

EYES ON THIS – Watch how these three things develop to understand the future

Spotify: Sounds good
The power pairing of Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama may have dominated the headlines following Spotify’s spate of announcements at its virtual ‘Stream On’ event this week – the Boss and the President are teaming up to produce a series of eight podcasts together for the platform – but it’s a rash of tech feature roll-outs that could have a deeper impact for the company and anyone or anything considering it as a distribution platform. New tools to enable podcast producers to drive interactivity – including a feature that will turn written content into podcasts – and monetisation, through gated access and a new ad service, are chief among them. Increasing experimentation with video remains a tantalising prospect.

Broadcast windows
Getting time on the major networks is the Holy Grail for many a US rights holder, but as two recent examples show, the inflexibility that comes with that can be at the expense of the ideal conditions for your event. Fox dictated that the start of the Daytona 500 a couple of weeks ago was as late as 3pm ET, which left Nascar at the mercy of the Florida weather. The rain everyone had seen coming duly arrived shortly after the start and the subsequent delay of five hours helped ensure the race achieved the lowest ratings in its history. Meanwhile, the NHL’s bold – and visually quite superb – plans for its first outdoor game on Lake Tahoe last weekend were scuppered by the sunshine, which caused problems with the ice and resulted in the game between Las Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche being suspended from 3pm ET until midnight ET. That meant it lost its prized NBC network broadcast slot and had to settle for a smaller audience on NBC Sports Network. Unfortunate? Certainly. But examples which suggest a more flexible attitude by networks – and potentially more pushback from rights holders – might be worth considering? Undoubtedly.

Twitch and the IFs
Yesterday’s announcement that Twitch is partnering with FIBA, world basketball’s governing body, marks the company’s first foray into the world of international sports federations. Twitch has been taking baby steps in sport for some time, but the multi-year agreement for around 600 hours of live basketball and other related content to be broadcast on the platform marks a new phase of its plans. FIBA, meanwhile, appears to have been first to take the path that other international federations will surely need to follow. Crucially, assets will be specifically developed to allow fans to produce their own FIBA-related content, part of a wider user generated media campaign aimed at taking basketball to a new audience, in the format that that audience wants it. FIBA is also set to build a network of Twitch creators in various key markets, with which it can work on specific programming and content. More on that in a moment.


Nielsen Sports is predicting that the average social media value for the top eight NBA teams could surpass the TV media value generated by the 2023/24 season. Social media accounted for just 2% of the total value generated as recently as the 2014/15 season. The prediction forms part of Nielsen’s annual sponsorship trends report.


Source: Neilsen


In the Mixed Zone with… Andrew Ryan, Managing Director, FIBA Media

How will this new partnership with Twitch enhance FIBA’s media output and strategy?
At a high-level, the partnership with Twitch is great news for FIBA in terms of showcasing superb basketball content which will be produced and delivered in an innovative manner; for Twitch, by bringing a high profile sports federation with a significant portfolio of content on to the platform; and for fans who will see and be able to consume FIBA’s properties like never before.

FIBA, driven by a forward-thinking communications team, has been at the forefront of a global, digital-first approach for delivery of its wider range of competitions for quite a period of time – whether it is for the much-celebrated 3×3 World Tour, a range of junior events or the EuroLeague Women club competition which features most of the world’s best female players.

All of these factors were no doubt attractive for Twitch, but the key to making this new partnership work is the significant expertise and support they will bring to maximise all of the unique features of that platform. There has been plenty of talk in the industry for a while now about the “potential” of Twitch, but it is another thing to actually deliver a proposition and content distribution structure on the service which optimises its capabilities. Done well, the partnership will really transform the ability of to FIBA highlight its properties to a diverse and somewhat “new” audience. At the same time, it will amplify some of the interactive elements of Twitch – features which those of us in sports media could only dream of having access to in times gone by. It is exciting stuff and I can’t wait to see what comes out of it.

What does it mean for FIBA Media?
For FIBA Media, we will continue to work with our wide range of premium broadcast partners across the globe to bring fans action from all of the top tier of FIBA events including the FIBA World Cup 2023, the FIBA Women’s World Cup 2022 and each of the Continental events. That will not change. However, we will produce highlights from these games which will be an important part of the content mix on the FIBA Twitch channel. Inevitably, the FIBA Twitch channel will become an integral part of the wider FIBA content eco-system and I see the activity on this platform as being something that is only going to help broaden the public interest in our events, particularly amongst younger demographics. That is clearly good news for the long-term value and viability of our properties and certainly a positive development for our broadcast partners.

Furthermore, and probably most interesting, we will seriously look at Twitch as a place to experiment with production and content creation approaches. There is so much to be learned in terms of interactivity, thematic feeds and how to cater to different fanbases. From time to time, we will also look to the platform as an interesting option to bring some of our premium live game content to fans where there is the option to do so under our existing media rights arrangements. If we do that though, where feasible, I want it to be done in a way that really capitalises on Twitch’s unique attributes.

How important an element of rights-holder content and media strategies will user generated content come to be?
Within FIBA Media, we have a really strong belief in the power of using well-respected and engaging individuals to drive interest in our events and ultimately, positively impact consumption behaviour. It is why we set up a player and influencer marketing unit within our D2C/Digital Marketing department and continue to invest in that activity today. To date, that has primarily involved using influencers to create pre-event hype and highlighting live broadcasts from our partners while also facilitating some access to highlights clips by players. The capacity of Twitch to facilitate co-streaming is almost a super-charged version of our influencer strategy working along the same principles. Enabling certain Twitch personalities to not only make available live content directly to their own followers via the co-streaming functions, but also to add their own personality to that content so that it resonates with their audience, is a really powerful thing. It is melding two key concepts of modern content distribution – diversified distribution to reach additional audiences and doing so with a more personalised feed.

I think the term UGC still has a bit of a dirty name in sports media because people will eventually hark back to users posting highlights clips on social. However, there is this whole other space which can be explored which is built around co-operative contributions and which I think can be both additive for the overall experience and mutually beneficial for the rightsholder, the individual and the platform.

What are your main ongoing priorities at FIBA Media?
In the short term, we have just come out of a window of Qualifiers for each of the four Continental events (EuroBasket, Asia Cup, Americup and Afrobasket). It was quite a remarkable achievement to have games played across five continents in the current environment and a credit to FIBA that this was conducted in an incredibly safe manner for all involved. For your readers in Great Britain, the national team qualified for EuroBasket 2022 over the weekend thanks to an incredible last second shot against arch rivals Germany! Our next major event is the set of four Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in June. Each of these four tournaments has a single place available for the competing teams so they produce some extraordinary tension. Following that, we have the whole suite of men’s and women’s Continental events save for the men’s EuroBasket and Americup which have been moved back to 2022.

Commercially, we are in the middle of what has been a really strong sales process to date for our next cycle of rights. The new cycle starts with the FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifiers in November. Clearly, FIBA’s new competition structure which included a comprehensive Qualifiers series for both the FIBA World Cup and Continental events has really resonated with the broadcast market, no doubt also helped along by a star-studded FIBA World Cup in 2019. Particularly considering the difficult environment in which we are marketing these rights, it has been very pleasing both the breadth and intensity of interest we have had in most markets. It also validates the work we have done in terms of creating digital strategies which complement and support the commercial programmes and we will continue to support the investments of our broadcast partners with some exciting digital initiatives we are working on at the moment.


RDA to handle Rugby League World Cup rights sale
The RDA agency has been selected by organisers of this year’s Rugby League World Cup to handle the tournament’s international rights deals. IMG managed the rights for the last two tournaments, in 2013 and 2017. RDA has been tasked with selling the rights in all markets outside the host country, the UK, where the BBC has already secured the rights to the tournaments. For the first time, the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments will be played together.

Eurosport re-ups with RCS Sport
Eurosport has renewed and expanded its agreement with RCS Sport, via IMG, for the broadcast rights to the Giro d’Italia and a slate of other annual cycling events. The deal is being billed as an ‘exclusive global rights agreement’ until 2025, although the Italian rights are not included and agreements in several other markets kick in at various times between now and 2023. Coverage will be split across the main Eurosport networks, the new Discovery+ streaming service and Global Cycling Network (GCN).


Mailman hires Pointer
Sports digital agency Mailman has hired Duncan Pointer to lead its APEC division. Pointer, who is based out of Singapore, is a former CEO of Vizeum Asia-Pacific. Shanghai-headquartered Mailman currently has a presence in eight APEC regions, following its expansion into Singapore in 2019.

Willis promoted at Wimbledon
The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which organises Wimbledon, has announced that Alex Willis will take up the role of communications and marketing director from August. Willis is currently head of communications, content and digital but will take on the expanded role as part of a restructure following Mick Desmond’s decision to retire from his commercial and media director role later this year. The club is currently recruiting a commercial director.


Snap and Discovery team up for Olympics
Snap and Discovery have confirmed a new partnership ahead of this year’s rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which will see a new daily Eurosport show broadcast on Snapchat’s Discover platform. The partnership also includes the Beijing 2022 winter Games, which are scheduled to take place six months after the summer edition. Specific content from Tokyo will be created in German, Italian and Spanish, as well as English, with French added for Beijing. The partnership is based around content and advertising, with the two organisations working on tailored marketing solutions for brands.


Hibernian sign up for Recast
Scottish Premier League club Hibernian FC has agreed a deal with Recast, which will see fans able to inject funds into the club directly whilst viewing additional content for free. The Recast micropayment system and subscription-free app allows fans to earn credits by actions such as signing up, watching adverts, sharing content and inviting friends. “It’s no secret that how fans watch sport is changing and a model that works for both fans and rights’ holders is needed to reflect this,” said Recast founder and CEO Andy Meikle as the deal was announced on Tuesday. “Hibernian are leading the charge on addressing these changes, by going direct-to-consumer with a range of unique and exclusive content on Recast where fans get rewarded for their attention and the club can maximise revenue potential.”

UFC secures new China agreement
The UFC’s significant new Chinese distribution deal with Migu will see all UFC content made available through the China Mobile subsidiary’s video subscription app. The agreement covers all live UFC events as well as shoulder programming, including UFC founder Dana White’s Contender series. It is also planning an expanded calendar of events in China. No financial terms have been revealed but the UFC has been open about its desire to double its rights revenue from China. The deal follows a separate announcement that the UFC is linking up with TikTok on a multi-year basis and will be producing platform-specific live content before and after fights.


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