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Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Jan 28, 2021 | 8 min read

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

By James Emmett and David Cushnan

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Short form

Coverage and visibility of women’s sport
WWE links up with NBC’s Peacock
Clubhouse tools up for growth spurt
Rights up for grabs in France
The podcast revenue generation challenge
Nascar’s state of the broadcast nation
Peter Moore returns to game industry
Zwift hires product and content leads
Turner to produce The Collins Cup
The Athletic hires APAC Commercial Director
Matchroom launches production arm
DAZN and Movistar+ team up in Spain

 

Long form

THE BIG PICTURE

Thanks for clicking and reading this, your latest Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin. Each fortnight, we bring you a snapshot of what’s happening, why it’s happened and what it all might mean across sports broadcasting, content creation and distribution. We know you’ve a choice of newsletters; appreciate your company.

Like you, we’ve been making our way through a number of the many industry trends reports that have been published over the past few weeks, digging for nuggets of wisdom and digesting the wild forecasts. One document jumped out.

Compiled following conversations with 54 industry leaders, the Women’s Sport Trust has published ‘The Ambition Project’, as part of its goal of creating a ‘bold, unapologetic and independently successful women’s sport ecosystem’.

The report is well worth reading in its entirety, but the points it raises around the coverage of women’s sport and improving the visibility of female athletes are particularly thought provoking. It recommends developing more inclusive media environments; clarifying and truly understanding the audience for women’s sport; making a priority of storytelling and improving the overall quality of coverage; enabling greater visibility of athletes and promoting personalities; a commitment to consistent coverage beyond just the biggest events; and creating meaningful and supportive partnerships between sport, media and brands.

The report goes on to list a series of highly relevant questions organisations should be asking themselves. No spoilers here, but it got us thinking about a couple more. Have broadcasters and rights holders missed a trick by largely building coverage of women’s sports leagues and events that simply replicates the equivalent male versions, in terms of graphics, format and overall production? And is there a way of doing it differently that doesn’t feel gimmicky or contrived? Or is a carbon copy of established male leagues and events the best bet in terms of delivering a commercially successful product to market and to build an audience?

It’s a topic we intend to return to here and in our private community of senior decision-makers and agenda-shapers, and we’d welcome your thoughts. As always, keep your opinions, plus your news, gossip and speculation, coming to [email protected] and [email protected].


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

WWE’s change of tack
WWE’s decision, announced on Monday, to refocus its efforts in the United States on an exclusive agreement with NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service rather than its own WWE Network marks a significant change of strategy for a rights holder that had been among the early pacesetters in setting up its own direct-to-consumer (DTC) product. Although WWE Network will remain active internationally, WWE has concluded that the future in its biggest market lies in a deeper partnership with a major broadcaster. As rights holders the world over wrestle with the transition from team or league into media entity, with all the complexity and financial uncertainty involved in developing DTC products, it may well be that more ultimately decide the best bet is to get into bed with an established media giant. After all, the big beast broadcasters are all busy investing heavily in their own streaming products (see also NBC’s plans to close NBC Sports Network by the end of the year, with its existing sports rights portfolio largely bound for Peacock) in a bid to futureproof their own business models. It seems that the great re-bundling may be on.

In the clubhouse
Clubhouse is one of a raft of next generation social media platforms scrabbling to achieve mainstream cut-through. The invite-only, audio-only platform has some way to go – it is thought to be on its way to a million users, having recorded 600,000 in December – but, fuelled with a fresh round of investment, it is tooling up for further growth. In a bid to attract more users the app has confirmed it will roll out plans to allow creators to be paid directly via ‘tipping, tickets or subscriptions’, although further details remain light on the ground for now. Twitter, meanwhile, is also taking its first steps in live audio conversation. After announcing Twitter Spaces late last year, the new feature is currently in beta mode ahead of a full launch later in the year.

French rights in play
The French sports rights market is facing a critical period, with tenders now in play for both top-tier football and rugby union – contracts that will ultimately have a major impact on the overall financial health of both sports in the country. The Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) is marketing the rights to the Top 14 for the four-year period from 2022/20234 season, with incumbent Canal+ widely anticipated to retain live games – it has held the rights since 1995 and is paying €97 million per season in the current rights cycle. However, the re-tendered rights to Ligue 1, a process happening in parallel, could well complicate matters. Given the lack of viable alternatives, Canal+ is assumed to be in pole position to take the bulk of live Ligue 1 games, but at a much-reduced rights fee. The Ligue de Football Professionnel has been forced into this position following the collapse of its deal with Mediapro and the decision taken by Canal+ to hand back its smaller package of live games, sub-licensed from BeIN Sports. And it is not insignificant that Maxime Saada, the President of Canal+, is now openly talking about the creation of a pay-per-view model for Ligue 1’s biggest fixtures.


THE NUMBERS

As major investments in podcasts continue, new data from PwC, published by Axios, shows the continuing challenges producers face in making money from the medium. Currently the top 1% of podcasts receive 99% of downloads. Although US advertising revenue for podcasts between 2015 and 2024 is projected to rise significantly, the overall ad revenue number is still set to trail by a distance other mediums such as internet, radio, television and newspapers.

 

Source: Graphic – @MattNavarra (via Axios); Data – PwC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook.


PRODUCTION NOTES

 

In the Mixed Zone with

Brian Herbst, Senior Vice President, Broadcast and Innovation, Nascar

What did you learn from last year’s scaled down race productions?
Remote production was already a trend that was starting to accelerate in our world. We have a pretty significant and robust in-house production group in Charlotte. We had already been doing remote production for our truck races – we started that in 2019. What was previously probably taboo, to not have a certain amount of personnel on site probably is going to come under a bit more scrutiny in 2021.

How are you viewing the US media landscape right now, in particular the shift to streaming?
Like anybody else, we’re paying very close attention to macro trends in the environment and then trying to determine our place in it, and what the value proposition that we can provide as a sport is to those platforms, in particular Fox and NBC. The way I look at it is how do those platforms monetise our sport the best? Broadcast TV and cable TV: that’s essentially how it was when we did our rights deal in 2012, 2013.

All of us have work to do in terms of growing a younger demographic. We have a pretty good demo for pay TV today – we’re actually flat on cable the last two years, as a sport in terms of viewership. But we also need to set ourselves up for the future, so that 18-34 demo is obviously critical from an advertising perspective. We need to keep our eye on the ball there. Some of the moves we’ve made with the schedule shake-up, with Michael Jordan coming into the sport, with the dirt track in Bristol – a lot of those, frankly, are designed to go after the new fan that we need to take care of and nurture in the future.

The Daytona 500 will always be on broadcast TV, but for a mid-size race at what point does streaming become a viable alternative? Is there a magic formula or is it just done by feel?
I think that answer depends on the property you’re talking about, the event that you’re making available as well as the penetration rates of each one of those platforms. We are lucky on the Nascar side to have a lot of events that we work with – Cup Series on Sunday afternoon, Xfinity Series on Saturdays which does about 900,000 viewers per race nearly always on pay TV, truck series also on pay TV that does about 500,000 to 600,000 viewers per event. You have practice and qualifying sessions for all of those and then developmental series, ARCA and IMSA Sportscar Series. The answer depends on the broader economic model for our industry and whether there would be an impact for teams and their sponsorship business.

Where we sit on the Nascar side is we take inputs from the tracks, teams and broadcast partners and try to do our best and make the right decisions for the industry. If we wanted to maximise our TV revenue we’d put more events behind the TV paywall, if we wanted to maximise exposure we’d put every event on broadcast but take a pretty considerable financial hit on the TV deal, so it’s finding a way to balance all of the stakeholders and make the right decisions for the sport. It’s one we wrestle with.

This is an edited extract from a conversation between Brian Herbst and SBJ’s John Ourand during the SBJ/Leaders Media Innovators Series in November.


THE JOBS BOARD

Peter Moore returns to games industry
Former Liverpool FC Chief Executive Peter Moore has joined video game company Unity, rejoining the sector where he previously worked at Microsoft and EA. Via Twitter, Moore confirmed he will be taking up the role of Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sports and Live Entertainment.

Zwift make key new hires
Online cycling training platform Zwift has appointed YuChiang Cheng as Chief Product Officer and Mark Cote as Senior Director of Content Programming. Cheng has previously created products for the likes of Topgolf, World Poker Tour, the USGA and Sky.

Martin Turner hired by PTO
Former Sky Sports F1 Executive Producer Martin Turner will oversee the broadcast coverage for The Collins Cup, a Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) event.

The Athletic hires Peebles
The Athletic has hired former DAZN SVP Alex Peebles as its new Commercial Director in the Asia-Pacific region.


CONTENT/PRODUCTION

Matchroom creates dedicated production arm
Matchroom has launched a new independent media production arm, to be run by its Director of Programming Katie Hearn. The Matchroom Media division will be the home of live event production, original documentaries and shoulder programming across the 12 sports the company produces and promotes events in, including boxing, darks and snooker. The move follows last year’s launch of Matchoom.Live, the company’s OTT platform which broadcasts a combination of archive and, in certain markets, live events. Matchroom Group Managing Director Eddie Hearn said: “We plan to assemble the best production team and sharpest talent for our live broadcasts and bring you compelling content and storylines around our 12 sports.”


DISTRIBUTION

DAZN F1 channel to launch in Spain
Movistar+ and DAZN have agreed a new partnership, which will see DAZN distributed via the Movistar platform in Spain. A key element of the deal is a rebranding of Movistar’s dedicated F1 channel to DAZN F1, with DAZN effectively taking on the Spanish pay TV rights deal which runs until the end of 2023. DAZN already holds the rights to MotoGP in Spain. James Rushton, the company’s Co-CEO, called the partnership “a great example of how entertainment platforms and operators can collaborate to deliver more satisfying and intuitive viewing experiences for sports fans”.

 

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