Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Apr 8, 2021 | 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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Short form

TikTok: friend or foe or both
Rights holders as rights buyers
Dust settles on DAZN’s biggest bet
Investors rally around Skipper the storyteller
Clubhouse’s users and wider awareness
Cameo’s Co-Founder on athlete monetisation
Saudi Sports Company secures AFC rights
MLB signs new Asian deals
Recast hires new commercial chief
Carmelo Anthony launches content company
Eleven boosts global plan with Whistle buyout


Long form


Welcome to the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your fortnightly briefing on all things sports broadcasting, content creation, packaging, distribution and monetisation. Thanks for making us part of your Thursday.

Here’s the usual reminder to keep us posted on what you’re up to, what you’re seeing and what’s on your mind by emailing [email protected] and [email protected].

Uefa this week launched its Champions League TikTok account, becoming the latest rights holder to try its hand on the breakout and breakthrough platform. TikTok’s plans for sport were the subject of a Leaders podcast last year but while European football’s governing body appears to be building a closer relationship than many, with TikTok signed up as an official partner of the rescheduled Euro 2020, it’s fair to say most sports organisations are still figuring out their relationship with the platform. They aren’t alone. As the company’s head of global agency and accounts Khartoon Weiss, discussing the ways brands use TikTok, told the latest Digiday podcast this week: “We were a test partner, I would say, in 2020, and 2021 is the year that we want to be trusted.”

Marketing platform, fan engagement tool, live programming distributor and creative space: TikTok is, potentially, all of these things – but it’s also a potential rival for attention. Consider this astute analysis from Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian on a recent edition of The Bill Simmons podcast, discussing TikTok in comparison to the short-form, short-lived video platform Quibi. “Quibi versus TikTok is the story, not just of last year,” he said. “Billions of dollars invested in a platform with the best actors, the best scriptwriters, the best everything, gets eviscerated in months by teenagers doing dances. Why? Because you can’t compete with the creativity of millions and millions of people when the entertainment you’re providing has that as an alternative. That two minute short or five minute short on Quibi is fighting for that five minutes of attention on the bus with the infinite feed of highly recommended, tailored content from the world. You’re not going to win that, no matter how funny the comedian, or how great the script – you’re not going to win against the hive mind.”

Ohanian went on to be bullish about sport’s ability to engage compared to other forms of entertainment but as rights holders like Uefa continue to carefully piece together their own media and social puzzle, his words are a reminder for all to continue carefully considering whether the likes of TikTok can be friends as well as foes.

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

Rights holders as rights buyers
Earlier this week LaLigaSportsTV, LaLiga’s own OTT service confirmed it will broadcast the AFC Champions League, the top regional competition for Asian clubs, in Spain until 2024. It’s the latest rights acquisition of a ‘foreign’ property the Spanish league has made. LaLigaSportsTV was always conceived as a multi-sport service and a home for live sport other than football, as well as a vehicle for LaLiga to broadcast its own programming. As well as other domestic sport from Spain, it also holds the Spanish rights to the Russian Premier League. This shift from rights holder to rights buyer, as owned streaming platforms are developed and maturing, is one that other top-tier leagues are now actively pursuing. Also this week, Red Bee Media has been confirmed as the technology partner for the development of Ekstraklasa.TV, the streaming platform created by Poland’s top football league. Red Bee and the Ekstraklasa will work together to develop the platform with a view to adding additional sports content – not just football – to the platform and ultimately integrating it with existing cable networks. The Ekstraklasa says it has been in initial talks with other leagues and adding new content will be a focus over the next 12 months.

Serie A’s new bedfellows
The dust is finally settling on the tortuous Serie A media rights process, with DAZN installed as the primary domestic broadcast partner from next season and Infront’s offer for international rights (excluding the US and Middle East) reportedly seeing off over 40 other bids. Infront will replace IMG in the international role, but the league is already preparing for a reduction in the value of its overseas rights, not least as BeIN Sports, its previous partner in the MENA region, France and Australia, has chosen not to participate this time. Domestically, meanwhile, Serie A and its member clubs are closely monitoring reaction to its decision to award the bulk of live games to DAZN rather than long-time partner Sky from the start of next season. The streaming service is planning to remove its DAZN1 channel from the Sky platform, with a view to enticing new subscribers via a new partnership with telco TIM. In a revealing interview last week with SportBusiness’ Martin Ross, DAZN Co-CEO James Rushton discussed likely changes in its Italian pricing to reflect its investment, citing a rise from €9.99 to €11.99 a month in Germany following its acquisition of a package of Uefa Champions League rights. In spite of scepticism elsewhere, Rushton is bullish about DAZN’s biggest bet yet on sports rights. “I’m not interested in vanity projects or making big splashes in the market that don’t make sense,” he said. “We will make money on Serie A in Italy. No doubt about it.”

All this Meadowlark-ing around
John Skipper’s reputation as a master of sports media, built over years running ESPN and maintained more recently through some of the bold decisions taken whilst at the helm of DAZN, precedes him. That means an initial funding round of US$12.6 million in his new venture alongside Dan Le Batard, Meadowlark Media, came as little surprise. DAZN are in as backers of what is being billed as a ‘content company with a creator-centric point of view’, as well as the likes of DraftKings and Wasserman. Sports content and production houses are ten-a-penny, of course but Skipper’s latest storytelling venture should be monitored particularly closely in the coming weeks and months.


Using data from Audiense, Michael Brito has analysed Clubhouse’s audience from March based on how current users describe themselves in their biography when they are invited to join the audio rooms platform, to produce the graphic below. As Clubhouse reportedly discuss a funding round that would value the busines at something approaching US$4 billion, however, separate analysis from CivicScience showed that in February 79% of over 18s in the US have never heard of the app, 16% haven’t used it and aren’t interested in it, and just 2% use it and like it.



Source: Michael Brito/Audiense


In the Mixed Zone with… Martin Blencowe, Co-Founder, Cameo

How does Cameo’s monetisation model work?
The talent sets the price – a lot of times with athletes they will link it to their jersey number – and 75% goes to the talent, 25% goes to Cameo. Retired athletes are more incentivised by making money because those revenue streams they had when they were players have ended. I remember there was a crazy stat when we started the business: between 20 and 30, professional athletes make 90% of their lifetime income. With current players it’s about how they are connecting with fans in order to boost their brand.

What are you noticing about what works for high-profile athletes?
Originally people thought Cameo was just a service that does happy birthday messages, but one thing that’s become really popular is fantasy football – the banter. What makes it work is the talent being bought into it and comfortable and authentic. Originally people were doing videos for 30 seconds and now you can see some doing them for as long as eight minutes.

Where should Cameo sit within an athlete’s overall media and social activity?
What we’ve noticed is ‘take care of your fans and they’ll sure as heck take care of you’. What’s great about Cameo is it’s easy – they’re not posting anything, they get a request and they record it. Influencers were the first to really be successful on the platform – they grabbed the phones and were like ‘hey, guess what guys…!’ Athletes, by comparison, can be stiff and they’ve got to learn how to get camera-friendly. It can be a great training tool.

What are the key opportunities and threats at Cameo in 2021?
The opportunity is international. If you look at the UK it’s really grown in the last year but I still think if you asked anyone ‘what’s Cameo?’ they’d be ‘I don’t know’. But if you said ‘personalised messages from celebrities’ they’d be like ‘oh yeah’. As far as threats, I’m not really concerned – it seems as if when people get on the platform they’re happy. It’s really about expanding and creating other opportunities through the Cameo platform that the talent can monetise.

Martin Blencowe was appearing on the latest edition of Leaders Live, on 31st March. You can watch the whole thing here.



AFC secures Saudi deal
The Asian Football Confederation has sold the Saudi Arabian media rights to its various competitions to the state-owned Saudi Sports Company. The deal covers the AFC’s national team and club competitions, including qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup and the AFC Champions League. The contract runs from 2021 to 2024. Saudi Sports Company says it will deliver the rights initially through its OTT platform before ‘broadcasting via satellite on television channels in the last quarter of 2021, with more details to be announced in due course’. The Saudi Sports Company is run by Saudi’s Ministry of Sport. In an interview with the Financial Times last November, sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal said the company would focus only on Saudi rights, rather than agreements covering the wider MENA region.

MLB seals new Asia deals
With its season just getting underway, Major League Baseball has agreed a fresh three-year deal with Tencent which will see live games continue to be broadcast in China as well as in other Asian markets. Tencent is now streaming games and MLB shoulder programming in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand via its WeTV service. MLB has also broadened its media footprint in China, through a new partnership with Oriental Pearl Media, the company which runs the BesTV platform and a number of regional channels across 31 regions of the country. That deal runs until the end of 2023.


Recast hires commercial chief
James Cook has been named as the new Commercial Director at direct-to-consumer platform Recast. Cook will join the company later this month, after moving on from TGI Worldwide. Recast’s platform allows rights holders, such as Scottish football club Hibernian, to monetise all their content directly without the upfront costs of developing their own OTT platform.


Carmelo Anthony launches content company
Carmelo Anthony is launching a new ‘global content company’, Creative 7, alongside business partner Asani Swann. According to Variety, the NBA star plans to ‘champion inclusive narratives and voices that have gone unheard for too long’. Collaborations are already underway with producer Will Packer and Brad Pitt’s Plan B.



Eleven boosts global plan with Whistle buyout
Eleven Sports’ acquisition of Team Whistle, confirmed last week, is poised to accelerate the company’s operation in North America. The deal brings Team Whistle’s 1,665 distribution channels, 629 million aggregated social media followers and four billion monthly video viewers under the Eleven banner. Securing more live sports content, as well as on-demand sport and entertainment programming, will be a priority in the coming months. The move follows Eleven’s recent management restructure and acquisition of streaming platform MyCujoo in November. Eleven’s parent Aser invested in Whistle back in 2018, as part of a US$28 million funding round with Aser founder Andrea Radrizzani joining the Whistle board.


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