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Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Jan 14, 2021 | 8 min read

14 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 era of open source creativity?
Cameo adds personalities; increases video production
Betting firms as content houses
Roblox and the rise of virtual concerts
Mapping the unconnected world
Inside the America’s Cup broadcast operation
IPC and Infront begin Europe-wide partnership
Ligue 1 broadcast crisis continues
F1’s Director of Digital exits
Comcast’s Strong replaces Darroch at Sky
Eleven restructures management team
Impressive figures for NFL on Nickelodeon
John Skipper’s new content venture
Tottenham Hotspur see results on Facebook

 

Long form

THE BIG PICTURE

Hello there and a warm welcome to this, the first Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin of 2021. We’ll be here each fortnight with a measured, considered briefing on sports broadcasting, content creation and distribution. Good to have you with us.

Your contributions throughout the year will be warmly received. For news, opinion, gossip and industry intelligence, hit us up at [email protected] and [email protected].

Think of the rights holders who have been genuinely pioneering over the past 30 years. You’ll probably have Uefa in mind for the way they packaged up and standardised the broadcast look and feel of the Champions League.

There’s perhaps Wimbledon and the Masters, two events which have managed to preserve and transmit their tradition and history through increasingly sophisticated and market-leading broadcast and digital operations.

And there’s the NBA, the kings of distribution, the pioneers of personalisation and generally acclaimed as the leaders in this truly multi-media age.

Who’s next? At a time when, most obviously through the likes of Tik Tok and Instagram’s Reels, fans are not only generating content, but actively adapting, re-working and remixing it, who will be the rights holders that embrace these new forms of creativity most effectively and successfully?

The idea of open source creativity, an example of which is MLB’s Film Room, launched in September and now making over five million clips available for free to fans to use as they wish, may jar somewhat with the structured, established and relatively rigid world of sports broadcast rights and content ownership.

But it’s a potentially powerful new way to unleash a generation of fan creators – who will likely be doing it even without official blessing – and to work in tandem with them on fresh, on-trend, of-the-moment content. There’s a place in many an industry textbook of the future for those rights holders that get it right.


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

Cameo’s appearance
Cameo, the personalised celebrity message service produced a total of over 30,000 hours of video content in 2020. Overall, Cameo said 1.3 million video messages were delivered, with bookings up 350 per cent year on year. It also reported that over 10,000 personalities joined the service in 2020, with many doing so as a way of trying to boost income after events were cancelled and other revenue streams dried up during the pandemic. Over 150 of the celebrity message-givers made over US$100,000 in 2020.

Betting expertise
Since sports betting was legalised in the United States back in 2018, a series of partnerships between sports networks and betting firms have been formed and several major investments involving betting and gaming organisations concluded. The betting companies themselves are now evolving, with more and more hiring journalists and creators as they effectively transition into media houses, producing their own content for their own audiences. And the transfer of knowledge and expertise seemingly works both ways, judging by DAZN’s appointment this week of a new Co-CEO, Shay Segev, from the betting and gaming world. Segev was CEO of Ladbrokes and Corals owner Entain. At DAZN, he’ll share the CEO reins with James Rushton.

Roblox and the rise of virtual concerts
Gaming network Roblox is now worth US$30 billion, according to recent filings, with Warner Music Group among a number of new recent investors. Warner has reportedly invested an eight-figure sum in the company, part of Roblox’s aim to ‘build a human co-experience platform that enables shared experiences among billions of users’. It currently has 150 million global active users, over 40 per cent of which are women, while half of all under-16s in the US are active in what Roblox calls the metaverse, according to the company’s Head of Music, Jon Vlassopulos. Warner’s interest is thought to stem from the possibilities the platform offers to host virtual concerts, in the same way as has happened within Fortnite – a November Lil Nas X Roblox concert had over 30 million views across four weekends. In a recent interview with IQ, Vlassopulos said: “I have been through the birth of the internet in the ‘90s and the impact it had on the music industry, then we have had mobile for the last 20 years. I believe the metaverse has the potential to be bigger than all of them”.


THE NUMBERS

In the quest for new viewers and the next generation of audiences, Visual Capitalist’s analysis of the unconnected world is striking and underlines the potential, particularly across Asia and Africa, as and when greater connectivity is achieved. Over a billion people in South Asia, including 658 million in India, do not currently have access to the internet, while in the United States there are 44 million who remain unconnected.

Source: Visual Capitalist


PRODUCTION NOTES

In the Mixed Zone with… Stephen Nuttall, Managing Director, Production & Rights, America’s Cup.

What differences can America’s Cup viewers expect with the broadcast of this edition versus the last?
Our top external priority is to make this the most-watched America’s Cup of recent times. To do this we have partnered with national free-to-air networks and major pay channels in over 190 countries. In addition, we have retained digital rights and will make live and highlights coverage available on americascup.com, YouTube and Facebook. For example, we are working with TVNZ, RAI and Sky Italia, BBC and Sky Sports, and NBC Sports in the home markets of the teams.

What are some of the key numbers around the broadcast operation? Staff, cameras etc.
75 staff working on broadcast and the regatta management system, more than half of whom are from New Zealand; 0 cabled cameras – everything is wireless; 10 remote controlled cameras on each of the four competing yachts plus broadband audio microphones, and a network of sensors capable of measuring the position and speed of each yacht to 2cm accuracy; 2 helicopters each with a Shotover gyro-stabilised camera plus 1 drone; 38 knots (44mph, 70km/h) – the top speed of our main on-water camera boat, which is made from a recycled America’s Cup catamaran; 4 channels of coverage – the World Feed, two dedicated yachts channels, and a data channel full of statistics and data for expert fans of sailing.

What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing?
Everything is new and, because of Covid, the preliminary regattas originally scheduled for Europe in 2020 were cancelled. The AC75 is a brand new class of boat faster than any previous America’s Cup yacht – it has never been sailed competitively before. The entire production and regatta management system is also brand new for the 36th America’s Cup. The America’s Cup is the oldest international sporting trophy but it constantly reinvents itself.

What’s the approach in terms of integrating data, through overlays and graphics?
The new regatta management system has been developed by IGTIMI, from Dunedin in New Zealand. This system allows the event to run safely, provides all the information for the umpires and race officials, and provides the statistics that viewers see in our broadcast.

Animation Research, also from Dunedin in New Zealand, provide the 2D and AR graphics that both make sailing accessible to the widest possible audience and also provide deep and rich information demanded by the dedicated sailing fan. The AR graphics system is new, relies on image processing and is able to generate graphics without needing any sensor data from the water.

Is there a remote production element or is everything happening on-site? What challenges has COVID posed?
There are days when Auckland, New Zealand can seem a long way from the rest of the world! However, New Zealand’s remoteness has been a major factor in enabling the country to navigate the challenges of COVID. We are very fortunate to be running a major sporting event with large crowds in the middle of the southern hemisphere summer. Hopefully viewers abroad will enjoy some great sport and blue skies.

The production centre is located on the waterfront in Auckland but racing takes place in the harbour. All the cameras, microphones and sensors on the yachts are remotely controllable over wireless from the IBC.

What will constitute success for you and your team as far as the broadcasts are concerned?
As explained above, our systems enable the regatta to run safely and we provide the sailing equivalent of VAR to ensure a fair competition. We aim to produce great coverage that engages and entertains and is open and accessible to all. Our broadcast priority is to make this the most-watched America’s Cup of recent times.


RIGHTS WATCH

IPC swaps EBU for Infront Sports & Media
The International Paralympic Committee’s new European rights agreement with Infront Sports & Media has storytelling at its heart, with the agency’s production division set to work with the IPC on raising the profile of athletes and events in between editions of the Paralympic Games. The rights agreement, which replaces the IPC’s arrangement with the EBU, covers 51 European countries and the Beijing 2022 and Paris 2024 Games. Channel 4’s existing rights deals for both Games are unaffected while French rights for the Paris 2024 Games are also not included. Indeed, Channel 4’s groundbreaking coverage of each Paralympics since London 2012 will be used as the blueprint for Infront’s approach to the partnership.

Canal+ calls for fresh Ligue 1 tender
The crisis enveloping French football, following the collapse of Ligue 1’s domestic rights agreement with Mediapro, appears to be deepening with the news that Canal+ is to hand back its own secondary package of live rights to sub-licensing partner BeIN Sports. It is calling for an entirely new tender despite being widely seen as the only realistic option to take on the bulk of live rights given up by Mediapro. That would likely be at a significant discount on the original financial agreements, but Canal+ is thought to believe a tender will the best way of further driving down the price, which would have major repercussions for the financial health of the league and its clubs. Canal+ and BeIN Sports formalised a distribution partnership in February last year, with the former taking on the latter’s live rights to two games per week.

 


THE JOBS BOARD

Frank Arthofer leaves F1
Frank Arthofer is leaving his role as F1’s Director of Digital and Licensing to return to the United States. Arthofer has been in post since 2017, overseeing the sport’s rapid growth on digital including its esports series and the F1TV subscription streaming service. His role will not be replaced, with his key responsibilities taken on by F1’s marketing and communications and commercial partnerships teams.

Strong replaces Darroch at Sky
Dana Strong has been named as the new Chief Executive of Sky Group, replacing Jeremy Darroch who confirmed last week he will stand down from the role he has held for the past 13 years. Darroch will remain involved as executive chairman and then an advisor. Strong joined Comcast, Sky’s owners, in 2018 and has led consumer services for Comcast Cable since then. She is a former Chief Operations Officer at Virgin Media.

Eleven restructures top team
Eleven CEO Luis Vicente has announced changes to his management team, with Mycujoo founders now fully integrated following last year’s takeover. Pedro Presa will be Eleven’s new Group Direct to Consumer Officer while Joao Presa will become Group Chief Technology & Product Officer. Among a number of other changes, Julian Pate has been named Group Chief Marketing Officer. Eleven will shortly announce new hires: Group Chief Content Officer and Group Chief Strategy Officer.


CONTENT/PRODUCTION

Over 2 million tune in for Nickelodeon’s NFL debut
Sunday’s New Orleans Saints-Chicago Bears game was Nickelodeon’s most-watched programme by total viewers in nearly four years, with 2.061 million tuning in for the kid-friendly broadcast filled with rule explanations, cameos from Nickelodeon characters and plenty of slime. The sports industry was certainly watching, judging by the positive reaction among insiders on Twitter, but a deeper ViacomCBS analysis of that audience – and how they continue to engage with the NFL for the rest of this season, into next season and beyond – will be key to understanding whether the innovative alternative coverage can be considered a success or merely a novelty. 28.592 million watched the CBS coverage of the same game.

Skipper launching new content venture
In the week DAZN announced gaming executive Shay Segev as its new Co-CEO, the streaming service’s Executive Chairman John Skipper has confirmed a new venture with former ESPN personality Dan Le Batard. Details of the new venture are still patchy but it will be in the content space. A report on Deadline said that the first order of business will be to secure a radio slot for Le Batard. Skipper will remain in post at DAZN, although there are suggestions that his role there may eventually be taken on by Kevin Mayer, the former Disney executive who was hired by DAZN parent Access Industries in November to seek out new opportunities for the company in the media sector.


 

DISTRIBUTION

Spurs see results on Facebook
In a year when the signings of Alex Morgan and Gareth Bale prompted much excitement and coach Jose Mourinho made a spectacular return to Instagram, Tottenham Hotspur and Facebook have revealed how they worked together to increase content, engagement and partner delivery across its social platforms in 2020. The club produced 700 videos of over three minutes on Facebook, increased Instagram engagement by 58% and supported 17 brand partners across Facebook and Instagram through 1,700 branded content posts. The club also published 240 Instagram Shopping posts to support its retail business.

 

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