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Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Feb 11, 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 noise around Clubhouse
Private equity versus broadcasters?
The offline world mapped out
Facebook’s PPV roll out
How Americans streamed the Super Bowl
Michael Tange explains the A-League’s new media strategy
Canal+ steps in to grab Ligue 1 rights
beIN fighting on two fronts
UK cricket rights shake-up
Eleven hires new Chief Strategy Officer
Sam Li leaving Sina Sports
Jess Smith switches to Nascar team
YouTube refreshes sports experience
F1 reveals audience numbers

 

Long form

THE BIG PICTURE

This is the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your fortnightly briefing on sports broadcasting, content creation, production and distribution. Thanks, as always, for clicking and giving us a few minutes of your day.

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It’s the app everyone who talks about apps is talking about – and, increasingly, talking on. Clubhouse seems to have the money and the momentum to be a breakthrough platform, even in a world of noise as investment and activity in audio – podcasts, voice messaging and now social media – grows.

Now it’s time to work out what, if any, value it can provide for sports teams, leagues and broadcasters. It’s clearly another way to bring large groups of people together and discuss a shared interest – there’s an obvious use case here for sport, with its endless talking points.

But is it better suited to individuals – fans, athletes, perhaps team executives – rather than as an official club or league channel? How and where can broadcasters play on a platform that, at initial glance, is occupying the space between podcasts and conferences? The various monetisation tools Clubhouse have indicated are on the way may help to make the case for these organisations.

Other questions to ponder: What’s the impact of Clubhouse’s invite-only policy? Does it make it more exclusive and sought-after, for example opening up opportunities for select groups of fans to interact with a star athlete?

Lots of questions, not many answers, as is so often the way when new platforms emerge. What is clear is that the buzz around Clubhouse makes it another platform for social media executives at teams and leagues – many already swamped with creating content for and managing multiple platforms and multiple features within each of those platforms – to keep an eye, or in this case an ear, on.


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

PE lessons
The injection of private equity money into teams, leagues and events is one of the juiciest current sports industry plotlines, but are these new institutional investors setting a collision course with a more traditional major funding source? Reports in the UK last week that the Rugby Football Union dropped plans for a vote to stop relegation in this season’s Premiership following opposition to the idea from broadcast partner BT Sport. With broadcasters seeking to retain as much jeopardy as possible and the likes of CVC, which owns just over a quarter of Premiership Rugby courtesy of a deal finalised at the end of 2018, looking to ringfence value, it’s an example of the kind of tensions that could well flare up across various leagues around the world as the PE money rolls in and existing media rights deals play out.

Currently offline
We Are Social’s always-essential annual digital report and the headline figures it reveals for digital penetration around the world are as eye-catching as ever, and the 247 (two hundred and forty seven) slides are well worth examining in detail. But while 67% of the total global population now use a mobile phone, it’s worth examining that statistic the other way: 33% don’t. Similarly, the report says that 41% are not connected to the internet and 51% are not active on social media. While major efforts are underway to increase connectivity and improve infrastructure, particularly in Africa where only 34% have internet access and only 16% use social media, or Asia where only 56% are online, the numbers should provide food for thought for anyone currently looking to build a truly global audience and mobilise a global fanbase.

Facebook’s video monetisation vision
Facebook has been building out its portfolio of video monetisation tools for some time, as it looks to capitalise, for example, on the “outstanding” results it has seen from its Watch product where over 1.25 billion people are using the tab each month to discover and share content across live events, sport, news or, in some markets, music. Its in-stream advertising product is proving a particularly effective solution for its sports partners, not least given the impact of the pandemic and the increased pressure on sports organisations to generate revenue through digital content. In 2021, according to Director of Product Management Yoav Arnstein, the man who sets the product roadmap for monetisation at Facebook, the company is looking to sport to help scale its new pay per view product, launched in August. “We’ve seen tremendous adoption over the last three months for this type of product,” Arnstein tells the latest edition of the Leaders Sport Business Podcast, adding: “It’s a model that sports partners are very accustomed to”.


THE NUMBERS

96.4 million people in the United States watched Sunday’s Super Bowl on CBS, down from 113 million last year. However, digital viewership was up significantly, with an average minute audience of 5.7 million – up 65% year-on-year and an NFL record. Conviva has painted a picture of how Americans streamed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ victory.

 

Source: Conviva


PRODUCTION NOTES

In the Mixed Zone with… Michael Tange, appointed last week as Strategy and Digital Director at Australian Professional Leagues, the new entity which took over the running of Australia’s four professional football leagues from Football Australia at the start of the year.

What’s attracted you to this new role?
The massive potential of Football in Australia and the ability to create a new model that can shift how sport is commercialised in this market. Football is the biggest growth opportunity in Australian sport. Period. By far (2x) the largest participation base, the largest young fanbase under 35, a leader in women’s sport – with co-hosting FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 ahead of us – diverse, digitally engaged and representative of modern Australia.

Its challenge has been that the professional leagues have not been able to generate the comparative engagement and commercial returns that other codes have been able to develop. The new APL structure will unlock that potential and provide an independent commercial vehicle that is entirely fan centric to change the presentation and experience of football in this country, and create a flow on effect that grows the football economy and allows for more investment in all levels of the game.

What do the recent changes and the formation of Australian Professional Leagues mean for the way the A-League is packaged and sold in future, particularly from a broadcast standpoint?
It brings strategic partnerships to the very core of the business. Our intent is to properly capitalise the APL to provide the ability to develop partnerships that are about maximising the growth potential of football and ultimately enterprise value for both the APL and our partners.

Our contribution to that model and our ability to create value for our partners will come from our investing in three capability builds: Being the biggest football content machine in our market, to unite the football audience and grow engagement in all types of football; World-class 1st party data capability and digital properties to build a 1:1 connection and personalise the football experience. We have a team with incredible experience in this aspect; and a massive focus on innovation and entertainment in the football leagues and events that we present. What can we do to expand, elevate and showcase the game across the calendar while respecting the sanctity of the 90 minutes and our place in the world game?

What’s priority number one for you?
Our ability to capture this opportunity and offer something distinct in the market will rely on our data and technology capability. We have an aggressive roadmap and timeline that is going demand a lot of focus to execute well.

To what extent will further international rights commercialisation be part of the plans?
They are certainly part of our plans. OTT provides more opportunities to connect and grow audience around the world both directly as well as through distribution partners. There is also a piece of work to be done to make distinct the identity of Australian football, and how our leagues can embody that to stand out and support those growth efforts.

Going a little deeper on a couple of areas we’re starting to work through, Asia is obviously a massive addressable football market with complementary time zones, where our teams compete in the Asian Champions League. Our W-League competition contains world-class talent, and we will be focusing on how we can use Australia co-hosting the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to supercharge the W-League’s growth and profile around the world.

What’s your overall assessment of – and level of optimism about – the current Australian sports broadcast market?
There has been a lot of activity in the market over the last month, amongst both the major local media companies as well as new market entrants. When you look at rights cycles, the big Australian sports are largely sewn up for the next little while, which has different implications for each of these players.

We are optimistic that there is a strong growth story around football, a deep slate of content across the calendar, and a willingness to innovate that can support any partner’s value proposition.


RIGHTS WATCH

Canal+ steps in
The financial fallout from Mediapro’s withdrawal as primary rights holder is far from over, but Ligue 1 has at least secured its immediate broadcast future in France with Canal+ stepping in to show the remainder of this season’s games. Reports from France indicate that Canal+ will pay €35 million, in addition to its current agreement where it was paying a total of €330 million for the secondary live rights package. In total, once Mediapro’s initial payments are included, it means the league is receiving €670 million via domestic broadcast rights this season rather than the €1.14 billion it had originally agreed. The Ligue Professional de Football is expected to return to market shortly with the rights for next season and beyond. Amazon, DAZN and Discovery all tabled bids in the most recent tender, following Mediapro’s exit, but none met the LFP’s minimum asking price. However that has at least raised hopes at the league that there will be multiple bidders in the next rights sale process.

beIN the wars
Despite the recent thawing of political tension between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports is still not licensed to operate in the Kingdom. Given the scale of its pan-regional rights acquisitions over the last decade, this means that – as it has done for the last three years – the only way for consumers in Saudi Arabia to watch most live sport is via illegal means. And despite the rumours that a Saudi sports broadcaster is set to launch to legitimately challenge beIN’s dominance in the region, no such entity has materialised just yet. Even so, the Italian football league, Serie A, has taken the step of putting two sets of rights out for tender in the region. One – a pan-regional package that beIN has previously bought – and the other a country-by-country package that seems specifically designed to draw out a legitimate Saudi bid. Having cemented their success through a pan-regional approach, beIN insist they won’t bid on a country-by-country basis in MENA. And they’ve been as good as their word with the Bundesliga, which has been without a broadcaster in the region since the end of last season having opted to take a country-by-country approach. The Serie A bids are due in next week. Elsewhere in the beIN galaxy of rights, a global distribution deal with the Turkish Super Lig is up for renewal this year and Fenerbahce President Ali Koc seems to be doing his best to scupper any chances of that. Apparently keen to deflect from years of underachievement and a staggering debt of $700 million – and up for re-election himself this year – Koc has sought to create a common enemy in beIN, blaming the broadcaster not just for the parlous state of the club’s finances, but for VAR decisions and unflattering camera angles too. Koc has used stadium hoarding and player shirt inventory to protest these perceived injustices, only rowing back on the ‘beFAIR’ branding after the broadcaster brought out the lawyers this week.

UK cricket rights sweep
After Channel 4’s late move to bring the current India v England test series to a free-to-air audience in the UK, BT Sport has confirmed deals that will see it broadcast England’s tours to West Indies and New Zealand. The agreements cover all men’s and women’s domestic and international cricket in the West Indies and New Zealand for a multi-year period.


JOBS BOARD

Eleven hires Marcel Mohaupt
Eleven has announced Marcel Mohaupt will join the company as Chief Strategy Officer at the start of April. He will be reunited with Eleven CEO Luis Vicente after the pair worked together at Fifa. More recently, Mohaupt has been running the German DTM motorsport championship.

Sam Li departing Sina
Sam Li is leaving his role as Head of International at Sina Sports this spring. He will continue as a consultant for the organisation, while spending more time advising and investing in the sports tech start-up space from his new base in New Zealand.

Jess Smith joins Stewart Haas
Jess Smith has joined Nascar team Stewart Haas Racing as Head of Digital. She previously ran digital and content for the New York Rangers.


DISTRIBUTION

YouTube refreshes sports experience
YouTube has revealed what it calls a ‘refreshed experience’ for sports on the platform. It has reworked its sports hub to include everything from clips and highlights to live games and premium content from athletes and creators. In addition, it is expanding the YouTube Select connected TV (CTV) line up beyond the US, with plans to roll it out in Australia, Canada, India AND Japan in 2021. The company says that will make it easier to align CTV advertising to YouTube sports content.

F1 reveals 2020 audience numbers
A few key numbers from Formula 1’s official briefing on its 2020 global audience numbers: the average audience per Grand Prix last year was 87.4 million, down year-on-year by around 4.5%, although there were only 17 races in 2020 versus 21 in 2019. The briefing also pointed out that the entire 2020 season took place in Europe and the Middle East, with a number of regions not hosting a Grand Prix as planned. The Chinese audience was up 43% across the year, while the UK audience rose 10% and Germany saw a 5% uplift. The highest individual race audience was the Hungarian Grand Prix, which recorded 103.7 million viewers.

 

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