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Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Mar 11, 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

Brands as live broadcasters
Triller enters the ring
The NFT era begins
Instagram rolls out enhanced live feature
Disney+’s rapid growth
ONE Championship’s diversification and localisation plans
Concacaf signs up with Paramount+
Kevin Mayer assumes DAZN Chair
Leible joins LiveNow
East joins independent production house
Fry to assist IMG Production transition

 

Long form

THE BIG PICTURE

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The NBA has agreed a media rights partnership in Brazil with league partner Budweiser. The beer brand has begun to stream one live game per week via its social channels, as well as producing original content in Portuguese across a number of platforms.

According to the NBA’s Latin America division, the deal could be a precursor to similar arrangements with partners in Chile, Argentina and Mexico, as the league looks to spread the word and grow its profile.

The novel NBA agreement in Brazil has received a good deal of attention, but the idea is not entirely new. Four years ago, in Germany, local bank DKB stepped in to broadcast the IHF World Men’s Handball Championship live on an exclusive basis via its website.

It’s not just brands, either. In 2017, British diver Tom Daley secured the exclusive live rights in the UK to the FINA World Series, in which he was competing, for his own YouTube channel. Formula One world champion Jenson Button did something similar when he competed in Japan’s Super GT Championship in 2018.

Given the advances in streaming technology and social media, not to mention the desire for sponsors to reach fans through increasingly well-produced and packaged content, the brand (or athletes)-as-broadcaster concept seems a natural way to continue to evolve more traditional marketing relationships and go to pre-existing groups of customers or fans.

Coca-Cola or LeBron James acquiring the rights to broadcast the Premier League in the United States may seem the stuff of fantasy for now, but in the content-driven, everyone’s-a-broadcaster age the type of deal the NBA has struck in Brazil hints at a future where one day it might just be a possibility.


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

Triller, Triller fights
The video-sharing app has brazenly – and without much fanfare – stepped into the boxing ring, outbidding established promotional giants Matchroom Sport and Top Rank for the upcoming IBF lightweight world title fight between Teofomo Lopez and George Kambosos Jr. Triller bid just over $6 million for the fight, far ahead of Matchroom’s US$3.5 million and Top Rank’s offer of US$2.3 million. It is now preparing a pay-per-view show with Lopez-Kambosos as the headline fight. Triller broadcast Mike Tyson’s recent exhibition bout with Roy Jones Jr., has a deal with YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul and in December teamed up with Snoop Dogg to launch a new boxing league, but its investment in a top-level professional fight may mark the beginning of a new phase in its sports strategy. Its purse bid for the Lopez fight certainly came as a surprise to the main US boxing broadcasters ESPN and DAZN. Beyond boxing, Triller is perhaps best known for providing an online home for the likes of Justin Bieber, but pinning down its current number of users is proving tricky. In the past fortnight, Billboard has reported the service has inflated its user numbers, citing a source who claimed that the real figure was around half the 50 million Triller publicised in July.

Tokenism
News that a digital clip of a 2019 LeBron James dunk available to view on YouTube sold for US$208,000 was greeted with a combination of incredulity and in some cases hilarity, but the concept of owning a digital moment is very much here and here to stay – and the buyers are certain to make a significant profit as and when they choose to sell. Through a non-fungible token – effectively a secure and non-transferable digital certificate of authenticity – fans now have the ability, for sentimental or trading reasons, to purchase, own and trade digital highlights in the same way as they have been doing with physical cards and memorabilia for decades. The James clip sold via NBA Top Shot, the NBA’s blockchain-powered video highlights buying and selling platform which was launched in 2019 through a partnership with Dapper Labs. It is believed to have already generated over US$200 million in sales, with a rapid increase coming in recent weeks. As so often, where the NBA leads the rest of sport is following: football-focused digital collectible platform Sorare, for one, has struck deals with several European clubs, plus the likes of the J-League, K-League and MLS, and recently raised US$50 million through a funding round. A glimpse at the potential riches the NFT system offers can be found in the art world. In October, a Miami-based collector spent US$67,000 to own a 10-second video freely available to view online. Last week, he sold that same video for US$6.6 million.

Live groups
After a period of testing in India, Instagram is rolling out Live Rooms, an enhanced version of its live feature where users can broadcast with three others at the same time. Previously it has only been possible to go live with one other user. Announcing the new feature last week, Instagram suggested it would open up the opportunity to ‘start a talk show, host a jam session or co-create with other artists, host more engaging Q&As or tutorials with your following, or just hang out with more of your friends’. The feature also includes monetisation opportunities for users, including the ability for viewers to buy ‘badges’ for the host and integration of Instagram’s shopping and live fundraising elements. Following the trial in India – a market chosen because of the country’s ban on rival TikTok – Instagram saw views of lives grow by 60 per cent in 2020.


THE NUMBERS

Disney expects to have between 230 million to 260 million subscribers to its Disney+ streaming service by 2024, after recent confirmation that it has already secured 94.9 million subscribers prompted it to make a reforecast. Axios has mapped out the service’s rapid ascent alongside those of the other key players in the US streaming wars.

 

Source: Axios


PRODUCTION NOTES

In the Mixed Zone with… Hua Fung Teh, Group President, ONE Championship

How would you describe the evolution of ONE Championship’s media strategy?
ONE Championship is Asia’s largest global sports media property. We grew up doing mixed martial arts events and over time we diversified into other martial arts and today we’re the world’s largest martial arts organisation, with events across MMA, kickboxing and even local forms like Muy Thai. We have a huge broadcast footprint – broadcasting in over 150 countries to a potential audience of 2.6 billion people. That makes us not only Asia’s largest global sports media property, but also Asia’s only global sports media property. Asia has many very well-run sports leagues, like the Chinese Basketball Association, the Chinese Super League, the Philippine Basketball Association and the J-League but very few of them have a true global following. That’s one thing that’s pretty unique about us and another is digital.

We had the good fortune of being born in the digital, social and global age in 2011 when platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Tencent were already up and on the rise. Because we were not locked into legacy TV deals, and in particular exclusive TV deals, we were able to be fairly liberal about where we distributed and posted our content. With the advent of digital, social and mobile media platforms, we grew with that. We now have over 20 million fans on Facebook, on an annualised basis we’re doing 15 billion social media impressions. I say all this not to give myself a pat on the back: a lot of it was luck; picking a sport that was relevant across a region of 4.4 billion.

How is it evolving beyond live fights?
While we started with martial arts, in the last two years we’ve diversified a lot in terms of content sets. We have ONE Esports, which is a subsidiary, a joint venture with Dentsu – and it’s a full-on sports league in and of itself; Asia’s largest esports competition. We are platform agnostic, we work with different developers, a whole bunch of titles. We have been able to leverage the martial arts platform into esports, and now we’re doing general entertainment as well, with ‘The Apprentice: ONE Championship’. We were fortunate enough to build a brand, an audience and a fanbase very quickly and that has enabled us to now extend into the product lines, which will continue as we grow.

What are the main obstacles to growing your global footprint?
Any sports property trying to globalise will always have issues that you have to try and solve, like localisation. Our product, even though we grew up in Asia, is a relatively Westernised product – it’s shot and produced in English, the creative medium is English. That works in markets like, say, the Philippines that is English-speaking and has quite a strong tradition of watching Western sports like the NBA. But in some markets, like Indonesia, where the vast majority of people communicate in Bahasa, their local language, we have to make some adjustments to the content. Sometime those are basic, like subtitles – or in the case of China, we have a Mandarin feed and commentary accompanying the show.

In many cases we have to invest in deeper localisation: in the highlight clips or reels, in between fights, our Chinese feed has different clips, more Chinese, locally-relevant, athletes. In some places we have a completely local studio show and that requires some investment, by us and our broadcast partners. Localisation is not unique to us but it’s something we have to solve and we probably dealt with it earlier in our life, because unlike the established global sports media properties we were kind of regional on day one, global on day two. We said we were going to be relevant across a number of Asian countries at the start and now today we have broadcast in the US and Europe. That was an opportunity, to create something highly relevant in multiple local markets on day one.

Hua Fung Teh was speaking during the Leaders/SBJ Media Innovators event in November.


RIGHTS WATCH

Concacaf signs with Paramount+
Concacaf, the governing body for football in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, has confirmed a major new US rights deal with CBS Sports. Across a multi-year period, over 200 men’s and women’s national team matches will be broadcast via the new ViacomCBS streaming service, Paramount+. The agreement starts in June with the Concacaf Nations League Finals. Paramount+ launched on 4th March and is effectively the replacement for CBS All Access. Much of CBS’s sports portfolio, including the NFL and NCAA March Madness tournament, will be available via the service. Live football on the platform will include the National Women’s Soccer League, as well as Uefa’s club competitions, as well as top-tier action from Brazil and Argentina.


JOBS BOARD

Skipper steps down, Mayer steps in at DAZN
Former Disney and TikTok executive Kevin Mayer is DAZN’s new Chairman, after John Skipper’s decision to step down from his role with the sports streaming service. Skipper will concentrate on his new venture, Meadowlark Media, but remain as a strategic advisor to DAZN. After his short stint running TikTok, Mayer resurfaced last year as an advisor to DAZN parent Access Industries. In January, DAZN announced the appointment of Shay Segev to run the business as Co-CEO alongside James Rushton.

Peter Leible joins LiveNow
Former Bundesliga Head of Audiovisual Rights Peter Leible has been named Head of Sports at LiveNow, the Aser Media-owned live streaming platform. He is reunited with Aser Media’s Andrea Radrizzani having previously worked with the Italian at MP & Silva, where Leible headed up the agency’s APAC division.

East swaps Sky for Buzz16
Duncan East has joined independent sports production company Buzz16 as Managing Director, following his departure from Sky Sports. East spent nearly two decades at Sky, most recently as Director of Creative Output. Buzz16 is the company behind shows such as ‘Gary Neville’s Soccerbox’ and ‘Class of 92 – Full Time’.


CONTENT/PRODUCTION

Fry to help IMG Production leadership transition
Graham Fry, IMG’s long-time production chief, is to retire at the end of 2022, with the agency confirming a business transition plan. Fry, IMG’s Managing Director of Production Worldwide, since 2007 will revert to the Executive Chairman, Production role as new leadership is installed over that period. He currently oversees a team of over 500, in London, Sydney, Stockholm, Oslo, Singapore and Glasgow working with clients including the Premier League, Wimbledon, World Rugby, European Tour, UFC, Euroleague and broadcasters such as the BBC, Amazon Prime, Eurosport, CBS and NBC Sports. Fry has been with IMG since 1991. “Graham is one of our most experienced and well-respected executives,” said Adam Kelly, IMG’s Co-President of Media and Events, “and we are fortunate to have him spearheading such an important part of the media business. We are delighted that he has committed to complete his career with IMG and help the smooth transition to new leadership before the end of next year.”


 

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