Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Mar 25, 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

The NFL’s broadcast bonanza
Beeple’s big NFT prediction
BBC and Sky commit to women’s football
Private broadcasts reshaping hospitality
How customer billing relationships are changing
Personalisation v community: The NBA’s next gen telecasts
Analysing the NFL’s seismic media agreements
Australian Professional Leagues adds executives
Clubhouse hires Netflix’s Maya Watson
Dortmund and Tottenham join OneFootball
IPC to digitise archive content with AI
Kuaishou shares impressive growth


Long form


Hi there and welcome to the latest Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your fortnightly briefing on everything worth knowing in sports broadcasting, content creation and distribution.

We brief you, but do keep briefing us. Your correspondence is always gratefully received at [email protected] and [email protected].

Only one hundred and ten billion places to start this week. There is so much to pick over in the NFL’s remarkable new broadcast agreements, with ABC/ESPN, Fox, NBC and CBS, not least the total dollar figure on the 11-season arrangements that will kick in from the 2023 season.

There’s Amazon’s biggest bet yet on sports rights, a billion dollar outlay for Thursday Night Football exclusivity over ten years, when, for the first time, it will be producing its own coverage. Expect Twitch to be involved.

There’s the inclusion of games and rights across the various networks’ streaming platforms – ESPN+, which will get an exclusive international series game per season, NBC’s Peacock, CBS’s Paramount+ and Fox-owned Tubi.

There’s the headline-grabbing announcement of ABC and ESPN joining the Super Bowl broadcast rota, bringing with it the possibility of a ‘mega-cast’-style production for the NFL’s showpiece game. After CBS and Nickelodeon led the way with its kid-friendly broadcast last season, the NFL will work with networks to explore other such alternative productions.

And buried deep in the announcement of Fox’s new contract, you’ll find the basis for a Fox Bet agreement with the NFL to become an official sportsbook as and when the league allows betting partnerships. In owning its own betting brand, Fox may have stolen a march here on the other networks, who all have partnerships with third party betting operators (CBS with William Hill, PointsBet with NBC and DraftKings with ESPN/ABC), as they all explore how best to integrate betting into broadcasts. Meanwhile, the NFL’s league data rights could sell for over US$100 million with suggestions the duration of that deal may align with the new broadcast rights term.

Then there’s the implications for the rest of sport and in particular other rights holders such as the Premier League which is looking to the United States for a chunky part of its international broadcast revenue, in its next rights cycle. Is the NFL deal a sign that networks are willing to spend big on live sports content? Of course. Does the size of the various investments mean there is likely to be less money in the pot for networks to spend on other rights? Very possibly.


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

NFTs heading for the mainstream
Non-fungible tokens and, in a sports context, the likes of NBA Top Shot are having a moment. And as rights holders around the world embark on a crash course in learning how they work, what the potential revenue streams might be and who to partner with, it’s worth examining what’s happening in the digital art world. Mike Winkelmann, AKA Beeple, he who sold, via auction house Christie’s, an NFT of his work for US$69 million earlier this month, was interviewed this week on Kara Swisher’s excellent Sway podcast for the New York Times. He is, perhaps understandably, bullish on NFTs and offers this intriguing prediction of where the current fad could end up. “Eventually, I believe it will just become part of Instagram,” he tells Swisher. “That’s where I see it ending. It will be ‘like, share, comment, buy’ – the buy button is right there and you can buy that post, and you can see who owns that post. You’ll be able to say whether you want ten people to own it or one person to own it. You’ll be able to have an auction for the post. It’ll just be built right into Instagram.”

The WSL virtuous circle
After weeks of speculation, England’s Women’s Super League (WSL), the top women’s football league in the country, has confirmed the BBC and Sky Sports as its new UK broadcast partners from the start of next season. Sky is replacing BT Sport as the primary live broadcaster and will show at least 35 games live exclusively in each of the next three years. The BBC will broadcast 22 live games per season, with a minimum of 18 on BBC One or BBC Two. In total, the agreements are said to be worth between UK£7 million and US£8 million per season. It feels like both a statement and a game-changer for women’s football in the UK, coming as it does just before England hosts the European Championships next summer. The dual broadcaster approach not only gives WSL a combination of pay and free-to-air broadcasts, but access to a spectrum of potential shoulder programming and enhanced profiling with the regular diet of Sky Sports News, Sky’s 24-hour sports news service, at one end and mass appeal BBC programming such as The One Show, the corporation’s early evening magazine, at the other. In the longer-term, the combination of financial commitment and platform gives the WSL the means to enter a virtuous circle where there is more money for clubs to invest in facilities and coaching, which should help further develop payers and product, resulting in greater exposure and further investment down the line.

Broadcast hospitality
Among the many items on the ‘to do’ lists of sports executives around the world is the tricky business of finding new VIP hospitality solutions in a world where travel, marketing budgets and access to venues are likely to be limited for some time to come. Zoom-inspired packages are one answer, but in the world of luxury goods, a far more produced – and, admittedly, expensive – proposition has emerged to try and capture the feel of an exclusive party or a private dinner in virtual form. The likes of Cartier are using highly-private broadcasts, more akin to a film than a video call – featuring actors, with a narrative developed by screenwriters, blending together music and other entertainment elements – shot on location with multiple cameras at a mansion and at a sound stage, to provide a select group of customers and high rollers with as immersive an experience as possible. Cartier jewellery is, of course, subtly woven in throughout. Such broadcast-style hospitality could be the basis of a model for sports rights holders to follow to entertain VIPs unable to attend events in person; for in-house media and content creation teams, or specialist content agencies, it could lead to new projects, a greater workload and more deliverables.


The differing third party distribution approaches adopted by streaming services have been charted by measurement and analytics firm Antenna, which compared how customer billing relationships have changed for some of the most prominent players in the US between December 2019 and December 2020. While Netflix has retained virtually all of its subscriber billing relationships, over a quarter of Disney+’s were billed by the likes of Apple and Amazon. According to Antenna’s analysis, Apple and Amazon were responsible for processing billing for 1 in 5 American SVOD subscriptions at the end of last year – or 1 in 3 if Netflix is excluded.



Source: Antenna


In the Mixed Zone with… Sara Zuckert, Vice President & Head of Next Gen ​​​​​Telecast, NBA


What does your role entail?
It’s focused on what the future of our game looks like across all platforms. That includes enhancing our traditional linear feed for fans around the world watching on television – new camera angles, audio elements and graphics – and it also means focusing on digital viewing and what that can be for our fans. That includes personalised elements, as well as ways to bring communities together around the broadcast. It’s a split or combined role, whichever way you want to look at it. I certainly think of it as combined.

The challenge of moderation on social media is obviously a big topic at the moment – as you bring co-viewing experiences onto the NBA’s own platforms, what fresh moderation challenges does that bring?
It’s always an area of focus. When it comes to video co-viewing for large groups, we do human moderators who are there and monitoring what’s going on. We’ve been fortunate – with the virtual fan experience in Orlando [last season] we did not have any concerns; it was no different from our arenas in that our moderators were able to just build out the community without a lot of concern. I do think fans also recognise the opportunity they had – they had a digital ticket tied to their name and I’m sure that was a component as well.

Will there be ever more innovation around reaching segmented audiences, trying to move away from superserving the avid fans and reaching more casual fans?

We’re absolutely focused on reaching casual fans, really understanding what engages them and brings them into the game. We know a lot of our casual fans – and this may well be true for other leagues – watch highlights, read about the league but they may not sit down and watch a full game. We’re trying to understand what, if anything, would bring them to that and how we can better serve them with a game-watching experience. That includes thematics – kid-focused telecasts as well as influencers who can reach teens.

One thing we’re finding is among our casual and core fans is there are certain things that cut through both, whether it’s watching in another language, watching a betting-focused telecast. Those reach different demographics who are looking for different experiences, but come to the same place. We’re learning a lot about reaching a number of different people at once with these alternate streams. As technology develops and we have the opportunity to further personalise, one thing we continue to focus on is making sure that community aspect is there so that we’re not personalising to the extent that your viewing experience is so different you can’t watch with your friend sitting next to you or sitting across the world. We are trying to find that balance.

Sara Zuckert was speaking as part of last week’s LeadersWeek.direct/AbuDhabi.


NFL deal analysis with former Fox Sports executive George Krieger 
“The NFL has become the master at bifurcating their content rights. In the last two cycles it has solidified its international games package (morning football for the US), truly established the Thursday Night package, initiated numerous digital carve-outs and shared rights, and now added game inventory with the 17-game season. The new eleven-year time frame is the longest period ever for an NFL rights grant, although the NFL’s unilateral out after seven seasons on all deals is under-publicised.

“The media outlets didn’t change from the last deal but the rights they acquired did. Consumers will learn that, increasingly, NFL also means Paramount+, Pluto, Peacock, Tubi, ESPN+ and fans will need to expand and adjust their viewing patterns.

“The changes were logical expansions into a fuller traditional and digital basket of rights and in Disney’s case, a return to terrestrial coverage via ABC with the Super Bowl and Playoff games. Amazon becomes a real player now with national DTC exclusivity (other than local terrestrial coverage in home markets of the two competing teams). There are numerous value-added stocking-stuffers sprinkled in for each media partner including exclusive Saturday game(s) late in the season, Christmas Day exclusivity, digital postgame rights, robust shoulder programming and footage rights. All of this while legal wagering begins its steep growth path benefiting both the league and licensees.

“The next interesting rights situation will be Sunday Ticket when it leaves AT&T’s DirecTV and finds a new home. This will be way more sticky as the Sunday afternoon rights holders (Fox and CBS) need viewers via their owned and affiliated stations to maintain and grow carriage fees and advertising.

“Lastly, the NFL, its team owners and the NFL Players Association need to take a bow. Extended labour peace through 2030 with the players getting additional incentives – up to 48% of defined revenues – and additional regular season games and expanded playoffs makes for a stable environment for media partners to invest aggressively for the long term.”


APL makes further hires
The newly formed Australian Professional League (APL), which has taken over the A-League’s commercial operations, have made three new appointments. Former Kayo Sports and News Corp executive Rob Nolan has been hired to lead marketing and data functions. Ryan Sandilands, whose CV includes stints at Cirque du Soleil and City Football Group, is the APL’s new commercial director. Meanwhile, Stacey Knox will oversee marketing operations.

Clubhouse hires Maya Watson
Clubhouse has hired Netflix’s director of social media as its new head of marketing. Maya Watson has already begun work at the audio conversations app. Clubhouse has also announced a creator accelerator programmed, called Clubhouse Creator First, through which is plans to support 20 creatives in building and monetising audiences and conversations.


Dortmund and Tottenham join OneFootball
Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur are the latest European football clubs to become OneFootball shareholders. They join the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid as shareholders, following OneFootball’s acquisition of Dugout last year. Dortmund and Spurs have also begun strategic content partnerships with OneFootball.



IPC teams up with Egoli
The International Paralympic Committee is revamping and opening up its archive in digital form through a new partnership with Egoli Media. Egoli’s AI software will digitise and log, tag and categorise all IPC-owned content from Paralympic Games and other para sport events. That amounts to around 8,000 hours of Paralympic footage from every Games since Barcelona 1992, with up to 1,500 more hours from Tokyo 2020 later this year to be added to the catalogue. As well as making the catalogue available to key stakeholders, including broadcast partners and sponsors, the IPC said it would be accessible to ‘media, filmmakers, content creators and producers’.

Kuaishou posts impressive results
Kuaishou, the Chinese video sharing platform part owned by Tencent, had 264.6 million active users in 2020, a rise of over 50 per cent on the previous year, according to its first set of results since its IPO in Hong Kong. The average user spent 87 minutes per day on the app. It reported US$9 billion in revenue for 2020, with live streaming accounting for 57 per cent and marketing services for 37 per cent. Various sports properties have content distribution partnerships in place with Kuaishou while Cristiano Ronaldo hit five million followers in 24 hours after launching on the platform in November.



Thanks for reading this edition of the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin. We’ll have another for you a fortnight today; and if you haven’t subscribed yet, do remember to opt-in here.

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