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Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | May 20, 2021 | 8 min read

10 things you need to know today about the shifting sports media landscape

By James Emmett and David Cushnan

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Short form

Next week’s schedule
WarnerMedia and Discovery get together
Football’s US broadcast landscape shifts
Motorsport Network’s niche model
Short form video growth in China
The search for Google’s ‘Web Stories’
ESPN renews with MLB
BeIN renews with LaLiga in France
Scudamore joins Monterosa as non-exec
Buzzer hires NBA executive

 

Long form

THE BIG PICTURE

Hi there and thanks for your company – this, as you probably know, is the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin. We’re here every fortnight with a comprehensive briefing on what you need to know and why across sports broadcasting, content creation, distribution and monetisation.

Do keep getting in touch with thoughts, opinions and news at [email protected] and [email protected].

We begin with a parish notice. Next week is LeadersWeek.direct/, our latest virtual broadcast offering. We’ll be in our snazzy new Leaders studio from 13.00 BST/08.00 ET on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with live conversation and the best bits from our online library of panels, interviews and presentations, all of which will be available for a month once you’ve registered here.

Through the week and the month we’ll be expanding on many of the themes, trends and topics we’ve touched on over the past few months in this Bulletin.

Sessions to watch out for include considered reflections from CBS Producer Shawn Robbins on January’s Nickelodeon NFL telecast; Stephanie McMahon, who’ll be live with us discussing WWE’s recent deal with Peacock and what drove the decision to effectively disband its own streaming platform; what a personalised viewing experience means in 2021 with Verizon Media’s Darren Lepke; WSC Sports and NCAA Digital on how ‘web stories’ can unlock new value streams for rights holders; and the first deep dive into LaLiga’s new US broadcast deal with ESPN with LaLiga North America CEO Boris Gartner and ESPN’s EVP of Programming and Original Content Burke Magnus.

There’ll be nuggets of wisdom, fresh perspectives, your contributions and by tuning in you should get a useful sense of the industry’s direction of travel. It should be a lot of fun.

We look forward to your company.


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

Voyage of Discovery
This week’s merger, bringing together AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Discovery, is a timely reminder that for all sport’s size and importance, it is dwarfed by these kind of enormous media transactions. The new entity will likely have a value above US$100 billion, placing it in the sphere of the likes of Disney and Netflix, while AT&T’s reversal out of the content game appears to solidify the trend of telcos concluding that owning distribution infrastructure and media assets – the pipes and the water – isn’t necessarily the golden ticket it once appeared to be – see also Verizon Media and, potentially, BT. Nonetheless, any deal which includes Turner Sports, Eurosport and major rights deals with the likes of the NBA, MLB, NHL and March Madness across the United States and, across Europe, the Olympic Games is clearly still highly significant for sport. Our colleague from SBJ John Ourand has the skinny from Stateside but it’s a safe bet that at least a sliver of the US$20 billion content warchest David Zaslav, the Discovery executive who has been placed in charge of the new company, referred to this week will end up earmarked for sports rights. How current and new rights acquired by WarnerMedia/Discovery are distributed will be equally intriguing, but the global appeal of Discovery’s new streaming service, Discovery+, would seem to make it an attractive option. Who’ll make the decisions has also yet to be decided. While Zaslav will run the new company, speculation is already swirling that Jeff Zucker, the former head of CNN who was due to retire at the end of the year from his role as Chair of WarnerMedia News & Sport, will be convinced to stay on.

It’s not you, it’s US
With its new domestic broadcast deals arranged – a canny move to achieve the same value as the current arrangements without going through a tender process – the Premier League will have been as interested as anyone in news of the reported US$1.4 billion eight-year agreement between LaLiga and ESPN in the United States. The deal appears a genuine game-changer for the Spanish league, which bought out its existing contract with BeIN Sports to secure the deal. The Premier League, which in 2015 struck a six-year deal with NBC for around US$1 billion, is in-market for its next US broadcast agreement and will be confident of exceeding the LaLiga value, especially if the tender is as competitive as it seems likely to be. NBC, which has made a huge success of its Premier League coverage and requires sports content for its Peacock streaming service, is certainly keen on a renewal – it’s widely assumed part of its recent decision to give up its NHL rights was to build its arsenal for a new Premier League bid. ESPN’s LaLiga deal, meanwhile, is the latest indication of Disney’s appetite for European football – Germany’s Bundesliga has also made ESPN its new long-term home, through a deal that began last August and sees games primarily broadcast on ESPN+. CBS, too, has a growing football portfolio as the new US home of the Uefa Champions League and, as of next season, as the new US broadcaster of Italy’s Serie A. A potentially very lucrative battle – terrific news for the Premier League’s overall international rights revenue sheets – appears on.

On the grid
Detractors of the sport won’t have it, but something interesting is happening in motorsport. Over the past few years a company called Motorsport Network has been building a portfolio of websites, acquiring many of the leading motorsport and automotive platforms, notably including renowned industry title Autosport. It has aggregated the content and now boasts a 56 million-strong monthly audience, across several languages. Now, it is rolling out ambitious plans for an OTT streaming service, Motorsport.tv – last week it hired former Eurosport Player and NFL Game Pass commercial chief Simon Danker as CEO of the platform, which houses a variety of live and recorded motorsport content. Although live rights to top-tier motorsport are currently out of range, several series further down the motorsport pyramid in various markets have found a willing home – and an audience – there. Motorsport Network has also launched a series of official channels for partners including Mercedes, Nascar, Porsche, the World Rally Championship and Audi. In April, meanwhile, the company launched a rolling motorsport news channel, with live broadcasts originating from studios in London and Miami. James Allen, the former ITV Formula One commentator who is now President of Motorsport Network, says: “Interactivity with the audience, social media and social listening are all baked into the proposition from the start. I’ve worked in TV since the early 1990s and what we are able to do today in this space, with remote operations, technology and software that has been developed out of necessity during the pandemic, is amazing.” A niche offering, but at scale: it could well be a model for specialist digital publishers across a range of sports.


THE NUMBERS

Alarice and Chozan’s comprehensive analysis of China ecommerce and digital marketing trends for Q2 reports that 68.7% of China’s population is online and that 79.1% of those online use the internet for shopping. Among the major platforms, competition for users remains intense. The report shows that the likes of Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu appear to have reached saturation point, user growth is more pronounced for short form video specialists such as Toutiao and Kuaishou.

 

Source: Alarice and Chozan Mega-guide: China Ecommerce and Digital Marketing Q2 2021


PRODUCTION NOTES

 

In the Mixed Zone with… Andrew Goltzer, Head of Sports Products Partnerships for Search and Ethan Bar-Yehuda, Product Manager, Google

What is Google Onebox and what’s it intended for in sport?
Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. That’s what we’re trying to do on Search; we’re trying to get users answers to their questions, and with time we wanted to do it faster and faster. People were asking what is the Liverpool score or where are the Warriors in the standings and we wanted to give them the answer as fast as possible.

When and why did you bring in the stories functionality?
We started to work with rights holders to place a video in the Onebox because one of the things that users ask for a lot is to see highlights. Google introduced a new format called Web Stories, which is an open web source for stories in late 2019. And we thought it would be good to marry these two concepts. Users are looking for highlights but they’re also looking for this new engagement pattern – this tappable format. You come in and you want to see something; you already saw half of the game and maybe you just want to scroll through that until you get to the part you haven’t seen and stories lends itself to that. The second thing is that we saw that publishers want to connect with their audience as the game progresses. There’s a goal or a touchdown but creating another video every time is very costly, so the advantage of stories is that you just stitch each part together with time. It allows you to create something which users are more used to having today – it’s fast, you can drop in where you previously left off.

How can sports entities make Google Onebox work for them?
The focus is on helping users find – without friction – highlights or where to watch the game, working with leagues and broadcasters to link to the highlights that live on their platforms in a way that allows us – Google – to seamlessly connect users with the content they’re looking for. We’re not distributing it ourselves, we’re helping you find it off platform. This formula is a win-win-win proposition and it’s been working well. We’re making users happy by making it easier for them to find what they’re looking for – which is our mission – and we’re helping rights holders reach new audiences and increase viewership to their platforms through an entry point that a lot of users start their sports journey with.

Can you give us a sense of the extra engagement you’ve been seeing since you introduced Stories?
Major League Baseball has been an early adopter of the Web Stories format for the in-game highlights use case. They call theirs Game Stories. To date, MLB’s Game Stories have seen a 70% completion, with 7.6 pages consumed per story start and a 1.76% CTR on story ads. The publisher has the ability to integrate tappable hyperlinked buttons within a story. You could do a lot with that functionality but we think the coolest use case for sports is the ‘watch live’ button where you can tune in and see how the match ends; you just go right to the live stream. It’s a powerful conversion funnel for broadcasters.

Andrew and Ethan contributed to our latest Leaders practical guide, How to tell ‘stories’ that drive revenue, produced with the support of WSC Sports. The six-step guide, examining questions to ask, support and resource on offer, platform distinctions and UX, analytics that will make a difference, best practice on creative and publishing cadence, plus tricks and tips that have worked for rights holders and broadcasters across multiple platforms, is available here.


RIGHTS WATCH

ESPN renews with MLB
ESPN has continued its recent rights spree by renewing its deal with Major League Baseball, for a reported US$550 million per season. Its new agreement running from 2022 until the end of the 2028 season includes 30 live games per year on an exclusive basis, including Sunday Night Baseball and the opening night national telecast. That’s a drop on the 90 included in the current deal. MLB will sell midweek games separately. ESPN has also acquired rights to post-season wild card series games should that format be revived, with provisions made for additional regular season games to be included should the current format continue. As is becoming commonplace in long-term major league rights deals, ESPN will be allowed to produce ‘alternate presentations’ of live games, following ViacomCBS’ Nickelodeon broadcast of an NFL play-off game earlier this year and ESPN’s Marvel-themed NBA telecast of the Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans earlier this month.

Channel 4 bolsters enviable rights portfolio
Over several years now, UK broadcaster Channel 4 has been building out an enviable sports rights portfolio. From the Paralympics and other key para events, to European Cup rugby union, Formula One highlights to W Series, it has – relatively quietly – become a major player in the market and, with its willingness to innovate in its coverage, an attractive partner for rights holders. It is also, in the best sense of the word, opportunistic, recently striking a deal to broadcast the India-England Test series at short notice. With all that in mind, it should be no surprise to see Channel 4 secure the rights to broadcast free-to-air highlights of the upcoming British Lions tour of South Africa. It will show highlights of all three Tests, as well as live coverage of the Lions’ warm-up game against Japan at Murrayfield next month. Sky Sports has live coverage of the tour.

BeIN renews with LaLiga
BeIN Sports has renewed its deal with LaLiga to broadcast the Spanish league in France until 2024. The new deal strengthens the already-solid relationship between the two organisations. BeIN Sports broadcasts LaLiga in 35 markets around the world, most notably across the MENA region. “The renewal deal with LaLiga – our trusted partner in France since 2012 – supports our rational business strategy of bidding proportionately for premium rights while focusing in growth and profitability in France,” said Laurent de Camas, BeIN Sports France’s Managing Director. BeIN is said to be working towards new deals in France with the Bundesliga and Serie A. BeIN and LaLiga have also pledged to work together to ‘continue their renowned alliance and partnership on anti-piracy’, with the issue continuing to be a major problem in France.


JOBS BOARD

Scudamore joins Monterosa
Former Premier League Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore has joined real-time engagement specialists Monterosa as a non-executive director. Scudamore will help the company, which consolidates digital engagement experiences in order for clients such as ITV, Liverpool FC, ViacomCBS and IMG Arena , to connect to their audiences directly.

Buzzer hires NBA executive
Shirin Malkani, the former VP of Global Media Distribution at the NBA, has been hired by Buzzer as its Chief Commercial Officer. The appointment follows the mobile platform’s recent deals with the NBA, NHL and PGA Tour, which will allow fans to receive notifications to watch segments of live action.


 

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