Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Feb 27, 2020 | 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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Boxing clever: Fox and ESPN show the way
Gen Z and video adverts
New inights into how we watch sport
Eurosport extends Grand Tour rights
DC United refocuses with Sinclair
Iger steps down; Chapek steps in at Disney
Nielsen hires new Chief Growth Officer
Claude Ruibal joins H&C TV board
AFC hires new Head of Media Rights
Sony acquires Whisper stake
Eleven rolls out new WhatsApp goal service


Long form


This is the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your fortnightly briefing on how sport is packaged, produced and consumed. Good to have you with us once again.

Please do keep on sending your news and views to [email protected] and [email protected]; we love hearing from you. And do get in touch if you’d like to be considered for one of the last spots at next week’s Broadcast Disruptors think tank, which we’re hosting in New York on Thursday 5th. Look forward to seeing some of you there.

It was Tyson Fury’s weekend, as the Briton won the WBC Heavyweight title by defeating Deontay Wilder at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena, but it was also a noteworthy occasion for Fox and ESPN, who combined for a joint pay-per-view broadcast in the US. The collaboration was necessary as a result of ESPN’s longstanding deal with Fury’s promoter Top Rank and Fox’s relationship with Wilder’s PBC promotional organisation, and key to making the much-anticipated fight happen.

A combined ESPN and Fox on-screen team combined for the broadcast, although production was handled by ESPN – its largest ever boxing production, with 38 cameras capturing every jab, body shot and throw of the towel.

It is a partnership that may well be reprised should, as seems to be the case, Wilder take up his option on a third fight between the pair. And similar collaborations may well be required should Fury – or indeed Wilder – ultimately face Anthony Joshua, the current holder of the other four world heavyweight belts, although they have the potential to be even more challenging. Joshua’s promoter Matchroom Sport has a major partnership with DAZN in the US. As a subscription service it has moved away from the pay-per-view model that has dominated boxing’s biggest match-ups over the past couple of decades, likely making a joint offering with ESPN or Fox more problematic.

In the UK, a similar collaboration might be required between Sky, which has enjoyed a long-term relationship with Matchroom, and BT Sport, which has broadcast recent Fury fights thanks to its arrangement with Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions. And to throw in another possibility, if the fights take too long to be made, Sky’s current Matchroom contract is up at the end of 2021; in the medium-term, boxing could be one way for DAZN to claw its way into the crowded UK Sports broadcast market – its eight-year deal with DAZN in the US, signed in 2018, is reportedly worth US$1 billion in total, and was and remains a statement of true intent.

The picture is complicated but in a golden period for heavyweight boxing, it would be a huge let-down for the sport if broadcast politics and contractual tangles were to get in the way of the next round of mega-fights. Fox and ESPN have shown the way; it’s time for common sense to prevail.



A new report from publisher video platform Connatix has revealed that 60 per cent of the US Gen Z population are willing to watch a video advert before consuming a video online. However, underlining the confusing and complex nature of Gen Z consumption habits, Gen Zs are twice as likely as Millennials to watch an advert for 20 seconds prior to accessing a video. The same report, entitled ‘Gen Z: the new voice in the editor’s room’ also reveals that 56% of Gen Z in the US watch over an hour a day of video online, compared to 40 per cent of Millennials and 31 per cent of Gen X. 57 per cent of Gen Z, meanwhile, say they turn their phone horizontally when watching a video that lasts for a minute or more.


Source: Connatix’s Gen Z: the new voice in the editor’s room’


Production Notes

90% of all sports viewers are now using a second screen while they engage with live sports, one of several key findings from a comprehensive study, commissioned by Verizon Media and undertaken by Sapio Research, which forms the basis of the latest Leaders special report – ‘Viewing shifts: How we watch sport’. The report, available now to download for free, presents the results of research conducted using a representative sample of over 5,000 people across the US, UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands, also reveals a number of key insights into viewer expectations of sports streaming services; expectations over value, content make-up, quality and more.

Here’s a taster of what you can expect, taken from the section dedicated to viewers’ evolving relationship with the second screen.

‘For those who are streaming sports on connected TVs, using a secondary screen to interact with friends or social media or access real-time data or statistics is almost ubiquitous. It has become an embedded behaviour, and broadcasters are still developing an understanding of how best to leverage it.

“One of our learnings has been that when you have interactivity as part of the product – whether that be polling or chatting or being part of a group and watching with friends – people watch for longer; we think four times longer,” says Peter Hutton of  Facebook’s findings around its sports streaming products. “If you feel part of the process, part of the game, you’re not a passive consumer and that’s the real opportunity for OTT”

But not all broadcasters share a similar view. “We experimented for many years with dual screen applications,” says DAZN’s John Skipper, speaking at the Leaders Sport Business Summit, of his time leading ESPN, “and I’ve never seen an instance where that was impactful. People tend to watch the game and do something else.”

For purveyors of streaming products, there is also a growing acceptance that mobile or tablet are not going to take the place of the primary screen for most sports viewers. “There’s some friction when you have to figure out how to download an app, get it on your smart TV as easily as it is to get your remote out and click on channel 53,” says Skipper. “It has problems and it is generational. I don’t know how to turn my lights on and off in my apartment anymore. Almost two thirds of our viewing is on a big screen and people do not find it satisfactory if they can’t do that. They like the convenience of the small screen if they happen to be somewhere but it’s not the preferred screen.”’



Eurosport extends Grand Tour deals
Eurosport has doubled down on cycling, by securing the rights across Europe to both the Tour de France and La Vuelta until 2025. The Discovery-owned broadcaster’s new Tour de France agreement with Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and Eurovision Sport is a two-year extension to its current contract. From 2021, Eurosport-owned Global Cycling Network will also broadcast every Grand Tour stage live through its app. The broadcaster has also obtained the rights to two key women’s races, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne, from this year. 

DC United revises broadcast plans
DC United, the Major League Soccer team, has agreed a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) for local coverage this coming season. Sinclair’s WJLA channel will broadcast all non-nationally televised games. The agreement follows October’s termination of DC United’s partnership with FloSports, following persistent issues with streaming reliability.



Bob swap at Disney
Wednesday’s hugely surprising announcement that Bob Iger is stepping away from the CEO role at Disney with immediate effect sent shockwaves through the media and entertainment world. Iger will transition to Executive Chairman until the end of 2021, with Bob Chapek appointed in his place as CEO. Chapek has most recently served as Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. One reading is that Iger, who as CEO oversaw the acquisitions of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009, Lucasfilm in 2012 and the launches of ESPN+ and last year Disney+, has extricated himself from the corporate fug at Disney, by handing over all his reports to Chapek, whilst ensuring he maintains creative control. A future tilt at the US presidency has even been mooted. Within Disney, a question mark must now lie around the future of Kevin Mayer, the executive in charge of the company’s recent move into the direct-to-consumer space and who had been widely tipped for the CEO job. Shortly before Iger’s announcement, Mayer announced that Hulu’s Chief Marketing Officer Kelly Campbell will be the streaming service’s new CEO, replacing Randy Freer.

Cohan hired by Nielsen
Nielsen has appointed Sean Cohan to be its new Chief Growth Officer and International President. Cohan previously spent 15 years at A+E Networks, including as President of International and Digital Media. In his new Nielsen role, he will oversee the measurement firm’s Nielsen Sports and Gracenote businesses. Nielsen has also appointed Gracenote CEO Karthik Rao as Chief Operating Officer.

Ruibal remerges at Horse & Country
Specialist equestrian network Horse & Country TV has announced Claude Ruibal as its latest board member. Ruibal has worked at GoPro, Universal Sports Network and Google and was most recently Chairman of Infront-owned iX.co and Host Broadcast Services. Horse & Country has recently acquired US equestrian sports streaming service EQ Sports Net, as it builds out its live and original programming.

Heng hired by AFC
Long-time Total Sports Asia (TSA) executive Connie Heng has been named as the new Head of Media Rights at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Heng, who rose to Chief Media Officer during two decades at TSA will work closely with the DDMC Fortis agency, which holds the AFC’s media rights until 2028.



Sony acquires Whisper stake
Sony Pictures Television has acquired a stake in Whisper, the production company formed by BT Sport broadcaster Jake Humphrey and former Formula One driver-turned-commentator David Coulthard. As a result, Channel 4’s involvement with the company – Whisper was part of the broadcaster’s Indie Growth Fund – will end. Whisper produces the BBC’s coverage of the NFL, as well as Channel 4’s F1 and Paralympics broadcasts, among a growing portfolio of content. 



Eleven turns to WhatsApp
Eleven Sports debuted its new WhatsApp service earlier this month in Portugal, providing Uefa Champions League match clips directly to fans in the country. The service will now be rolled out across other Eleven Sports Portugal live broadcasts, including its coverage of La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga. Over 60 per cent of Portugal’s population are active WhatsApp users.

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