Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Feb 13, 2020 | 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

OTT coverage of the Premier League
New York Times’ big digital numbers
Ofcom reports on child smartphone use
Inside NENT’s Premier League purchase
WWE mulls PPV offering
Verow hired by BeIN Sports
New key hire at Deltatre
Spotify buys The Ringer
CBS strikes exclusive betting partnership
ITV firms up Euro 2020 studio plan
Salto to start operations in June
Disney confirms subscription numbers
Australian Open smashes digital records
Optus reveals subscriber growth


Long form


Hello and a warm welcome to the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your window into what’s new and next in the sports broadcast world.

As we put these together each fortnight, your comment, gossip, intelligence and news is always welcome – keep it coming to [email protected] and [email protected].

The ‘revelation’ that the Premier League is considering the launch of its own streaming service, to sell live games to fans directly, created a mini-media frenzy at the weekend in the UK, so much so that the hypothetical platform has already been given its own nickname – PremFlix.

The headlines were created following an interview given by new permanent Premier League CEO Richard Masters in which he said. “During the last [rights] process we spent quite a lot of time and invested a lot of resources in building our expertise and capacity in ‘direct-to-consumer.”

He added: “We considered whether strategically it would be the right time to test a few markets then and decided not to. We were ready last time and we will be ready next time should the opportunity arise. Eventually the Premier League will move to a mix of direct-to-consumer and [traditional] media rights sales.”

All very considered and reasonable – indeed, it would be close to a dereliction of duty if the Premier League wasn’t evaluating the potential of its own platform, especially when it is beginning its next round of international rights sales. “The Premier League is responding to a growing global trend of a mixed model of licensing and DTC revenues,” Ian McDonough, CEO of one of our Broadcast Disruptors Series advisors Blackbird told us on the back of Masters’ interview. “US sports have been moving in this direction for a while and now major broadcasters like Disney are doing the same. It’s a tough step to make in any market but the strength of the Premier League brand globally and relevance and depth of their content will hold them in very good stead.”

Tackling the changing media landscape and making the right moves at the right time to ensure revenues continue to grow will be a fundamental part of Masters’ role over the coming seasons. It is no secret that he was handed the reins after no fewer than three British media executives were offered the role and then were unable, for various reasons, to take it up.

He can perhaps take inspiration from another British media executive who is navigating these digital times with aplomb. Mark Thompson, the CEO of The New York Times Company, has just presided over a set of remarkable digital figures for the publisher.

The New York Times last week announced it has passed US$800 million in annual digital revenue ahead of the company’s schedule. It now has over five million total subscribers, leaving it on course to meet its target of doubling that by 2025; nearly 3.5 million of those are digital-only subscribers.

It’s an impressive result for a newspaper which launched its digital subscription offering nine years ago, and perhaps there’s a lesson or two for sport in terms of commitment to the model.

We’ll be in New York in a few weeks’ time to delve into subscription models and how they can be applied in sport, at the latest of our Broadcast Disruptors Think Tanks. It’s by invitation only but if you’re in New York on the afternoon of Thursday 5th March and you’d like to be considered, do let us know.



British media and communications regulator Ofcom has published its latest ‘Children and parents: Media Use and Attitudes report’, in which it reports that half of 10-year olds own a smartphone and confirms that more children watch video-on-demand services than live broadcast TV. The report, which covers 2019, is based on over 3,200 interviews with children aged 3 to 15 and their parents. It also revealed that 13% of 12 to 15-year olds in the UK are active on TikTok, with Twitch used by 5%. The wide-ranging study also reported that 34% of 12 to 15-year olds were able to demonstrate critical thinking by correctly identifying the first four results from a Google search as adverts/paid to appear and recognised this was the only reason those results appeared first.


Source: Ofcom


In the Mixed Zone with… Kim Mikkelsen, Senior Vice President and Head of NENT Sport. 

What are the benefits of a six-year rights deal for you as the broadcaster, and for the Premier League?
There’s only one Premier League, and offering our viewers unique content is what NENT Group is all about. We had an opportunity to secure the rights for six years in four countries – including Norway for the very first time – and we took it. We know how much Premier League means to fans in the Nordic region and we will do everything to meet their expectations. Sports broadcasting is a craft that takes years to learn, and we have a fantastic track record of turning great sports rights into unbeatable viewer experiences. Securing the rights for a longer period will help us to develop the property even further and maximise interest. All of this benefits both the rights holder and fans.

Do you expect these longer term rights deals to become the norm?
Rights periods vary from sport to sport, and the dynamics of each cycle are different too. I don’t expect that to change. The most important thing is the relationship with the rights holder – when that’s long-term, the rights tend to follow. 

From a production standpoint, what plans do you have to keep evolving the coverage – for example, utilising NENT’s streaming platform?
We have world-class studio productions and commentary today, and we want to get even better tomorrow! We used a very advanced virtual studio for this year’s Super Bowl and it was very successful. At the same time, we are investing substantially in Viaplay’s technical capabilities. We have a team of more than 200 developers working every day to take the platform to the next level, from multiple live streams, content discovery and an outstanding user interface.

What else can we expect from NENT this year in terms of its sports coverage?
We show more than 50,000 hours of the world’s best live sporting action every year on our Viaplay streaming service and our TV channels, and 2020 will be no exception. We will continue to deliver world-class coverage of NHL and KHL ice hockey, Uefa Champions League, Premier League, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 football, Formula 1, IndyCar, NFL American football, boxing, UFC, tennis, basketball, handball, golf and much more. We also have the Danish rights to Uefa Euro 2020, and we are determined to make our coverage the best Denmark has ever seen.



Premier League strikes big in Scandinavia
As you’ll have just read, the Premier League has struck its first six-year rights deal in Europe, securing what is believed to be a deal worth over UK£2 billion with Nordic Entertainment (NENT) Group. The deal, which covers Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden, will run from 2022 until 2028. NENT, which operated the Viasat pay TV channels as well as the Viaplay streaming service, currently holds the rights in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, while TV2 is the incumbent in Norway. For the current 2019/22 cycle, international broadcast rights are generating UK£4.2 billion. 

WWE wrestling with PPV decision
Comments from WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon suggest the wrestling promotion is toying with selling rights to its pay-per-view events to third party broadcasters, returning to a model it moved away from in 2014 when it launched its own all-encompassing broadcast service, the WWE Network. Speaking on a Q4 earnings call last week, McMahon said, “There’s no better time to exercise the selling of our rights to all the majors, who, quite frankly, are really clamouring for our content. So that could be a significant increase in terms of revenue.”



Verow and Markham get new BeIN roles
Former Sky Sports commercial director Richard Verow has been hired by BeIN Media Group. Verow will be the Qatari-based organisation’s Chief Sports Officer, taking over the responsibilities of Dan Markham, who has been promoted to Chief of Staff and Special Advisor to BeIN CEO Yousef Al-Obaidly. Verow will report directly to Al-Obaidly and be based in London. 

Johnson joins Deltatre
Major League Baseball executive James Johnson has joined Deltatre to head up the company’s business development team in the Americas. Johnson, who will become a Deltatre Vice President, held a variety of roles at MLB, including Vice President of Broadcast Services and Production.



Spotify buys The Ringer
Spotify’s decision to acquire The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ sports and pop culture platform, is primarily a podcast play. The deal gives Spotify access to The Ringer’s network of more than 30 podcasts, which generate around 100 million downloads per month. According to Bloomberg, Spotify will pay some $250 million for The Ringer. It is Spotify’s fourth podcast-related acquisition in a year, following moves to buy Gimlet Media, Anchor and Parcast. In September, Spotify hired Amy Hudson from Facebook to lead its sports audio output. Meanwhile, US gambling operator Penn National Gaming has bought a stake in another digital media platform, Barstool Sports. It has acquired a 36 per cent stake, which will rise to 50 per cent in three years, valuing the company at US$450 million.

Source: Spotify’s company findings (figures in millions)


CBS strikes William Hill deal
CBS Sports has announced a deal with William Hill, which will make the company the ‘official sports book and wagering data provider’ across all the broadcaster’s platforms. The partnership will begin this March, with CBS utilising William Hill’s odds, experts and over 140 sports books. The betting firm will have promotional exclusivity across CBS Sports’ platforms. Meanwhile, last weekend’s XFL saw the new league’s broadcast partners ESPN and ABC incorporate limited sports betting data into live game coverage.

ITV finds Euro 2020 solution
The complex nature of this year’s multi-nation Euro 2020 tournament has given rights-holding broadcasters new challenges, with games spread over 12 cities across Europe. However, ITV, who share UK coverage of the competition with the BBC, are planning to base themselves in central London, where the semi-finals and final will be held. The broadcaster has won planning permission to build its studio for the duration of the tournament on top of a Thames-side hotel overlooking Tower Bridge.



French broadcasters ready to launch Salto
The new French streaming platform created in a joint venture between broadcasters France Télévisions, TF1 and M6 will begin a beta service at the start of June, slightly later than originally planned. Salto, which will house over 15,000 hours of content at launch, will cost between €5 and €10 per month for subscribers.

Disney’s bundle of joy
Disney released the DTC subscriber numbers for its portfolio of streaming services for the quarter ending in December 2019 on an earnings call last week. ESPN+, which launched in April 2018, was up to 6.6 million subscribers. Disney CEO Bob Iger explained on the conference call that that number had already grown to 7.6 million in the month or so following the earnings period. Disney+ has 25.5 million subscribers less than three months after launching, and Hulu is up to 30.4 million subscribers. ESPN+ and Hulu are clearly benefitting from the Disney+ bundle that Disney has been offering, with $12.99 a month covering all three services.



Viewers engage with Australian Open
Eurosport has reported record digital and linear growth for its pan-European coverage of the Australian Open, the first tennis Grand Slam of the year. The Discovery-owned broadcaster saw a 35 per cent uplift in unique visitors to its website during the tournament, while engagement across its various social channels rose by 76 per cent. On television, there was a four per cent rise in viewership compared to 2019. In Australia, meanwhile, domestic rights holder Nine said that 57 per cent of the total population of the country tuned in to broadcasts of the Australian Open, plus the preceding ATP Cup, Brisbane International and Adelaide International tournaments – it’s so-called ‘summer of tennis’. During the same period, the ATP reported record engagement on its digital platforms including some 29.8 million video views on Instagram alone and a total, across all platforms, of 25.8 million interactions. The official tournament website, meanwhile, registered a 50.4% increase in visitors year-on-year, up to 10.05 million users, and saw revenue on its ecommerce platform triple.

Optus reveals customer spike
Optus Sport has revealed it now has 825,000 active subscriber accounts, with Australia’s Premier League broadcaster reporting a 30 per cent increase in the number of minutes watched year-on-year. The service has also confirmed a new rights deal with Japan’s J-League, adding to a portfolio that also includes the Uefa Champions and Europa Leagues and Uefa Euro 2020.


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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