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GB Basketball’s broadcast ban reveals the plight of rights holders
New numbers on global internet usage
Alex Green on Amazon’s sports rights strategy
ITTs to watch from FIFA and the Premier League
CBS to go deep for NFL rights renewals
Sky reclaims PGA rights from Eleven
BeIN’s F1 decision reveals regional opportunity
Job openings at Red Bull Media House and Perform Group
Dave Finocchio to step down from Bleacher Report
ESPN partners Second Spectrum for graphic overlays
Smart TVs with voice assistants to proliferate
Liverpool opt for Sports Illustrated as distribution platform
Spark confirms launch plans in New Zealand
This week, GB Basketball, the governing body of the sport in the UK, announced that ‘following a period of review’ it will no longer allow independent filming of any of its home games. The governing body of the sport in the UK, where basketball has always struggled to find a foothold, argues that its games are streamed live and for free on FIBA’s YouTube channel. It cites contracts with sponsors who ‘require recognition of their product, support and name’, which they can only maximise through official graphics and courtside adverts visible via official broadcasts.
Predictably, the snap reaction was largely negative – a situation hardly helped by the rather lofty, faceless website statement announcing the change in policy. At a time when rights holders are supposed to be embracing social media, fan interaction and short- and long-form video content, it’s easy to consider this a backward step, particularly when it’s made by an organisation that needs all the profile and coverage it can get.
Inevitably, given the sport, comparisons have quickly been drawn with the NBA, which has taken what many consider to be a refreshing and forward-thinking approach to integrating user-generated content and access on its various platforms of choice (albeit in a carefully controlled way). Such comparisons are unfair; few organisations have the resource, scope, and sheer volume of media product that the NBA has, and understandably GB Basketball, fighting for awareness on a daily basis, feels the need to protect its roster of official partners above all else.
Its decision to ban any footage outside its official match coverage is, at worst, a slightly heavy-handed reaction to a pressure that will be familiar to many small-to-medium rights holders. Weighing up the need to engage and attract fans with the income traditional rights fees can provide – and where to draw the line between greater access and piracy – are the challenges of the age for teams, leagues and governing bodies across sport. And for a rights holder of the size of GB Basketball, getting that balance right is by no means straightforward.
This year’s recently-published We Are Social and Hootsuite Global Digital Report shows that there are currently 4.388 billion internet users on the planet – or 57% of the global population – up from 2.485 billion just five years ago. In 2018 alone there were 360 million new internet users, while some 3.986 billion people are active on mobile devices. The global average time per day spent using the internet, however, has dipped slightly – down 1.7% (or seven minutes) to 6 hours and 42 minutes.
Source: We Are Social/Hootsuite Global Digital Report 2019.
In the mixed zone with… Alex Green, European Managing Director, Sports and Channels, Amazon Prime Video
How does it feel to have the element of surprise on your side as a new player in the rights market?
We don’t set out to surprise people but just the nature of being there and emerging with rights is a surprise. We are a new player in sports rights. The objective is to do what’s right for customers, to get involved with sports that resonate well – and we had a good opportunity in the UK with tennis and now with the Premier League. The reason we participated in that was we liked the opportunity and we’re going to now develop that over the years – we’re very committed; the rights extend over a period of time and we’ll see how we go.
How satisfied were you with the reaction to the Manchester City All or Nothing documentary series?
We’re really happy with it. It’s done incredibly well, it created a lot of buzz – it’s one of the moments where you look back on it and wonder almost why people haven’t done it before, because the Premier League has such huge levels of interest. No-one had offered the level of access we were able to offer viewers. We were very proud of the documentary, it’s gone down very well.
What are Amazon’s key objectives for the Premier League?
There’s two full rounds of matches, one in early December and the other is the Boxing Day period. It’s the first time on British television that a full round of Premier League fixtures will be broadcast so we will guarantee that your team will play at least twice on Amazon, and we want to be part of the nation’s Boxing Day so we’re really excited. We will be host broadcaster for these matches so that’s definitely a new level of challenge. We want to do it really well, produce great live coverage – we want to make sure the action is front and centre, with great analysis and commentary around it. We also want to make it incredibly easy for people to find – one click to watch on any device, big screen or smaller screen, wherever you like – for all our Prime members in the UK.
Love me tender
Two media rights tenders to keep an eye on: FIFA has opened up its broadcast rights sales process in Russia for all its major tournaments between 2019 and 2022, including the next men’s World Cup in Qatar. It took until six months before the 2018 tournament, hosted by Russia, before the broadcast rights were sold in the market, with Channel One, RTR and Match TV sharing the 64 games under the 2Sport2 umbrella. Meanwhile, in the UK the Premier League has issued an invitation to tender for live audio commentary rights for the three seasons beginning from 2019/20. The seven packages are currently carved by up between BBC Radio 5 Live and Talksport.
CBS doubles down on NFL rights
It is a measure of the continuing importance of the NFL to the business models of its major network partners that CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus used an investor call last week to insist that his team will “do whatever is necessary” to ensure CBS retains live NFL games when its current deal runs out at the end of 2022. The wide expectation is for the tech giants emerging as content creators to make a major run for NFL rights, although by the time negotiations begin it may be no stretch to call the likes of CBS, NBC and Disney streaming giants in their own right – the CBS All Access and its sister Showtime service now have over eight million subscribers between them; CBS has raised its target for subscriptions by 2022 from 16 million to 25 million.
Sky reclaims PGA
Sky Sports has reclaimed the UK rights to the US PGA Championship, which this year will switch to an earlier May date in the crowded golf calendar. The broadcaster now once again has live rights to all four UK majors. Last year’s PGA was broadcast by Eleven Sports as the streaming service made its UK debut, while in 2017 the BBC picked up a package of live rights after Sky failed to agree terms with the PGA of America.
BeIN Sports’ publicly stated decision not to renew its Formula One rights deal, apparently as a result of the rights holder not taking a robust enough stance on the pirate activities of Saudi broadcaster BeoutQ, has revealed a couple of interesting opportunities. For BeIN, for some time an ambitious spender on rights as it has aggressively built market share, the ongoing piracy issue does present a chance to review and right-size its entire rights portfolio. For Formula One, now faced with an under-competitive buying environment, the road is clear to roll out a full-service version of its new in-house OTT product in a key market in which fan data could form a lucrative offering to commercial partners.
– Red Bull Media House are looking for a Content Distribution & Servicing Specialist.
– Perform Group are looking for a Video Planning Manager.
– Dave Finocchio will leave his role as CEO of Bleacher Report this summer after 13 years with the platform. He follows Rory Brown, erstwhile President, out of the B/R door.
ESPN and Second Spectrum team up
ESPN’s latest major interactive broadcast project happens a week on Friday when it produces what it’s calling ‘Full Court Press’ live coverage of the Milwaukee Bucks-Los Angeles Lakers NBA game, with its partner Second Spectrum. It will provide three separate feeds alongside the main game broadcast: a stats-heavy ‘Coach Mode’; a ‘Player Mode’ featuring real-time scoring probability data for all offensive players on court at any point; and ‘Mascot Mode’, which will see special graphics – including a ‘fire graphic on the basket’ and a ‘3D on-screen brick’ – layered into the broadcast at key moments.
The voice of reason
Voice-activated viewer interaction could well be the next frontier in sports broadcast output after a new study from Juniper Research indicated that the number of active digital voice assistants will triple from 2.5 billion now to 8 billion by 2023. Smartphone assistants look set to be the largest platform by volume, but smart TVs are set for the most significant growth, with the Juniper study suggesting the number in use around the world will grow by over 100% every year for the next five years.
You’ll never stream alone
A noteworthy partnership between Premier League title challengers Liverpool FC and Sports Illustrated was snuck out at the end of January: in a first for a US streaming service, SI’s burgeoning TV channel has been given access to same-day delayed full coverage of every Liverpool game in every competition, as well as classic matches, club documentaries and other in-house club content.
Sparking into life
Spark Sport, the new sports rights player in New Zealand, has confirmed more details of its launch plans as it prepares for its debut in March, in time for the start of the new Formula One season. The new service will cost NZ$19.99 per month for anyone, with Spark offering a month’s free trial and some free content to customers beyond that. Spark has acquired rights to the Premier League for the next three years and will also broadcast this year’s Rugby World Cup.
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