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2019: what to expect
NFL TV numbers up
Lessons from Love Island
Winds of change in Chicago sports broadcasting
DC United signs streaming deal with newcomer
Warden up at ATP Media
King swaps Apple for DAZN
Nolan takes Man Utd role
Disney swoop for Earley
Mics on for ICC
Sumo: 8k pioneer
Nine steps it up for Australian Open
Discovery acquires GCN parent
Threat to SuperSport dominance in SA
Nielsen and CBS ratings stalemate
Happy New Year and welcome to the first Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin of 2019. This is your fortnightly briefing on all that’s new in the sports media and broadcast sectors. As always, we look forward to receiving your comments, suggestions, ideas and feedback on this email and indeed any matters of moment across the industry – [email protected] and [email protected] are the email addresses you need.
It’s certain to be another busy year in the broadcast space, with new players and familiar faces fighting for rights, audiences and attention. 2019 is the year when Amazon will broadcast its first live Premier League games, on an exclusive basis in the UK, and the tech giant has already begun its live coverage of the ATP Tour. Also up and running, at least in beta mode, is GolfTV, the new platform Discovery has built to host its PGA Tour global rights.
In the United States, meanwhile, expect a competitive battle for the 22 regional sports networks Fox intends to sell and scrutiny as ESPN looks to build on the successful launch of its ESPN+ OTT service. In the wider world of streaming, Disney’s new entertainment OTT product will be worth monitoring closely.
The US sports industry will also doubtless be watching every move a John Skipper-led DAZN makes following its fightsports-heavy entry into the market last year; its ‘Redzone’-style Major League Baseball show launches in April. Back in the UK, meanwhile, it may, according to reports, be sink or swim time for another streaming service challenger in Eleven Sports.
After a year of well-publicised teething problems for its ‘beta’ version of F1TV, watch for an expanded, enhanced OTT offering from Formula One and for the latest Netflix behind-the-scenes documentary, which was filmed in the paddocks and pit-lanes around the world last year. Like every other major rights holder, Formula One is working its way through the myriad ways to reach the modern consumer. It will continue to be front-of-mind for them all in 2019 – and fascinating viewing for the rest of us.
The numbers are in from the 2018 regular season and they’re good. 46 of the 50 top telecasts in the United States in 2018 were National Football League (NFL) games, while average viewership was up year-on-year by five per cent, with Fox’s national broadcast of Washington Redskins versus Dallas Cowboys attracting the largest single audience – over 30 million.
In the mixed zone with… Chris Younie, Senior Digital Producer, ITV
You work on UK broadcaster ITV2’s hit series Love Island – and you also were involved in the development of an accompanying app, a game, all sorts of digital elements to better engage a young audience. How does it all come together?
Going back to series one four years ago, the aim was just to make a good TV show. Love Island is now in eight territories – and it’s just been sold in the US, to CBS. ITV are going to produce that for them. That wasn’t the aim; it was the dream. It does take a couple of years to settle in. We had one sponsor in series one and that was the main TV sponsor and they didn’t take anything digital. In terms of the app, we’ve had that for the last three years and that has had three million downloads this year, which is great.
How important was the app during the series?
We have social accounts that have big following, which is amazing – we can monetise those a little bit, but to have a destination app and a website is great. We’re always looking at ways to drive that – the only way to vote and to influence the narrative of the show is by downloading the app. We’re quite reactive. We have a huge storyboard before the islanders go in – but then it almost gets ripped apart and we take it day by day; for example, we asked people if they wanted people to go back into the villa.
How do you work with brand partners?
We had quite a few fashion brands that were interested. We had a big product placement deal with Misguided – we obviously had a buyout on all the islanders in the villa, which obviously helped. We had lots of Misguided clothes in there – a section of our demographic are very interested in what the islanders are wearing and want to wear those things themselves so we had a shop within our app. As soon as an islander was wearing something on screen it went straight into our app. Most things sold out. There was a 600% increase in sales for items that featured on Love Island. It’s about cleverly integrating them [brands]. Within the app, we had traditional ad spots but the more creative we can be the better.
Chris Younie was speaking at October’s Leaders Sport Business Summit in London.
NBC Sports Chicago ties up teams
NBC Sports Chicago has confirmed new multi-year rights agreements with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, NHL team Chicago Blackhawks and Major League Baseball franchise Chicago White Sox, which kick in at the start of the 2019-2020 seasons. The channel will be the exclusive regional home for all regular season games and, for the Bulls and Blackhawks, the first round of post-season games. Tellingly, however, there was no mention of the Chicago Cubs, as speculation that mounts the MLB team is looking to launch its own broadcast service following the 2019 season.
DC United cuts the cord
US sports streaming challenger FloSports has made its first significant foray into major league live sports rights, agreeing a multi-year partnership with Major League Soccer’s DC United for the 21 of the club’s 34 matches each season that aren’t broadcast nationally. United’s previous rights agreement with WJLA ran out at the end of last season. FloSports is launching FloFC to house its soccer coverage.
Warden promoted at ATP Media
With the 2019 season already up and running, ATP Media has promoted Director of Broadcast & Technology Shane Warden to the new role of Chief Technology Officer. Warden has been with ATP Media, the media arm of the ATP Tour, since 2014.
New King at DAZN
Ben King will begin his new role of SVP Global Distribution and Business Development at DAZN in February. His appointment was announced last week, with King transferring from Apple. His most recent role there was Commercial Director for International Services, working across the iTunes, App Store and Apple Music platforms. King will work out of DAZN’s London office.
Manchester United’s new manager
Former Head of Yahoo Sports and Dugout Chief Content Officer Ian Nolan has been hired by Manchester United as its new Head of Content and MUTV. Nolan will oversee not only the club’s in-house TV service but its website and various print content, including matchday programmes.
Former Fox TV Group Chief Operating Officer Joe Earley has been hired by Disney as Executive Vice President of Marketing and Operations at Disney+, the company’s new streaming service which is scheduled to launch later in the year.
Sports TV legend David Hill once suggested that the excitement of sport is in the sound and the International Cricket Council would appear to agree. The governing body’s tweak of regulations, to allow the microphone to remain on, has led to several entertaining exchanges being broadcast by Fox during its coverage of India’s tour of Australia. The PGA Tour, meanwhile, is also experimenting with ways of getting viewers even closer to the action, trialling in-round player interviews at its recent Sentry Tournament of Champions.
NHK launches first 8K channel
The BBC, NHK and Olympic Broadcast Services showcased an 8K broadcast feed in London during the 2012 Olympics. Seven years on and a year and half away from Tokyo 2020, Japan’s public broadcaster has launched the world’s first 8K channel, showing a variety of films and public events, although Sharp is currently the only manufacturer selling compatible devices. Next week’s Grand Sumo Tournament will be the first sport broadcast on the new channel; coverage which will also reportedly include new innovations measuring and displaying the speed and force of impact of ‘tachiai’ charges.
Time for Nine
Nine Network begins its coverage of the Australian Open on Monday, following last year’s rights deal with Tennis Australia that took the rights out of the hands of Seven. Nine paid an additional AUS$48.5 million to secure the 2019 tournament, after earlier agreeing a five-year deal from 2020. The broadcaster is promising a range of innovations in its coverage, including 360-degree ‘Matrix-style’ cameras, 3D replays and advanced graphics provided by Viz Libero, a 270m wire-cam which will broadcast panoramic shots of Melbourne Park and a half-court studio allowing for live demonstrations and equipped with Hawk-Eye analysis technology.
Discovery presses Play
Discovery’s acquisition of Play Sports Group, the digital media company that runs Global Cycling Network, is rooted in its ambition to ‘build the number one cycling media ecosystem worldwide’ – its Eurosport brand already provides near-blanket coverage of cycling’s biggest events across much of Europe. Discovery has acquired a controlling stake in Play, having previously acquired 20% in February 2017. Play currently comprises 140 staff. Led by founder Simon Wear, they will now be folded into a new cycling-focused division at Discovery.
Change coming in South Africa
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has drawn up a draft bill to protect coverage of major sports events, a move which could result in an end to SuperSport’s dominance of the market and an increased number of events, including the Olympics and World Cups in cricket and rugby, broadcast on a free-to-air basis. Any change in legislation, however, would require the major free broadcasters, such as SABC, to bid for the rights. That may be unlikely given SABC’s well-publicised financial issues, which has been largely blamed on overpaying for sports rights.
Nielsen and CBS stalemate continues
Nielsen, long recognised as the authority on US broadcast ratings, remains out of contract with one of America’s major broadcast networks, CBS, as of this morning. The apparent financial stalemate began on 31st December, with CBS citing a lack of progress in Nielsen’s cross-platform measurement abilities. Although some observers predict that the two organisations will ultimately reach an agreement, it’s the most public demonstration yet of the tensions between broadcasters and third-party data providers in an age of more complex and varied viewing habits. In a separate move this week, Nielsen announced it has added mobile and OTT viewing, notably including YouTube, to its cross-platform advertising measurement tools.
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