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The Tip-Off: What are the implications of Google’s Fitbit bid and what is a Fantennial?

Other plotlines that may or may not come to define the sports industry: BBC fantasy sports and Susanna Dinnage leaves Discovery.

by SportsPro
The Tip-Off: What are the implications of Google’s Fitbit bid and what is a Fantennial?

The right fit?

So Google probably knows where you are, where you want to go, and what you will be looking for when you get there, and now it also wants to know what your heart rate is and whether you’ll be wanting to walk round the block to reach 10,000 steps by the end of the day.

That’s one interpretation, anyway, of last week’s US$2 billion move by Big Tech’s big information company to buy Fitbit last week. Google will also want to bite into Apple’s growing lead in the smartwatch market, where the Apple Watch is increasingly in the ascendancy and an ever better reason to choose the iPhone over an Android handset. Then there is the covetous eye Silicon Valley is casting over healthcare, particularly in territories like the US where the private sector dominates.

Wearables offer a source of data and a means of incentivising good behaviour; having a chunk of that market will be useful even if Amazon’s distribution networks leave it best placed to offer full-service plans in the 2020s.

In sport, meanwhile, wearables are still some way from having the commercial impact that was imagined for them a few years ago – even if they are now utterly indispensable to those in the high-performance business. The integration of wearables in broadcasts of this week’s ATP Next Gen Finals tennis tournament in Milan could take us closer to understanding what fan-facing role they can play.

The ATP is testing wearable technology at this week's Next Gen Finals

Somewhere else calling to the faraway towns

Our leaders have not quite taken the fun out of everything yet, so we are looking forward to the rare Christmas treat of a general election here in the UK. Organisations in sport may have a more palatable choice on offer when they look across the continent at cities poised to assume any influence London surrenders after Brexit.

Switzerland is already a federation super-hub, Germany boasts a massive domestic sports industry, and Paris has ambitions to become a major global centre on the back of the Olympics and a decent helping of state muscle. But keep an eye on Amsterdam. The Dutch capital is compact and cosmopolitan, with a good base of English speakers and a long history of collaborative innovation. The M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment agency will open an office there in January amid “increased client demand”, with the existing Heineken brief set to anchor the new base.

Must do better

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport has given the National Football League (NFL) a B rating for its racial hiring practices and a C-plus for its gender hiring practices, earning sport’s richest league a combined B-minus for diversity recruitment in the past year. It is the first time in nine years that its score for racial hiring has dipped below A-minus, which has been attributed to a drop in the number of head coaches and general managers of colour.

BBC’s fantasy game

A tip of the hat to the digital sports specialists at the Online Rule for spotting a UK£1.2 million tender from the publicly funded BBC for a new fantasy sports game. Soccer, the NFL and rugby union’s Six Nations are all possible subjects. But if SportsPro were to speculate, we would not be too surprised if this is part of Auntie Beeb’s plans to introduce it to fans of the Hundred, English cricket’s much-discussed franchise cricket tournament.  

Shall We play?

These have been difficult weeks, all told, for SportsPro’s landlords at WeWork and its We Group umbrella unit. But even if the halcyon days of big cups at the self-serve coffee machines really are gone for good, a US$9.5 billion rescue package from SoftBank has provided the means to keep the co-working group moving forward.

And recent experiences have not deterred the company from seeking fresh opportunities. Bloomberg has unearthed a trademark application and recruitment moves for Play By We, a broad-based venture into esports. Play By We’s services may include the hosting and coordination of tournaments and conferences, as well as the leasing of office space. The We Group had some eccentric ideas under Adam Neumann but could be on to something here: anyone who can really nail the provision of venues for esports will be in demand.  

Dinnage on the market

Susanna Dinnage, once the next chief executive of the Premier League, is on the move after all. The global president of Animal Planet is to step down after a restructure at Discovery. Succeeding Richard Scudamore may not have retained its appeal but with digital questions vexing so many broadcasters and rights holders, she could yet be a wanted woman in the sports industry.

That’s not a word of the week

In celebration of the NFL’s 100th anniversary, the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium hosted what it called a Fantennial Weekend from 1st to 3rd November. If only there were some existing term that adequately described a 100th anniversary, and some existing convention that made sports fans welcome at fan-targeted, sport-related events.

Emerging global icon of the week

Siya Kolisi, the first black man to captain South Africa’s national team, gives a statesmanlike response to victory in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final win over England.

Big but telling number of the week

23,013,000 viewers tuned into game seven of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) World Series to give Fox its best primetime audience of the current US broadcast season and its best Wednesday night audience since game seven of the 2017 World Series.

At the same time, reflecting wider trends in linear television, it was the lowest audience for a game seven broadcast in a decade as part of the least-watched World Series on the box in five years.

Big but telling number of the week two

US$175 million is the annual spending cap being touted for Formula One teams as part of a package of reforms aimed to stimulate greater competition from 2021. Those proposals were made a couple of days before Lewis Hamilton won his sixth world title, and Mercedes’ sixth in a row.

What should I be reading on SportsPro?

Deltatre has powered the digital offerings of some of the world’s biggest sports leagues, organisations and events for years. Michael Long made the trip to its Turin headquarters, and Sam Carp to its London offices, to find out how. Read their report on Friday

This weekend’s boxing rematch between YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul: is it elite sport? Absolutely not. But it is sure to do the kind of #numbers that will make the sports industry take notice. With Matchroom, DAZN and Sky Sports are all on board, Liam Chivers, KSI’s agent, reveals how the whole thing came together and what is there to be learned from it all. Check back on Thursday,

From influencers as sportspeople to sportspeople as influencers: Maverick Carter co-founded athlete-led media company Uninterrupted with LeBron James, with whom you may already be familiar. Carter and Devin Johnson, the company’s president, have been talking about their ambitions to build an ‘athlete empowerment brand’.

La Liga president Javier Texas is often many things; he’s usually very quotable. He sat down recently to discuss soccer in Spain and beyond. Read the interview on Wednesday.