Why the Premier League looks set for success with its next US rights deal
There is good news emanating from North America: sports viewership appears to be trending back up. In recent weeks the NBA, WNBA, MLB and the PGA Championship have all reported increasing audiences.
There was good news for one property in particular, with the Premier League also recording strong figures in a season which has not favoured the overseas viewer. English soccer’s top flight started in September which meant that it was up against college football and the NFL. There were also more midweek and early kick-off windows, which are not favourable to US audiences.
While the top-line figure was that average match viewership fell 10.3 per cent from the 2019/20 season, eight NBC and NBCSN matches topped an average total audience delivery (TAD) of at least one million viewers – the most since Leicester won the title in 2016. The figures, from NBC, also do not count viewers on Peacock (more on that shortly).
This demonstrates a certain resilience for the Premier League in the US market and shows that its big games draw broad interest. The five simultaneous fixtures on the last day of the season scored a TAD of 1.4 million viewers across NBC’s networks. That is only slightly behind the numbers MLB is getting for Sunday night games on ESPN (1.56 million).
The man rubbing his hands the most will be Richard Masters, who is quickly forging himself a reputation as a savvy chief executive. In a world of falling rights values, Masters has either maintained or grown Premier League broadcast revenues in the key MENA and Nordic markets, as well as securing a landmark rollover deal at home.
Both CBS and Disney have been linked with bids for the upcoming Premier League tender in the US, which will drive up the price. NBC is not going to give up the contract easily and having let the NHL go it has the budget to go beyond its US$1 billion, six-year deal that expires at the end of next season.
Also in the Premier League’s favour is that its most passionate US fans are in the tech savvy 18 to 34 and 35 to 44 age demographics. Peacock, ESPN+ and Paramount+ have been embarking on a furious battle to build out their live sports portfolios in recent months. Both La Liga, which signed a US$1.4 billion deal with ESPN until 2029, and Serie A, which will receive around US$233 million from its three-year pact with CBS, have reaped the financial reward so far, but with the Premier League having a clear market lead it should expect to trump both.
Doing it for the kids
The LA Clippers might not have got the result they wanted but at least the kids in California will have had fun during their 100-105 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in game five of their first round playoff series.
Sinclair’s Bally Sports West announced earlier this week that it agreed a deal with newly Genius-owned Second Spectrum to create a ‘Clippers Kids Cast’ for the game on 2nd June. The move was a first for the RSN owner, with real-time AR technology being deployed for the broadcast to overlay player-specific animations and other big-play graphics. A ten-year-old ‘sports reporter’ was added to a commentary team also featuring Noah Eagle and former NBA star Corey Maggette.
The Clippers Kids Cast continues a couple of growing trends in the broadcast space. Firstly, the youth orientated alternative broadcast that CBS has been pushing via Nickelodeon. More broadly is the production of alternate, specialist feeds. This has been seen more commonly with betting tie-ins.
For Sinclair, the experiment was likely a trial of what could be seen when it rolls out its promised RSN OTT product in 2022. Personalisation, as we are often told, is the future of streaming, and the more broadcasters can offer to different audiences the greater the chance of achieving an overall big audience in those silos.
Expect to see more and more of this kind of thing as media companies try to find the secret sauce of appealing to an increasingly fragmented audience with more distractions than ever.
OTT services as global brands
Two rights deals that caught my eye in recent weeks were the A-League’s domestic broadcast partnership with ViacomCBS-owned Network Ten in Australia and WarnerMedia snapping up Uefa Champions League rights in Brazil and Mexico.
In both cases the respective streaming services Paramount+ and HBO Max were billed as the home of the live content, which is interesting in that it seems that US media companies are abandoning local branding as they bring their new streaming services into new territories. Neither Paramount (outside the US) nor HBO are names anyone would associate with live soccer, but as streaming services they definitely have brand recognition. In the homogenised digital world it seems territorial brands are becoming less important.
• Podcast | Discussing the Premier League rights renewal and AT&T’s Discovery merger
• Podcast | Personalising OTT experiences with Limelight
• Video | Taking on digital in China
Trends to keep an eye on
• NBA games to be shown on Twitch by Brazilian streamer ‘Gaules’
• TikTok live streams Extreme E’s Senegal race
• Disney to shut down 100 cable channels as streaming shift continues
• EFL clubs get UK£42m revenue boost from iFollow
• Nielsen investing in new ratings platform
• Jamie Gardner | The Premier League’s renewed domestic rights deal suits all parties, for now
• Opinion | Was data the secret to DAZN’s successful pivot?
• Opinion | Brace yourselves, micro-bundling is coming
Reports worth tracking
• Applicaster| The State of OTT Revenue 2021
• ABI Research | 681 million 5G handsets will be shipped in 2022
• BT Sport | 76% say tech has positive impact on TV sport
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