Media Rights, Investment, Women's Sport, Soccer

OTT Newsletter 17/12: NFL broadcasters go in search of new audiences

SportsPro digital editor Tom Bassam's fortnightly briefing on what’s happening in the world of OTT and sports broadcasting.

by Tom Bassam
OTT Newsletter 17/12: NFL broadcasters go in search of new audiences

Timely innovation from the NFL’s broadcast partners

Media reports regarding the bountiful future of the National Football League (NFL) domestic TV rights contracts have been increasingly frequent of late and while Roger Goodell might be rubbing his hands together at the prospect of what is to come in 2022, the experimental plans revealed by the league’s broadcasters for their immediate future are also worthy of attention.
It was confirmed in April that CBS would create a tailored children’s broadcast to air on its sister Nickelodeon network as part of the NFL’s playoff expansion from 12 to 14 teams, now those plans have been released in detail. 

The January 10th wild card round playoff simulcast will feature tailored, kid-focused content throughout, with on-field graphics, virtual filters, as well as familiar faces from Nickelodeon such as Gabrielle Nevaeh Green and Lex Lumpkin.
“The NFL is very intent on reaching a younger audience, and we thought this would be a great way to do it,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told The Athletic. “When we went in to give our pitch to the NFL, this was front and centre in that pitch. They loved it right at the outset.”
The coverage will heavily include popular Nickelodeon cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, with a preview of a new spinoff series set to air at halftime.
The proposition is an interesting one for CBS, as it also created the opportunity to sell different advertising inventory that is more tailored for younger audiences. According to the Sports Business Journal, CBS Sports’ ad sales team is handling sales for both broadcasts.
While ESPN has produced kids-themed Pro Bowl broadcasts for its Disney XD channel in 2020 and 2019, those were more limited in approach. Disney, however, is going to be breaking out the ‘MegaCast’ production suite for its wild card game in January, the first time it has done so for the NFL playoffs.
Perhaps the most interesting element of the announcement was that Freeform would be hosting its own broadcast. Formerly known as ABC Family, Freeform is home to sitcom dramas such The Bold Type, Grown-ish, Good Trouble, and Everything's Gonna Be Okay. According to Variety, the Freeform broadcast ‘will offer an experience tailored to a younger, female audience’.
It is amazing the innovation that can be found when new contracts are being discussed.

The DFL takes the next step in 5G

Last season, when being able to attend a soccer match was taken for granted, I was flown out to Wolfsburg to watch a drab Bundesliga game illuminated by the German Football League (DFL) showing off a 5G-powered app it had developed with telecommunications firm Vodafone (you can read more about that here).
At the time it seemed very much as the Bundesliga’s 5G efforts were going to be concentrated on the fan experience, but now the technology is being deployed in the back end too. A joint effort between the DFL, Sky Deutschland and Vodafone saw Fortuna Düsseldorf’s 3-0 VfL Osnabrück in the 2.Bundesliga on 16th December used as a test to transmit live pictures via 5G and LTE back to the broadcaster’s production centres.
For now, the technology is just a way to  cut delay time, but the flexibility afforded to camera operators not tethered to miles of cabling means the potential to change the way sport is broadcast.
The DFL has already tested a soccer broadcast in the vertical format, so expect more in this space going forward.

Prime time for Sky

Sky and Amazon announcement earlier this week that they had agreed to allow each other’s platforms to offer their services in a deal that makes so much sense it is baffling it is only happening now. Prime Video will now be offered via Now TV devices in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, as will Now TV/Sky Ticket on Amazon Fire products.
With sales of smart TV and connected TV devices booming this year, now is not the time for streaming platforms to be petty over who can offer their product. For Sky, offering Amazon means the Comcast-owned broadcaster can continue to position itself as a super aggregator. In the UK, for example, Sky customers can now access every Premier League game from their set top box (if they have a BT Sport subscription package).
For Amazon, it has just secured increased distribution as Prime prepares to offer Champions League matches in Italy and Germany next season.

Nent’s small deal with broader implications

Nordic Entertainment Group's (Nent) rights deal with Fifa for the African 2022 World Cup qualifiers was not particularly remarkable in and of itself but it did show what the Scandinavian-based broadcaster can now offer to rights holders.
The contract allows Nent to air 130 live qualifying matches on its Viaplay streaming service in Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. It marks the first time Nent has signed a partnership covering all of its active (or soon-to-be-active ) territories.
Anders Jensen, Nent president and chief executive, said: “Our first-ever sports rights agreement covering nine Viaplay markets highlights our competitive advantage and willingness to invest.”

• Video | DAZN going global
• Video | Insights into Amazon with Marie Donoghue
• Podcast | SportsPro OTT Summit day two in review

Trends to keep an eye on

OneFootball acquires Dugout in content-focused deal
NFL’s next TV rights deals could surpass US$100bn
La Liga in talks with CVC and Bruin to sell 60% of new technology business
DAZN strikes In Demand US cable TV distribution deal for Canelo v Smith
Premier League renews ‘US$500m’ BeIN MENA rights deal

In depth

Why US sports TV ratings have been down during the pandemic
Assessing DAZN’s J.League play four years on
The ITTF’s new commercial plan to broaden the horizons of table tennis

Reports worth tracking

• Ampere | Fans less willing to pay for live sports than a year ago
• Strategy Analytics | Covid-19’s Impact on SVOD in the US, UK and Germany

Got a story in the sports broadcast and OTT space you think needs telling? Feel free to get in touch via email or on Twitter.

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