Broadcast Disruptor of the week: WSL President Erik Logan
The IPL’s extraordinary rise and rise
Major League Soccer and Apple team up
Anthony Joshua moves to DAZN
Goalhanger to expand podcast output
ESPN builds out Omaha relationship
Women’s Sport Trust paints picture of women’s sport consumption
ICC Head of Digital Finn Bradshaw on the power of India’s media market
Leaders Broadcast Disruptor of the Week
Who? Erik Logan, What? President, World Surf League
Why? Setting WSL on a course for official original scripted projects
Logan, who joined World Surf League three and a half years ago from the Oprah Winfrey Network, has signed off on an expanded partnership with Box to Box, the production company responsible for F1’s Drive to Survive and the upcoming series featuring the ATP and WTA Tours, and the PGA Tour. Box to Box has already produced a documentary series for WSL, but, intriguingly, the next phase of the partnership has opened up the possibility for officially-endorsed original scripted projects. WSL has granted Box to Box ‘exclusive, first-look opportunities’ on original unscripted and scripted projects, effectively opening up its 50-year archive for the British-based production specialist, run by Oscar winner James-Gay Rees and Emmy winner Paul Martin, to explore. In the same week as Apple+ picked up the rights to a new film, centred on (although not yet officially endorsed by) F1 being produced by Brad Pitt and Lewis Hamilton, could we be about to enter a period in which teams and leagues – not to mention athletes – look more to scripted projects, in addition to behind-the-scenes documentaries, in order to engage new pockets of fans? Is, in other words, the model about to shift somewhat from Drive to Survive to Squid Game?
The Big Picture
Welcome to the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, where we aim to mark your card on all the important things happening in the world of sports media and content creation, production, monetisation and distribution. Good to have you with us – and do remember to forward this email onto a friend or colleague; they’ll be forever in your debt.
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Lalit Modi certainly talked a confident game when I sat down with him in a snazzy London hotel back in 2008 and listened to him lay out, in some detail, his plan for the new city franchise-based cricket league in India.
The controversial founder and visionary behind the Indian Premier League has long left any official role with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, but even as he was holding forth over a pot of tea that morning he could surely not have believed the heights the league would scale within 15 short years.
Last week’s IPL media rights sales will generate US$6.2 billion for the period between 2023 and 2027, with Disney Star paying US$3 billion for the TV rights in India and Viacom18 securing domestic digital rights and TV and digital rights in the UK, South Africa and Australia/New Zealand for around the same amount. Times Internet secured rights in the Middle East and USA for just over US$26 million.
That places the IPL firmly at the top table of global sports properties: on a cost-per-game basis, the new deal puts the league only behind the NFL. By any measure, that is an extraordinary achievement in such a short space of time: no wonder the IPL model and various elements within it such as the player draft are now widely used – with varying levels of success – as a template far beyond cricket. In a decade and a half, the IPL has hit the sweet spot of sport, entertainment and big business. And all from a blank sheet of paper.
Plenty has happened since 2008, but, for all the controversy that engulfed him after overseeing the first few years of the IPL, Lalit Modi was, as it turns out, right on the money.
Watch how these things develop to understand the future
Major League Shocker: The Major League Soccer-Apple partnership announced last week – and admirably kept secret until the very moment of announcement – contains several elements that will be watched closely over the next few years, as observers try and work out whether it represents good business for both. It’s a global, although, at least in the US, non-exclusive partnership, with a minimum guarantee – US$2.5 billion over 10 years – rather than an outright fee. There will be a collaboration between the league and Apple on building a subscription business, with the potential upside of further revenue for MLS. To ensure consistency and quality of product the league will take over full production of every game, a move which may free Apple from the kind of criticism it has attracted for its Major League Baseball coverage where it is more hands-on from a game broadcast standpoint. Everyone is aware that Apple has deep pockets and it’s beginning to prove it is willing to spend on live sport, but what it doesn’t yet have is the deep reservoir of knowledge required to successfully commercialise and promote a sports rights investment (sidebar: the rights holder who convinces Apple to ‘gift’ every iPhone user in the world their official league app, as the company once did with an entire U2 album – admittedly, to the absolute fury of many – may be onto something). That will have to change over the coming years if MLS is to consider this partnership a winner. And with, presumably, limited work for its media rights sales team over the next few years, it’ll be worth watching what, if any, changes MLS makes to its own business as it transitions – temporarily at least – from sales machine to subscription business-builder and production house.
The Joshua fee: Anthony Joshua’s rematch against Oleksandr Usyk is set for Jeddah in mid-August, but of perhaps more significance than even the date and the venue is Joshua’s decision to move from Sky Sports to DAZN. In making the switch, the Briton is leaving the broadcaster with whom he has fought every fight of his professional career to date for the boxing upstart, which is fast gaining a real foothold in the sport. Joshua is also following the lead of long-time promoter Eddie Hearn, who hitched his Matchroom wagon – excluding Joshua, who negotiates deals separately to the rest of the Hearn stable – to DAZN last year. It’s almost certain DAZN will make the Joshua-Usyk fight available on a pay-per-view basis in the UK, following its recent PPV trial in the United States. Also of note: Joshua has been named a special advisor to DAZN and become a shareholder in the business, the latter element of the new relationship perhaps pointing the way to how broadcasters may look to lock talent down in future.
• Goalhanger Podcasts, the production company founded by broadcaster and former England international Gary Lineker, has signed with WME, as it seeks to expand its output and range of shows. Lineker and co-founders Jack Davenport and Tony Pastor set up the podcast branch of the Goalhanger business in January, launching shows including The Rest is Politics and Match of the Day: Top Ten. Lineker and Pastor set up Goalhanger films seven years ago.
• Building on the success of Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli, ESPN has expanded its relationship with Omaha Productions, Peyton Manning’s media company. The next phase of the partnership will see the launch of six new podcasts during June and July, including The VC Show with Vince Carter, a pop culture podcast called ‘Courtside Club’ and shows dedicated to college football and betting.
Latest numbers from Women’s Sport Trust (WST) show a near four-fold increase in viewing hours of the FA Women’s Super League, with a rise from 8.830 million hours in the 2020/21 season to 34.048 million in 2021/22. The figures are a major contributory factor to an overall rise in women’s sport viewership by 140% year-on-year. Between January and May, almost a third of the UK population has watched women’s sport, with the Women’s Sport Trust also pointing to the Women’s Six Nations and ICC Women’s World Cup as major events that drew big audiences.
• 20% of total viewers have watched women’s sport on five or more occasions so far this year – up on 9% on the same period (1st January-15th May) last year.
• Five times increase in the number of hours of women’s sport broadcast in the first four months of 2022, in comparison to the equivalent period in 2019.
• Women’s sport accounted for 23% of all sports coverage on BBC One and 20% of all coverage on BBC Two, while women’s sport made up 12% of all coverage on Sky Sports’ Main Event channel, although Sky accounted for the greatest number of women’s sport hours broadcast in the period (1st January-15th May).
• The first quarter of 2022 was the most watched Q1 for women’s sport on record in the UK, with 15.1 million watching three minutes or more of women’s sports coverage, in comparison to 5.06m in Q1 of 2021 and a previous peak of 10.2 million in 2019.
In the Mixed Zone with… Finn Bradshaw, Head of Digital, International Cricket Council
What was your first reaction when you heard about the deal?
It’s a tremendous result. The BCCI has done a brilliant job there of making sure they brought to the table really engaged bidders, which is a big part of the job. The Indian market is extraordinary in terms of its size but also its connectivity – in the next couple of years, I think, there’ll be 900 million people connected to the internet there. And they are really high consumers of media there. Whenever you see any data around number of hours of video watched on your phone, India tends to streak the rest of the world. If you’re a media company, that market delivers over and above. The changes that have gone on there with Jio coming in and basically zero-rating data – I think it’s the cheapest place in the world for mobile data – means there’s just some inherent benefits in that market. Then, it’s a broader story, but you’ve got some organisations, like Viacom, who have a relatively new set-up – if you want to acquire consumers across the world, sport still delivers, and in India nothing delivers like cricket, so it’s a sign of how buoyant people are feeling about the Indian economy but also cricket is still delivering eyeballs in a way few other things do.
What’s your view, as someone who heads up digital, on the way the rights have been split, with Star taking the traditional TV rights and the digital as separate?
The BCCI runs a very transparent process, so everything’s quite clear. All the broadcasters are running their own strategies but you have to acknowledge the strength of that digital market in India. Star has been enormously responsible for that – the Hotstar product, both technically as a product, the way they can cater for such a variety of devices, but also their production; eight different languages and each commentary has its own flavour of the community its talking to – some of the languages are almost commentated on by comedians whereas the English one is more traditional than what we would see in the Western world. That’s driven the growth and a lot of that has been through the Hotstar freemium model. I would argue nobody in the world has been able to deliver a product like that as well as they have, so it makes sense they split it that way because there’s obviously a big digital audience but a lot of people obviously still have TVs in home.
Amazon, despite not bidding, was a factor in this process – how will they be feeling having missed out?
They clearly made a strategic decision not to bid and I’m not informed enough to know what was driving that. But if you step back strategically, they clearly use sport as a customer acquisition tool and they’re quite targeted in the way they do that. India is still a really important market, from everything I know, and a market they haven’t really cracked. They’ve got a really strong presence there but I think they’d admit they’ve got ambitions to grow that significantly. I would think there’ll still be a role for cricket to play there, but I don’t have any internal knowledge. We’ll see how it plays out – but I think sport is still going to be important for them going forward.
From a cricket rights ecosystem point of view, this is a big moment – what are the kinds of things happening at the ICC now this rights deal has been completed and confirmed?
I should call out I’m not running the rights process, that’s run by our commercial team, but I think we’ve been clear we’re going to market in India shortly. Previous times, we’ve had a global partner – Star has tended to take the global rights, then sub-licensed – but this time we are going to go market by market. India will be first cab off the rank and that should be in the near future. We don’t want to be in there directly competing with another cricket property – that wouldn’t be good for the sport – so we’ve let that play out. But we’ve been engaging with the broadcasters; they have an idea of the packages we’re going out with and our timings on that. We really believe in the power of cricket in India, but also the power of those tentpole sporting events. Even before that IPL number we really believed there was just strong demand across the world for those big tentpole sporting events and we think Cricket World Cups are pretty high on that list. We’re pretty optimistic. The full Broadcast Disruptors Audio Bulletin podcast, with Finn Bradshaw discussing the IPL media rights, Apple’s deal with Major League Soccer, LIV Golf and the ICC’s first foray into NFTs, is available here.