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Bulletin length: 2,258 words – it’s an 8-minute read
Broadcast Disruptor of the week: BT’s Lisa Perkins
How helmet cam is providing new perspective in F1
Apple dips its toe into live sport at last
The Spotify deal and FC Barcelona’s wider media strategy
LIV Golf Investments plots its media rights strategy
Global music streaming revenues and subscriptions rise
NBA’s George Aivazoglou on serving fans around the world
LEADERS BROADCAST DISRUPTOR OF THE WEEK
Who? Lisa Perkins What? Research Realisation, Director, BT Why? Perkins and a team of experts from BT, EE and BT Sport last week unveiled a wave of new enhanced and personalised viewing options for sport, utilising 5G through virtual, augmented and mixed reality applications. The prototypes include new options such as ball trajectories and distances in rugby union, holographic and real-time volumetric videos for boxing, a virtual multi-screen overlay for MotoGP and have been designed, in part, to showcase the potential of EE’s 5G network – in 2018, BT Sport and EE combined to carry out the world’s first broadcast over 5G using remote production. Announcing the developments, Perkins said: We’re excited to be unveiling experiences that could transform sports, culture, and the arts as well as demonstrating the benefits 5G can bring to people and businesses.” Experiences are also being developed for dance, music and theatre, while the project, which has the backing of the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is also exploring similar solutions for the construction, health and retail sectors.
THE BIG PICTURE
Welcome to the latest edition of the Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin, your regular guide to what’s mission critical in sports broadcasting, content creation, distribution and monetisation.
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From almost a standing start – in the latter years of Bernie Ecclestone’s stewardship, digital and social were, it’s fair to say, not high on his agenda – Formula One has quickly, over the past few years, sprinted into a leadership position when it comes to multi-platform coverage, generating and distributing content to suit all sorts of types of audiences. Whilst much of the focus has inevitably been on Drive to Survive, its behind-the-scenes Netflix documentary, its live broadcast output is also being continually refined and honed. Last weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix saw the latest iteration, with the debut of an all-new graphics package, and the continued integration of in-helmet cameras into the live coverage.
F1 has been developing the helmet cam technology for several years, working through various safety issues, convincing teams and drivers to carry the 2.5-gram camera and ensuring it meets the requirements of helmet manufacturers. The camera is developed by Racing Force, a company that owns Bell Helmets, one of the leading helmet suppliers in Formula One, and A/V device specialists Zeronoise.
After some trials during practice and qualifying last year, the new camera technology will be a staple of race coverage in 2022, with up to four helmet cameras available to F1’s broadcast team (although it can currently only be used by drivers who wear Bell Helmets) – and the immediate results are undeniably impressive. Footage of Charles Leclerc battling for the lead with Max Verstappen in Bahrain on Sunday gave viewers a thrilling, almost video game-like, new perspective, highlighting the speed and intensity of a grand prix like never before.
EYES ON THIS – Watch how these three things develop to understand the future
Bearing fruit: With perhaps the ultimate toe-in-the-water move, Apple has finally made its move into live sport, confirming a much-anticipated agreement with Major League Baseball for two games per week on ‘Friday Night Baseball’ initially in eight territories, including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Japan and the UK, around the world. The live games are the hook, but it may be that the range of supporting content Apple is planning to distribute – notably a show called ‘MLB Big Inning’, which has echoes of DAZN’s previous attempt for a Major League Baseball whip-around broadcast – and how it plans to push its coverage, and by extension the league, that might be the key to the deal, certainly from MLB’s perspective. Tucked away at the bottom of the press release confirming the news, Apple said it will ‘provide enhanced league and team coverage for fans to easily follow the league or their favourite teams in Apple News, with the ability to watch highlights right in the News app’.
On the Playlist: The FC Barcelona-Spotify tie-up, confirmed last week, has generated much discussion and debate over the past few days. Whilst primarily a traditional branding-based arrangement, with the renamed Camp Nou as a physical hub, the majority of the proposed connections between artists and fans will inevitably happen in the digital world, through the development of content and a distribution platform. And as the partnership rolls out over the next few months, it’s worth keeping an eye where and how Spotify sits within the wider Barça media empire, especially as the club attempts to recover from its significant financial issues. A major stake in the club’s Barça Studios project – a centralised production and commercialisation division for all the club’s content, including Barça TV, inaugurated in 2019 – is reportedly available to the right partner, a sale which could generate up to €300 million, according to reports from Spain, depending on how big a chunk the club elects to let go. Meanwhile, the club is believed to be continuing discussions with CVC Capital Partners over a deal – separate to that struck between CVC and LaLiga last year – which could see a further injection of funds in exchange for a small percentage of FC Barcelona’s annual media rights income. In a rapidly changing media space, Spotify’s expertise in building and growing audiences, as well its technological know-how, might also be worth its weight in gold.
LIV for the moment: Media rights for the world’s leading golf tours are tied up for the long term. In 2020, CBS and NBC renewed their longstanding deals to broadcast the PGA Tour in the US until 2030. Discovery holds the international rights to the PGA Tour for the same period. In Europe, meanwhile, Sky Sports has just extended its deal to broadcast the DP World Tour until 2024. However, the upcoming launch of the LIV Golf Invitational Series – an eight-event series due to launch in the UK in June – potentially presents an opportunity for a new player to emerge on the golf rights scene. The Saudi-backed, Greg Norman-fronted competition will include seven regular season events, before a finale in October. Four of the 48-man tournaments are due to be played in the United States, although it remains unclear as to which, if any, of the world’s leading players will commit to the series. Total prize money will be US$255 million, with each tournament offering US$25 million. From a broadcast perspective, LIV Golf has been quietly assembling an impressive executive team over recent months. Sean Bratches, an old media hand who was a longstanding member of the ESPN team before more recently serving as the commercial chief at Formula One, has been named Chief Commercial Officer, while former ESPN, Endeavor and WWE executive Will Staeger as Chief Media Officer. Kerry Taylor has been hired as Chief Marketing Officer, joining from ViacomCBS. According to a report on Front Office Sports, LIV Golf Investments believes it can secure up to US$500 million in media rights for the series. Bratches, quoted briefly, said: “Streaming platforms, particularly the Netflixes, the Amazons, the Apples, are truly global. That’s one path we could pursue.” He added that it remains possible LIV will look to sell its media rights on a territory-by-territory basis over the coming months.
The 2022 edition of the annual Global Music Report published by IFPI [International Federation of the Phonographic Industry] a 24.3 per cent year-on-year increase in overall streaming revenues. The report also suggests there are 523 million users of paid music subscription accounts around the world. Overall recorded music revenues in 2021 reached US$25.9 billion, with streaming revenues rising to US$16.9 billion. Streaming now accounts for 65 per cent of total global recorded music revenues. And while revenues from synchronisation – the use of recorded music in advertising, films, games and TV – only accounts for 2.1 per cent of the global market, its use did climb by 22 per cent in 2021 to US$549.1 million.
Source: IFPI Global Music Report 2022
In the Mixed Zone with… George Aivazoglou, Head of Fan Engagement & Direct-to-Consumer, Europe & Middle East, NBA
George Aivazoglou joined the NBA in July 2020, in the newly-created role of Head of Fan Engagement & Direct-to-Consumer, for the Europe & Middle East region. He was previously Vice President of Marketing and Analytics for Eurosport. Aivazoglou, originally from Greece, joined a delegation of senior NBA executives who travelled to Abu Dhabi for last week’s Leaders Sport Business Summit, where he discussed the NBA’s wide-ranging efforts to attract, retain and engage fans.
How are you working to build a picture of the NBA fan? Is it all done in-house?
It’s a blend. We work with YouGov on our own trackers and over last decade we have developed our presence a lot on social media, our direct-to-consumer apps, NBA TV, NBA .com, all the way down to NBA League Pass, our SVOD offering. To a big degree that’s all in-house; some parts are outsourced like the streaming service and our partnership with Endeavor. We collect data via these different avenues.
How do you turn a casual fan into a dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool fan?
I think the answer starts by acknowledging that even if we don’t, the way they interact with our product, services, offering, still makes them really valuable to us, so we don’t have to turn everyone into a hardcore fan. But on the path to do that I think you have to foster a culture of innovation and try ideas. The second angle that speaks a lot to me, coming from a smaller market where the NBA games were obviously happening throughout the week, but I could see them maybe once or twice, via limited avenues, is making sure our content gets distributed to these people via broadcasting partners, social media, our own direct-to-consumer service. And then we add an element of relevance to them and that could be local heroes – we are quite lucky in the Europe and Middle East region that we have around 60 players in the NBA, and many of them have storylines around them which opens up reach and engagement in those markets. For some people, though, live games might not be the thing that attracts them so other types of content, like what we did a couple of years ago now with The Last Dance or what Formula One did with Drive to Survive, might be a better way for people to get to know the history of the NBA and over time come to love the game and become hardcore fans. For me it’s about fostering innovation and then delivering that in multiple ways but with an angle of relevance and personalisation.
What does the fan experience look like for an NBA fan in a decade’s time?
The honest answer is ‘who knows?’ because things change so quickly. It took decades for radio to move from mainstream mass media to something secondary, it took TV a few decades, now it’s moving way faster. The intersection of physical and digital communities is something that’s really relevant right now, and I think the metaverse is a version of that – probably far more immersive than how it’s being experienced today but this will take some technological advancement on hardware, that will become more widely adopted. It’s still important for an individual to be part of a community, but to enjoy our products and services in their own way. For me, that’s the crux of the experience in the next few years.
Is it more important to deliver a uniform experience to fans which you can refine as much as possible, or to tailor it as much as possible to the individual?
The NBA, like many other leagues and businesses, have a very high set of standards so from that perspective consistency is important – we’re never going to go below those standards. Tailoring stuff we launch for the first time – maybe not immediately; it’s important to gather data and let them run for a couple of rounds before we start identifying the attributes that drive more engagement and the ones that need to be reengineered. Reinventing is part of our culture and we know that in a digital, direct-to-consumer world it’s all about personalisation, so if I’m thinking about that part of our business, it’s super important.
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