SBD/Issue 192/Sports Media

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  • ESPN Developing Plans To Launch Standalone U.K. Channel

    ESPN Has Agreed To Pay Estimated $408M
    For Setanta's Former EPL Games
    ESPN is "developing plans to launch a standalone U.K. channel on the back of its successful bid" for EPL rights, according to Steve Clarke of DAILY VARIETY. ESPN Monday agreed to pay an estimated $408M (all figures US) for 46 games next season that the EPL stripped from Setanta after a missed payment, as well as 23 games per season from '10-13, and the network is "now considering how best to maximize its ownership of a crown jewel of U.K. sports." ESPN currently runs two channels in the U.K., a "basic pay service ESPN Classic, which focuses on English sports events, and ESPN America, a premium offering showcasing U.S. sports such as American football, ice hockey, baseball and basketball." ESPN is "mulling either the launch of a standalone aimed at U.K. soccer fans or alternatively rebranding ESPN America," and the new service would be available on BSkyB "in time for the Premier League soccer season that kicks off in late summer." ESPN "does not intend to sell subscriptions directly to customers," but will use BSkyB's "proven expertise and infrastructure to market the channel" (DAILY VARIETY, 6/24). ESPN Int'l Managing Dir Lynn Franks: "Our intention is to launch an ESPN channel that will carry all the Premier League sport and also other sport. Buying the Premier League rights is a huge step and we are excited to use that as a platform to move into (more) local live sport." In London, Jeremy Wilson reports the new channel would be "available across every platform." ESPN has "already signed a deal with Sky, which is expected to offer the new channel to the estimated six million who subscribe to its sports package, for a monthly fee of around" $16.60. Wilson notes in addition to the EPL, "much of Setanta's current portfolio will become available after the company went into administration yesterday," and Franks confirmed that ESPN is "looking into its options for other sports" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/24). ESPN VP/Communications Katina Arnold: "Our whole strategy internationally is to be able to deliver locally relevant content, and this is very locally relevant content in the U.K. So fans will be able to access that from ESPN, and we'll be able to help build our brand" (USA TODAY, 6/24).

    INT'L EXPANSION: The FINANCIAL TIMES' Garrahan & Fenton write ESPN's acquisition of Setanta's EPL rights "ranks as its biggest international move yet." But having "inherited the reduction" to 23 games that "undermined the Setanta business model, ESPN faces the same prospect of disappointing its audience." An analyst said, "This surely indicates that ESPN are playing a long game, looking to be in UK football well beyond the end of this deal in 2013." Garrahan & Fenton note while BSkyB will be "cautious of the threat posed by a company backed by Disney, a giant that dwarfs even [News Corp.], it could have been worse." Enders Analysis analyst Toby Syfret: "Sky will be quite happy, because ESPN look like they are looking for a partnership with them, acting as wholesalers to Sky, rather than taking over as the dominant force" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/24).

    Setanta's Administration Leaves PGA
    Tour Without A TV Outlet In U.K.
    ADMINISTRATION AFTERSHOCKS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ainsley Thomson reports Setanta's 200 U.K. employees "have been laid off, and about 950 workers in third-party call centers may also be affected" after the broadcaster was placed into administration yesterday. Deloitte Partner Neville Kahn, one of three administrators assigned to Setanta, said that Setanta co-Founders Michael O'Rourke and Leonard Ryan, as well as shareholders Goldman Sachs Group, Balderton Capital, Doughty Hanson and Montrica, "will see their investments in the company wiped out" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/24). Meanwhile, the administration leaves the PGA Tour without a television outlet in the U.K. The tour’s in-house international television group is working to secure a deal with another outlet as soon as Thursday’s start of the Travelers Championship. “Our main focus going forward will be to immediately, and aggressively, explore all options that will ensure the PGA Tour will continue to be made available on television in the U.K.,” said PGA Tour Exec VP/Communications & Int'l Affairs Ty Votaw. Sky was the tour’s U.K. outlet until Setanta signed a six-year deal starting in '07 that industry sources estimated was worth approximately $30M a year, or roughly 10% of the tour’s annual television income. Meanwhile, Golf Channel is again without an outlet in the U.K. after signing a deal with Setanta last September to syndicate 125 hours of original programming over two years. Golf Channel went eight months of '08 without transmission in the U.K. after Golf Channel U.K. went off the air. None of the other major golf properties air on Setanta. The Masters and British Open air on the BBC; USGA and LPGA events air on Sky (Jon Show, SportsBusiness Journal).

    TIME TO MOVE ON: In Manchester, Owen Gibson reports the Scottish Premier League is "believed to be close" to signing a $149.1M deal with Sky, a cut of $58M from its current deal with Setanta. Meanwhile, England's Football Association (FA) has a "clause in its contract that obliges ITV to pick up the rights to England's home friendlies" at a little over $3.3M per game. ITV yesterday said that it "would be 'very pleased' to take up the option, with insiders arguing that they would represent a bargain at that price." However, re-selling Setanta's portion of the FA Cup deal "may be more difficult, as ITV has first pick of the matches." Gibson notes other affected rights holders "have been scornful" of the EPL's stance regarding Setanta, "believing it pushed Setanta into administration when a way forward for the company could still have been found if a rescue bid had been allowed more time to complete." The EPL's decision, while "typically self motivated," is "supported by others who believe the Setanta business model was fundamentally flawed and it was only a matter of time before it unravelled" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 6/24).

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  • In-Market Yankees Games To Be Streamed Live Beginning In July

    MLBAM, YES Network and Cablevision will begin local in-market streaming of live Yankees games on July 8, marking the operational beginning of a historic agreement that advances beyond several years of fruitless pursuit on the issue. The in-market games, available to Cablevision customers who also receive the company's Optimum Online Internet service, will be sold for either $49.95 for the rest of the season or $19.95 for a 30-day period. The product will be limited to the Yankees' defined home broadcasting territory, working in an inverse fashion as the out-of-market packages sold both online and for TV. But with Cablevision TV and Internet service not universally available throughout the Yankees' territory, the effective reach of the new product at the outset will be less. "This is a landmark agreement in that it respects our partners' core business models while enhancing their new business prospects," said YES President & CEO Tracy Dolgin. MLBAM intends to announce a second in-market streaming product next week.

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  • Hill Seeking To Add Original Content, Video To FoxSports.com

    David Hill Says FoxSports.com Needs
    More Innovation, More Forward Thinking
    Fox Sports Chair & CEO David Hill is putting together a plan to evolve FoxSports.com to "reach more users and offer greatly expanded original programming," according to John Consoli of ADWEEK. Hill: "FoxSports.com is not broken. We are in a good place right now. But we need to bring more innovation to the site. Right now, most content on sports sites is past tense. We want to make it more forward thinking." Consoli notes Hill in April was given oversight over FoxSports.com's "overhaul of its look and functionality" when News Corp. Chair & CEO Rupert Murdoch authorized moving the site "from under the Fox Interactive Media umbrella to Fox Broadcasting Group." Hill "believes there should be more cross-pollination of TV sports commentators on FoxSports.com," and he also "wants to inject a little more irreverence into the commentary to offer viewers a distinct destination." Most Fox NASCAR commentators do "video reports on the site during the racing season," but MLB reporter Ken Rosenthal and NFL reporter Jay Glazer are the only other personalities "doing extensive online video." The site currently offers "about four hours of original video per day, a scale that Hill hopes to dramatically expand." While most of Hill's ideas are "currently in the development stage, he is already touting one show he wants to produce" that involves NFL sideline reporter Tony Siragusa. Hill also is "pondering the production of an online show with his Fox NFL Sunday studio team of Howie Long, Terry Bradshaw and Jimmy Johnson."

    MAJOR RENOVATIONS: Hill, who plans to "target men at work," would like to "slot promotional spots on each of the Fox Sports TV telecasts to alert viewers of the online programming and drive them to the site." Hill said that he "hopes to also beef up the fantasy sports area and 'down the road' wants to offer more video coverage of sports at every level." The entire site redesign and inclusion of new video content "could take up to a year to be fully implemented." Fox Sports Interactive Senior VP/Operations Jeff Husvar said that the new site will "roll out beginning in September." Husvar also said the goal from the technical side is to "make the site easier to navigate." Sources said that while the "revamp of the site and its content production will primarily be done in-house, Fox is expected to invest several million dollars in the project" (ADWEEK, 6/22 issue).

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  • Media Notes

    The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sarah McBride reports Arbitron yesterday indicated that it will "use its Portable People Meter radio-audience measurement device to track TV viewership, vaulting it onto Nielsen Co.'s turf." Arbitron in monitoring viewership "aims to offer more details about who watches various TV shows," and the idea is to use their meters to "track people's TV viewing in bars and other locations outside the home." McBride notes filling advertisers' demands for "as much information as possible on their target customers has become increasingly important for media companies as more ad spending moves online" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/24).

    SHOWING ON THE BOXEE: Boxee, a start-up developer of open-source software for consuming online video content via a TV set, last night disclosed it has formed a partnership with MLBAM to provide MLB.TV’s premium-level service through its platform. Users will still need to have a subscription with MLBAM for the video package as they ordinarily would, but the pact creates another distribution and marketing partner for baseball’s interactive arm and allows the online customers to view the out-of-market games on a larger screen. Boxee has gained some industry buzz for creating software that, using a computer connected to a TV, aggregates online video sites into a single platform and allows users to make selections using a remote control (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

    Kornheiser Wants To
    Do Local Radio
    LOCAL PERSPECTIVE: ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said though "a lot of business people want" him to do syndicated national radio, he does not "care about syndicated national radio." Kornheiser: "If they want to syndicate a local show that I do, I'm happy to do it, but I want to [do] local radio. ... So all I need are a couple of radio stations, three or four radio stations to step up and say we'd like you to work for this, because again, can't stress this enough, I am open for business." Meanwhile, Kornheiser said his "MNF" tenure "ended much better ... than my tenure at The Washington Post, which haunts me to this moment, this very moment, which upsets me and irritates me and saddens me greatly" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/23).

    GOING VIRAL: The NBA has surpassed 1 million fans on its official Facebook page, more than triple the number at the start of the '08-09 season. The NBA's Facebook page is the most popular of any sports league on the social networking site, a ranking it also holds on Twitter and YouTube (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

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