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Fox Sports will not be showing alternate camera angles such as the popular “All-22” view during its live stream of Super Bowl XLVIII because of contractual ties between the NFL and technology partner Microsoft Corp.
League and network officials confirmed that Fox Sports will not be reviving the alternate camera angles, which CBS Sports used during the Super Bowl live stream last year. Instead, Fox Sports will offer a straightforward, live simulcast of the televised game feed through its Fox Sports Go mobile application, and a first-ever stream of the game in Spanish.
For Sunday’s Super Bowl, however, Fox Sports elected to not alienate users of platforms that would not be able to access the additional feeds, and instead chose to focus on the first deployment of the Super Bowl through an app. The game will be available to anyone through computers and tablets. Smartphone distribution of NFL game action is covered under a separate deal the NFL has with Verizon.
The All-22 angle was the most popular view of the game in last year’s Super Bowl stream besides the repurposed TV feed itself, and generated significant social media buzz. The use of the All-22 angle in last year’s game was the first live, U.S. distribution of the view, widely favored by coaches for scouting and evaluation.
Despite the lack of a return of the alternate angles for Super Bowl XLVIII, Fox Sports executives are planning for a record online audience for the game. Last year’s game generated 3 million unique viewers, a record by far for the most watched live sports stream ever in the U.S.
“I would certainly expect big numbers,” said Pete Vlastelica, Fox Sports Digital senior vice president. “We’re planning from an infrastructure and bandwidth standpoint for record-level interest in this.”
The network did not disclose specific audience expectations or its guarantee to advertisers. Fox Sports thus far has sold online ad inventory to 25 sponsors, up sharply from the 15 companies that bought online Super Bowl inventory last year, and the network is still in the market. Those online ads will run in place of the televised spots, though as in past years, Fox will make those ads available as well on a near-real-time basis.
Fox Sports, meanwhile, has created on its website a Super Bowl hub that will include extensive Super Bowl shoulder programming, including coverage of Media Day, Radio Row, vignettes on the New York Super Bowl locale, and a Super Bowl-specific fantasy game.
The network last week also used the Super Bowl run-up to launch the “Fox Sports Digital Videofest,” a contest among YouTube content creators to develop a new digital sports series. The winner will get a Fox Sports development deal to create an online series as well as six months’ worth of content funding.
If NFL Network fails to carry a minimum number of NFL regular-season games, the league stands to lose tens of millions of dollars each month in cable carriage fees, according to several sources who have seen the league’s affiliate deals.
NFL Network stands to lose carriage fees if it fails to televise a minimum number of regular-season games.
Photo by:AP IMAGES
A question the NFL has to be asking now is whether it can make more money from selling the full package to an outside TV network than it can make in extra carriage fees and whether a bigger TV channel can increase the popularity — and corresponding rights fees — of the Thursday night package.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how much the league stands to lose in affiliate fee revenue if it falls short of a minimum number of games. That’s because the league’s affiliate deals differ by distributor, sources said. Sources with some of the country’s biggest distributors say NFL Network’s affiliate fee would drop to around 25 cents per subscriber per month if its live regular-season game package is reduced to between four and six games.
NFL Network costs more than $1 per subscriber per month, according to SNL Kagan. It is the most widely distributed league-owned network, in more than 72 million homes, according to Nielsen estimates.
Earlier this month, the NFL accepted bids to split its live game package with TV networks. All of its network partners placed bids (CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC), as did Turner Sports.
The NFL has told the networks that it plans to simulcast those games on NFL Network. It’s not clear if the simulcast games would count as part of the network’s minimum-game guarantee. The deal currently being negotiated is only for one year. It’s expected that the league will try to sell a multiyear package of NFL games after the 2014 season.
The league clearly believes in the long-term growth prospects of its Thursday night franchise. If its affiliate fee drops by, say, 75 cents per subscriber per month, that would equate to nearly $650 million in straight rights fees per year. The league should expect to make at least that much from a TV network bidding on a full, exclusive Thursday night package. Turner Sports has expressed interest in picking it up. Plus, Fox Sports and NBC Sports Group are interested in bringing such high-profile programming to their sports channels — Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network.
The NFL has said that it solicited bids in an effort to expand its Thursday night franchise. NFL Network’s games are the lowest-rated NFL games on television. In the 2013 season, NFL Network games averaged 7 million viewers, a little more than half of ESPN’s 13.7 million viewer average and about one-third of NBC’s 21.7 million viewer average.
The quality of games is not expected to change in the new package, as the NFL told network executives that all league teams have to play a Thursday night game.
NFL Network can credit the live-game package for much of its growth in distribution and affiliate fees. The channel started carrying eight regular-season games in 2006, a move that tripled its affiliate fee at the time to around 70 cents per subscriber per month.
The league still had difficulty gaining carriage on Time Warner Cable and Cablevision. So two years ago, it added five more games to the package, giving it 13 games. Cablevision signed a deal to carry the network in August 2012; Time Warner Cable signed its deal about a month later.
In agreeing to send its players to the 2014 Winter Olympics, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association were able to obtain unprecedented access in Sochi for their own media platforms — NHL Network, NHL.com and NHLPA.com — along with an agreement to coordinate key public relations efforts.
The NHL at previous Olympics has been frustrated by its lack of access to its own players. Commissioner Gary Bettman has publicly questioned the benefit of shutting down the league for more than two weeks every four years for the Olympics compared to any promotional value gained.
The NHL could not present content from Vancouver venues, but that changes in Sochi thanks to new agreements.
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Among the gains is a daily, 30-minute show from Sochi that will air on NHL Network. “NHL Tonight: Sochi Edition,” a wrap-up of the day’s events from the hockey tournament with highlights, interviews and analysis, will air at 3 p.m. ET and loop until 8 p.m. ET. The show, hosted by the network’s Kathryn Tappen, will be produced from an NBC set location at the Olympics.
NHL Network also was granted access to hockey players for live and taped interviews from the NBC in-arena set locations at this year’s Olympics and the mixed media zone, the press area the athletes walk through after fulfilling any interview requests with broadcast rights holders after their competition.
NBC, which gave its consent to the NHL for the increased activity of NHL Network, is the U.S. broadcast rights holder of the NHL and, of course, the Olympics. NHL rights holder CBC is the IOC’s rights holder for Canada.
The IOC traditionally has allowed only broadcast rights holders to bring cameras into Olympic venues and to conduct interviews with athletes. As a result, at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NHL Network could not present any content from Olympic venues. The same held true for NBA TV in London at the 2012 Summer Olympics, where reporter David Aldridge’s news bulletins were broadcast from locations outside of Olympic venues.
This will be the fifth consecutive Winter Games to feature NHL players, dating to Nagano in 1998. There are currently 147 NHL players on rosters for this year’s Olympics, including at least one player on each of the 12 national teams.
In addition to the planned daily show, the NHL and NHLPA gained rights to the following from their agreements with the IOC and IIHF:
n NHL.com will be on-site to cover all NHL players in the Olympics and will present previews and recaps of every game, a daily digest of each NHL player’s performance, and other features.
n NHL digital platforms will provide links to video and additional Olympic content available via NBC and CBC sites.
n The league and NHLPA will receive 12 media credentials that allow access to the Olympic Broadcast Center, and NHL.com and NHLPA.com will have a total of four seats in the main press box at all hockey games.
n All releases and statements related to the hockey tournament, including those pertaining to any on-ice and off-ice issues that could arise, will come from the coordinated efforts of the IIHF, NHL and NHLPA.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly negotiated with the IOC and IIHF in seeking the increased access, with consultation on access requirements from Jamey Horan, the league’s vice president of player development and event communications.
NHL COO John Collins; Bob Chesterman, NHL senior vice president of programming and production; and NHL Network executive producer Mark Preisler struck agreements with NBC so NHL Network could produce the daily program and use studio space.
“There have been stringent rules in place in the past, so as a programmer, it’s exciting to be able to provide this level of reporting from the Olympics on NHL Network,” Chesterman said. “We wanted to serve our fans with the best coverage possible of our players, so we’re very happy with how the agreement turned out.”
Staff writer Tripp Mickle contributed to this report.