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Volume 24 No. 179

Media

Turner Sports will launch an OTT sports service next fall with UEFA Champions League and Europa League games. Turner is expected to make an official announcement on its OTT plans this morning as part of a larger formal confirmation of its three-year, $60M English-language rights deal to carry games from the two leagues in the U.S. through ‘20-21. SportsBusiness Journal first wrote about Turner’s UEFA rights deal in February. Univision picked up the Spanish-language rights over three years for around $35M per year. “This is untethered content rights that aren't attached to any of our existing brands,” said Turner President David Levy. “It is an opportunity for us to think about how we keep the current ecosystem healthy with a strong premium video content, build out Bleacher Report with tremendous video content and then start a new OTT business. As consumers have choices and may not subscribe to cable, they’ll still have the opportunity to watch this sport and many other sports when they want and where they want.” Turner outbid BAMTech, NBC Sports and Fox Sports for the UEFA rights. Combined with Univision’s bid, UEFA is making close to $100M annually from the U.S. market, double its previous deal with Fox. Levy said the financials work for Turner, especially given that it has rights across all platforms. “We don’t go into any businesses without feeling that there’s a profitability that is going to happen within the existing contract,” he said. “Between the portfolio of an over-the-top product, Bleacher Report and our linear channels, we will be able to afford it.”

NO NAME, PRICE YET
: The OTT service does not have a name, price point, or other programming yet, according to Turner Sports President Lenny Daniels. “But we’re open for business,” he said. Levy said Turner would target premium content like UEFA, leagues and properties with passionate followings, as well as those that may only have access to television windows at odd times. “This will provide opportunity for sports that don't have a big enough presence but have unique, niche fan bases that can now launch different products with us,” he said. “This is really going to be a unique proposition for the consumer, but also for leagues that don't have the time periods or exposure that they needed.” The UEFA matches work for Turner, since games are played in daytime, mid-week time periods, when people are at school or work and more likely to use a streaming platform. As part of the deal, Turner will produce more than 340 games for OTT and television starting with the ’18-19 season, with Bleacher Report serving as a portal to the OTT service, simulcasting some games. One of Turner’s channels, most likely truTV, will carry four live Champions League games per week through the Group Stage (Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1:00pm and 3:00pm ET) and two games per week during the Knockout Phase (Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 3:00pm). All other matches will be available via OTT. The Champions League semis and finals will move to TBS or TNT. UEFA Europa League matches will be available via OTT, with the final televised on TBS or TNT. Turner also committed to carry the UEFA Super Cup on TBS or TNT. In addition to non-exclusive live games, Bleacher Report will have shoulder programming, ancillary programming and video clip that it will use on its site and social platforms.

JOINING A CROWDED FIELD
: Turner joins other sports networks in launching OTT services. CBS and ESPN earlier this month announced plans for sports-centered OTT services that will launch next year; NBC Sports launched a Premier League Pass OTT service this month; and Fox Sports is relaunching its Fox Soccer 2Go OTT service into Fox Soccer Match Pass. Turner already operates non-sports OTT services, FilmStruck and Boomerang and believes that a sports focused one will be successful, using UEFA games as an anchor. “This isn’t like we’re putting a second-tier sports property on OTT,” Levy said. “This is UEFA’s Champions League and Europa. That’s the foundation that we can build all of this around.”

Pay TV subscribers who have ESPN, as well as the most recent version of Apple TV, can "try out a new version of the ESPN app that will let you watch up to four different streams on one screen," according to Peter Kafka of RECODE. Viewers can "select anything that ESPN is showing via the app -- both the 'real' ESPN programming as well as any digital-only streams they’re offering, and you can swap out different configurations pretty easily." This is not the "first app to use the 'multicast' feature in Apple TV -- there’s an MLB app, for instance, that lets you watch two screens at once." This version is "pretty slick" (RECODE.net, 8/16). ESPN Senior VP/Digital Product, Design & Audience Development Ryan Spoon said of the four-stream feature, "We want to take advantage of all the unique content we have, and make something only ESPN can do." VARIETY's Todd Spangler noted ESPN expects the feature to be "popular during college football Saturdays, as well as for events" like the CFP National Championship “megacast” and U.S. Open multicourt coverage. Spoon said that ESPN is "developing the MultiCast feature for other connected-TV devices but started with Apple TV first because 'Apple TV has capabilities to do this that other platforms don’t have.'" Down the road, ESPN is "thinking of using the other tiles in the MultiCast for content aside from video." For example, "playing in-game highlights, fantasy sports updates, alerts, scoreboards or social-media posts" (VARIETY.com, 8/16).

RAISING THE STAKES: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Paul Bond wrote with ESPN's planned streaming network, investors are "wondering first, if Disney will cannibalize its existing ESPN customers and second, whether this move by cable's most popular channel will hasten the demise of the cable TV bundle." Disney Chair & CEO Bob Iger's plan to launch two streaming channels -- one for family shows, another for ESPN -- "carries huge stakes for the media giant and the future of the cable bundle itself." Sanford C. Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger said, "It's a very slippery slope from there to a true, full-blown network substitute. Disney could pull that switch any time. What do you do now if you're Discovery, Viacom, AMC Networks, Fox or anybody?" Juenger "envisions the big pay TV providers like Comcast and DirecTV playing ball with Disney, but the smaller ones may take this as a final-straw chance to exit the business entirely." Disney "appears to be between a rock and a hard place with ESPN: The network remains a cash cow, but its growth has been reversed." Disney's revenue from cable networks, the majority of which comes from ESPN, in FY '17 is "expected to be" about $16.6B, about 30% of the conglomerate's total revenue. Consultancy firm Magid Associates Senior VP Mike Bloxham said, "The general sports space is wide open for a major player, and there's no bigger brand than ESPN. If anyone is going to succeed in becoming the Netflix of the sports category, it is ESPN" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/16). VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton noted more than any other media giant, Disney is "endowed with a corporate brand name that means something to consumers." The goodwill the Disney moniker brings is the "foundation of the Mouse’s bold attempt to challenge Netflix at its own game." But as much as Disney sees a "chance to capitalize on its unique position, the company has also been under more pressure than any of its media peers to make a big move to combat the steady drumbeat of negative news surrounding" ESPN (VARIETY.com, 8/16).

NASCAR this afternoon will announce Twitter will stream coverage from an in-car camera for the 10 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff races, marking the first time the sport has streamed live Cup Series coverage on the social media network. The move will start with the playoff opener at Chicagoland on Sept. 17 and run through the finale in Homestead the week before Thanksgiving. While precise arrangements were not divulged, NASCAR Exec VP and Chief Global Sales & Marketing Officer Steve Phelps said the sanctioning body was able to get race broadcaster NBC Sports on board with the idea because the media rights holder is interested in growing the sport's fanbase to a younger audience. The Chicagoland race still will be streamed on the NBC Sports App and air on NBCSN. The car that the camera will be in for Chicago has yet to be selected. Toyota will sponsor the stream of the Chicago race. Twitter will curate tweets about the race onto the live stream, which will be available for free for users in the U.S. NASCAR will debut individual Twitter emojis and hashtags for all 16 drivers that make the playoffs and has been working with drivers in recent months to help create them. Phelps said, "It’s a real opportunity to elevate the experience for our fans and we think it is very much a complementary product to an NBC broadcast." He added NBC "understands that sometimes fans are able to use a second and third screen, sometimes as a complement to the first screen, and other times they don’t have the ability to do that.” Phelps said it remains to be seen whether NASCAR could look to stream races in future seasons in a similar manner to this arrangement.

When CBS Radio in Las Vegas lost a bidding war to broadcast Golden Knights games, the station said that it would be "shutting them out" of coverage, but it "turns out the radio station will indeed acknowledge the Golden Knights after all," according to Daniel Rapaport of SI.com. CBS "lost a bidding war to Lotus Broadcasting for the Golden Knights' radio rights," and KLAS-CBS sports anchor Ron Futrell "speculates that the Golden Knights have not bought advertising on CBS." A rep for CBS Radio Las Vegas GM Tony Perlongo in a statement said that the initial move was an "error in judgement" on the part of the station and they "deeply regret it." CBS Radio in Las Vegas "initially tried to totally disregard the existence of the city's only professional sports franchise." CBS Radio Operations Manager, J.B. King, sent an email last week to employees with "explicit instructions to completely ignore" the Golden Knights (SI.com, 8/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote the swift reversal of policy "speaks to three things." Ignoring a local team, "especially one with that new car smell, is bad business." Public "shaming for said idiocy is a handy way to affect change." Lastly, hockey fans should "take a lesson from this and realize that if you aren’t happy with the amount of coverage your sport gets from a given station in a given market, let your voices be heard" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/16).

WINNING OVER BIG SKY COUNTRY: In Montana, Joseph Terry noted the Golden Knights this week are on a "four-state goodwill tour in an effort to drum up support." Several players and Golden Knights Senior VP Murray Craven on Tuesday took part in an hour-long clinic in Whitefish, Mont., where Craven and team Owner Bill Foley are from. The hope is that "outreach programs like this will help grow a fanbase in a region that has been largely ignored by the league in the past." Craven said, "Las Vegas isn't New York City, it's not Los Angeles, it's not Chicago. We have 2.2 million people. The rest of the state is pretty empty. A lot of the territories we're in are not heavily populated. We want to grab as many people as we can, as far as people in Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and grab them and pull them into our vortex" (DAILY INTER LAKE, 8/16). The team also stopped in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Tuesday, and Golden Knights G Calvin Pickard said, "If anyone had told me last August I'd be in Coeur d'Alene representing an NHL team in Vegas I'd have thought they were crazy." However, he added, "Words can't describe being part of an expansion team and the chance to be the face of hockey for a generation of new fans" (Spokane SPOKESMAN-REVIEW, 8/16). The Golden Knights are slated to visit Deer Lodge, Mont., today and Bozeman, Mont., tomorrow before concluding the tour Saturday in Salt Lake City (THE DAILY).

Portland-based KXTG-AM has "cut ties with controversial radio host Dino Costa" after the Timbers on Tuesday distanced themselves from their radio partner "due to the 'offensive and insensitive views and opinions'" expressed on Costa's show, according to Jamie Goldberg of the Portland OREGONIAN. During Costa's two months at the station, he "threatened to bring a straight pride flag to a Timbers game, said women couldn't successfully host radio shows and advocated for running over supporters of Black Lives Matter" (OREGONLIVE.com, 8/16). WILLAMETTE WEEK's Martin Cizman reported the Timbers on Tuesday issued a statement denouncing some of Costa's comments, but "declined to end" their deal with the station. The club in the statement essentially said that it is "troubled, but resisting pressure to drop its contract" with KXTG. Alpha Media VP/Marketing Randi P'Pool, whose company owns KXTG, indicated that neither the Timbers nor the Univ. of Oregon had "sought to sever their contract." The Timbers' deal expires after the '18 MLS season, and the club in the statement did say it will "carefully evaluate our radio home at that time" (WWEEK.com, 8/15). FORBES.com's Maury Brown wrote Costa's "brand of abrasive sports talk has caused issues in the past." He was fired from SiriusXM in '13 "after six years for making comments on the air about his bosses." He also lasted "just six weeks" at St. Louis' KFNS-AM (FORBES.com, 8/16).