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Volume 25 No. 6

Media

Fans will be able to watch about 250 out-of-market MLS games a year through ESPN+
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The MLS Live streaming platform is "shutting down," and the league is "shifting those games to ESPN+," the new OTT service that Disney plans to launch in the next few months, according to sources cited by Soshnick & Palmeri of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Fans will be "able to watch about 250 out-of-market games a year, meaning they won't be able to see their home teams." The agreement "doesn't impact ESPN's regularly scheduled televised soccer matches, which won't be on the web service." The MLS Live service was "priced at $79 a year," while ESPN+ will be "$5 a month, or $60 annually." But ESPN+ is "likely" to roll out after the March 3 start of the MLS season. A source said that matches will be "available for free on MLSsoccer.com until the new service is available" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/13). PHILLY.com's Jonathan Tannenwald tweeted that folding MLS Live into ESPN+ is "one of the biggest media rights moves MLS has ever made." Making games available to what "should be a big audience for that platform will immediately increase MLS' exposure to casual fans in a huge way" (TWITTER.com, 2/13).

GREAT SALT LAKE: In L.A., Stephen Battaglio notes the deal announced yesterday between Salt Lake City-based KSL-NBC and Real Salt Lake to livestream the MLS team's games "without also carrying them over the air" is the "first such agreement between a U.S. local TV station and a pro sports team." The agreement "reflects how viewers ... are changing the way broadcasters are looking at their business." It could "pave the way for other local broadcasters to strike similar deals." KSL "pursued the streaming rights separately as it looks for local content to reach audiences who have migrated to digital devices." One-fifth of the market's households do "not have pay-TV subscriptions" (L.A. TIMES, 2/14). In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce reports RSL will "produce the games and provide the program" to Utah-based KMYU-MYT and KSL. The games will "stream only in Utah and a few other areas -- Boise, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Reno -- that are part of Real Salt Lake's TV territory." In other parts of the U.S. and in other countries, KSL's stream will be "geoblocked because of the MLS TV and streaming contracts" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/14).

Durant's Thirty Five Media with Apple will create a new scripted series based on his early life
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Kevin Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman are among the new investors in millennial-focused social media app Overtime, which launched 15 months ago and is backed by WME-IMG. Later today, Overtime will announce a new round of Series A funding ($9.5M) led by VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. Durant and Kleiman join other individual investors in this round such as Fox Regional Sports Networks VP/Business Development Michael Spirito, Redpoint Ventures Partner Geoff Yang and Jeff Jordan, who led the Andreessen Horowitz investment. Other firms that are part of this round include Greycroft, Afore Capital, Box Group, Fitz Gate Ventures, Imagination Capital, 645 Ventures and TACK Ventures. Overtime co-founders Dan Porter and Zack Weiner told THE DAILY that they will use the funding to invest in more “long-form” programming, similar to the “Overtime Challenge” with people like high school hoops star Shareef O’Neal. It also will look to develop chat shows with teenage hosts. The idea is that Millennials are too old for Overtime, which is targeting the younger Gen Z audience. Overtime has become somewhat of a media darling since its ’16 launch, thanks mainly to short-form videos that go viral, getting airtime on everything from ESPN’s “SportsCenter” to Steph Curry’s Instagram feed. All told, company execs say Overtime videos have been viewed close to 1 billion times, with 95% of the audience watching via mobile. Overtime, which counts former NBA Commissioner David Stern as an early investor, has deals with two RSNs -- SNY and NBC Sports Philadelphia. It is in talks with other nets, company execs said (John Ourand, Staff Writer).

GOT SWAGGER? TECH CRUNCH's Brian Heater reported Apple is partnering with Durant's Thirty Five Media and producer Brian Grazer's Imagine Media to create a new scripted series "based on Durant's early life." The series, titled "Swagger," will be written and directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood. This marks the "second high profile media deal for Durant in the space of a month" after his recent partnership with YouTube (TECHCRUNCH.com, 2/13). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Lesley Goldberg noted the Apple show will be "inspired by Durant's youth basketball experience and explores the world" of AAU hoops in DC (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/13). Grazer said that he had "been looking for the opportunity to revisit the world of 'Friday Night Lights' when he met Durant at Google’s summer gathering of power players in Sicily known as The Camp" (DEADLINE.com, 2/13).

In Seattle, Geoff Baker reports the Sounders and iHeartMedia have signed a multiyear flagship deal that will "see the team's games aired" on KJR-AM beginning this season, along with half-hour pre- and post-game shows. It marks a "significant milestone" for the Sounders, who for years "had team-generated broadcasts." The new deal "will still involve team broadcaster Matt Johnson doing play-by-play," but is "expected to make Sounders content more widely distributed amongst casual sports fans." KJR had been "seeking a flagship professional team" since it lost the Sonics in '06 (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/14).

FARE THEE WELL: Longtime Blue Jays radio broadcaster Jerry Howarth yesterday "announced his retirement," effective immediately. In Toronto, Laura Armstrong notes Howarth, who was diagnosed with Stage 1 prostate cancer in September '16, but recovered from surgery in time to call the '17 season, "cited health issues affecting his voice in recent years as the reason behind his decision." Howarth had a 44-year career (36 with the Blue Jays) and has been honoured by both the Canadian Baseball HOF and Sports Media Canada for his work (TORONTO STAR, 2/14).

CIRCLING THE WAGONS: Michigan State men's basketball coach Tom Izzo last night said he agrees with MSU interim President John Engler's assessment that ESPN's recent report into sexual abuse allegations was "sensationalized." Engler released a statement yesterday in which he called ESPN's story and TV packages a "sensationalized package of reporting that contained allegations and insinuations that we are now reviewing." Engler "specifically mentioned ESPN's decision" to use a graphic featuring Izzo, football coach Mark Dantonio and former school doctor Larry Nassar together. Izzo: "I agreed with what he said" (MLIVE.com, 2/13). ESPN in a statement last night said, "We stand by our reporting” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/14).