Sky Deutschland Sports Production Dir Alessandro Reitano told SBD Global that exclusivity trumps any other aspect when it comes to sports-media rights at the pay-TV network. Asked if Sky may consider bidding for UEFA Euro and FIFA World Cup rights in the future, Reitano said, “The rights situation at such major events is a little different. You have to make a serious cost-benefit calculation. In the case of a World Cup, it is a four-week event with enormous rights costs and production costs and has only a poor value of exclusivity.” He added, “Of course it’s an interesting event, but is it justified to spend so much money if we are not allowed to show a single game exclusively and only in addition to free TV, that’s the question.” An idea that could work in the future is to split up the rights between pay-TV and free-TV networks, as is the case in the U.K. with F1 rights, Reitano said. Sky Sports holds the rights to every single race, while the BBC is allowed to show half of the races on free TV. Reitano: “In a case like that, the calculation would become more feasible. In the current state, it is very difficult to amortize the costs for such an event.”
4K OR 3D?: Sky is not only looking to the future in terms of sports rights, but also when it comes to new technologies. An overarching topic at Sportel Monaco is the development of 4K, also known as Ultra HD. Asked about Sky Deutschland’s take on the new technology, Reitano said, “We believe in 4K or Ultra HD because we are convinced by it. It's not just simply a higher pixel count, but it’s a better pixel count. People sometimes refer to 4K as four-times HD in terms of resolution. However, due to the dynamic range, its color depth and color space, it’s actually an even better quality.” Reitano added that this notion of top-notch quality perfectly fits Sky’s plans of not only providing the best content, but also the best quality to its customers. The topic of 3D, on the other hand, has been put on the backburner at Sky. Reitano: “3D is just difficult. The reason it is difficult is because it simply has double the production costs of regular HD. In addition, 4K has the advantage that I can use the footage and simply reduce it to HD and various other sub-categories, which is simply not possible with 3D. The fact that 3D always has double the production costs compared to regular productions is simply no long-term economic model.”
SIZE MATTERS: Another technology that has caught the eye of Sky Deutschland is the multi-screen concept. Reitano: “Multi-screen concept means multiple feeds on one TV screen.” The fact that TVs are getting bigger and bigger is the foundation for such a concept. Reitano said, “I could imagine watching the main game-feed in Ultra HD across the whole TV while also having a highlight or replay feed in the left or right corner of the screen. It simply provides the viewer with an added value. I don’t need a second device to watch the second screen, I simply have a first screen with a wide range of possibilities already implemented.” To make the idea of a multi-screen concept gain traction, you now have to start introducing the concept to the younger generation, which is already using second screens, Reitano added.
MP & Silva Head of Production & Digital Sameer Pabari told SBD Global the challenge for media-rights sellers is finding a way to bundle the growing digital possibilities “into coherent customer propositions,” even though it is “fun and exciting.” The media-rights company works hard to find the right digital solutions for its clients in order to provide them with a maximum return. Asked about the challenges at Sportel Monaco on Tuesday, Pabari said, “I wouldn’t say that there are any difficulties. It’s a rapidly evolving space. You look at consumer behavior and consumer engagement. There is more and more activity on digital, when you look at the proliferation of different screens and formats that are out there. That’s the way in which the world is moving. And as an agency representing rights and content on behalf of different federations and rights holders, it’s our challenge to help maximize the value of those rights. And actually that means mirroring where audiences and consumers are going to be.” Whereas in the world of TV this task was quite standardized and consistent, the rapid explosion of digital technology makes it more unpredictable. However, Pabari sees a lot of potential in this unpredictability. He said, “There are lots of new and interesting things that we can do with digital technology. We explore a lot of different avenues in terms of how you can possibly [maximize the value rights]. It could be, for example, providing additional content on a second screen, which could either be on a sponsored basis or a paid-for basis that is completely distinct from what is appearing on the traditional broadcast.” Pabari added that for certain sports, which don’t have TV broadcast deals in particular territories, digital technology provides them with a tool to go directly to consumers. He said, “All of a sudden, new markets, which historically may not have been interested in TV rights, you can actually start approaching and delivering content.”
ADDED BONUS: Besides helping its clients finding new ways to capitalize on digital technologies, MP & Silva is offering strategic support for media productions. Pabari: “In certain circumstances, we are actually having a role in the production to help determine what the final audio-visual product is for broadcast sales purposes or broadcast-sponsorship purposes or exploiting content on different devices and screens.” Having a strategic role in helping to define how the end product should look does not necessarily mean that MP & Silva always ends up doing the production itself, Pabari added. This added bonus for clients is, of course, also targeted at maximizing the value of the rights holder’s property. However, MP & Silva is also using it as a tool to establish long-term partnerships. Pabari: “The way we like to work with our rights-holder clients is very tight because that’s what ultimately leads to long-lasting commercial relationships.”
Perform Dir of Group Business Development Alex Rice said that the fast growing sports media company’s focus remains on providing high-end content for its clients. Asked on Tuesday at Sportel Monaco about rapid changes at the company, Rice said, “Nothing changes and everything changes at Perform. I think, ultimately we are a traditional business, and the focus of the business is still very much around rights acquisition, creating great products for the end users and building the whole end-to-end digital experience, whether it’s live video, live stats or live editorial. I think we continue to evolve our business with the various trends that are talking place in the market.” Perform, which owns properties in different areas of the digital sports media landscape, is continuing to acquire rights to key properties around the world, Rice added. With the acquisition of Opta during the summer, Perform emphasized its intent to play a major role in the gathering of sports data as well.
IT’S GOOD TO KNOW: In an era when sports media rights spending seems to know no bounds, it may be surprising that a rather young company like Perform, which was founded in ’07, has the capabilities of acquiring key rights. Asked how Perform is able get key rights like the NBA in Germany, Rice said, “I think it’s relationships, and we’ve got some great relationships with all the major agencies and with all the major rights owners. We often are there to create additional value, and I think we have proved our case over the last seven years as a business that’s been out to provide that additional space. I think the rights landscape will continue to change, and I think we have to change with it, wherever we are.”
ALL ABOUT AFRICA: Perform has offices on four continents, but despite operating one of the most utilized football websites in Africa, Goal.com, the dark continent remains highly elusive in terms of revenue. Rice: “I think our biggest challenge is Africa, where we have a huge amount of users for our properties. But how to create revenue from this service is challenging. It’s a challenge to sell ads in that market. It’s a very different market to approach in terms of both subscription bases and ad-sale bases because the end users tend to be on mobiles.” He said that the fact that many of Perform’s African users use mobile devices makes it a challenge to brand the content or put sponsorships around it.
THE REVENUE RIDDLE: The obstacles of generating revenue in the digital sphere are also impacting Perform. Like most companies operating online, Perform uses both subscription-based and ad-sales-based models. While still working on the right mixture of both, Perform seems to have already set course for one of the concepts. Rice: “We believe that there is a growing subscription audience for sports as there has been across the entertainment sector as well, where people buy a season pass for a major network series. We also start to see it year-on-year with our subscription products that are growing."
Association of Surfing Professionals Int'l signed its first media deals for all 26 of its major events with YouTube, ESPN and Facebook. The deal with YouTube will see ASP launch its own channel and stream all 26 events live worldwide for the first time. ASP and YouTube will work together on advertising and sponsorship sales, and they will share revenue from the channel. The live YouTube coverage will be complemented in the U.S. by TV coverage from ESPN, which signed a three-year deal to be the exclusive broadcaster of 26 recap shows following all of the ASP’s events. Financial terms of the ESPN deal were not available. To help drive viewers to both YouTube and ESPN, ASP signed a partnership with Facebook and Instagram, which will serve up videos, photos and other content to surfing fans. The ASP has developed a digital service to notify fans when live coverage is available on its YouTube channel and when their favorite surfers are riding, and Facebook will help it deliver that information to them.
'NIRVANA' FOR FANS: ASP Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer Michael Lynch said, “We think we got the absolute best partners to launch our new global sports league. We felt they were the right partners to lead us forward into the future of surfing. For the fans, this is nirvana because they will see surfing go mainstream on linear television and have one global, digital home to go to for live surfing content.” Production for both YouTube and ESPN will be provided by ASP, which has been building its own broadcast and production team to cover its events in '14. ASP is offering the first consolidated media rights package for all its events for the first time. In the past, surfing competitions sold media rights independently, but Zosea Media, led by surfing agent Terry Hardy and Paul Speaker, bought the tour last year and consolidated the rights into a single package covering all 26 of ASP’s major women’s, men’s and big wave events. ASP currently is selling TV rights in other key markets outside the U.S., including Australia, Brazil, France and Portugal. It hopes to be on TV in more than 100 countries worldwide before the start of the '14 season, Lynch said.
German free-to-air TV channel Sport1 has acquired comprehensive transmission rights for the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. The package includes exclusive cross-platform rights for the next three seasons through '15-16. This means that as well as Germany’s Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) season already underway, SPORT1 will also show Europe’s premier basketball league in free-TV, with further games available on pay-TV channel SPORT1+ and via livestream at SPORT1.de. Selected regular season games of BBL teams Brose Baskets Bamberg and FC Bayern Munich will be broadcast live on SPORT1 on Thursday or Friday evenings. All games with German participation will be shown live or with time delay on SPORT1+. They will also be streamed live at SPORT1.de, with free-TV fixtures offered free of charge and all others available either via SPORT1+ subscription or individually for €5 ($7) each. Later in the competition, selected games from the Top 16 round, the playoffs and the complete Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four will be shown live on the SPORT1 platforms. Sports radio station SPORT1.fm will also broadcast individual games live (Euroleague).
Digital sports media company Perform has partnered with the Int'l Basketball Federation (FIBA) and its FIBA Zones and Euroleague Basketball to provide a live-streaming destination for global basketball. Livebasketball.tv has been launched as the online home of world basketball, uniting the former FIBA/FIBA Zone and Euroleague.TV platforms, and allows subscribers to watch more live action. In addition to live coverage featuring more than 300 games from the '13 national teams' calendar, including the recent 2013 FIBA Asia, FIBA Americas, AfroBasket and EuroBasket Championships and the upcoming Euroleague season, users receive full access to on-demand game highlights, top play clips and an archive of classic games. Content streaming and subscriptions are managed by Perform. Livebasketball.tv offers fans coverage of all 256 Euroleague games, starting Wednesday. The platform, which is available on desktop, tablets and mobile devices, was launched in June (FIBA).
The IOC has awarded 2014 Sochi Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics broadcast rights to Sky Network Television. The deal covers broadcast territories in New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu (IOC). ... Sports media and technology firm deltatre has announced a deal with France Télévisions to support the group's sports programming with digital solutions. The agreement will see deltatre deliver an array of mobile and tablet applications (deltatre).