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Volume 7 No. 149


Lionel Messi, Neymar and David Beckham are among the "top football names" who have signed up to a new digital service that "aims to bring fans closer to the sport’s biggest stars," according to Matthew Garrahan of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Otro, which launched as an app on Monday, is being funded by 23 Capital, a London-based investor and financier of sports, media and entertainment ventures. The company, which has provided $50M of funding for Otro, is backed by Corrum Capital and Quantum Partners, the investment fund managed by Soros Fund Management. Sixteen players will provide behind-the-scenes content for Otro, including Barcelona’s Luis Suárez, ManU’s Romelu Lukaku and former players Eric Cantona and Zinedine Zidane. Otro CEO Jeremy Dale said that the players "would share in profits generated by the service, available as a free download with premium content available via subscription." He added, "Otro is Spanish for other and the idea is that this will be their other club. Football is the most loved game on the planet but fans want a deeper connection with their heroes. We wanted to create a platform where they could tell their stories for the fans" (FT, 12/2). In London, Harry Wilson reported Otro will offer subscribers "a choice between signing up to receive basic updates for free, or a premium service that will offer exclusive live interviews, original documentaries and films" for £3.99 ($5.08) a month. The app "aims to create a global digital fan club and its subscription model has been likened to that of Spotify" (LONDON TIMES, 12/3). CITY A.M.'s James Warrington reported Otro "has been building anticipation for its launch by posting mysterious black-and-white images of the participating players on social media" (CITY A.M., 12/3).

Racing UK announced it will become Racing TV -- "as the channel looks forward to welcoming racing from all 26 Irish racecourses" from January, according to BROADBAND TV NEWS. The rebrand "reflects the content on both sides of the Irish Sea" and lets Racing TV bring the "full stories" from Britain and Ireland on one racing HD channel. From next year, Racing TV will broadcast live racing from 61 racecourses, equating to over 70% of all racing from Britain and Ireland, including nearly 90% of all Group and Graded races. It means that Racing TV "will have only one day without any live racing outside of Good Friday and four days at Christmas." Gary O'Brien will "spearhead" the Racing TV team in Ireland, where he will be joined by Kevin O'Ryan, Kate Harrington, Ruby Walsh and Donn McClean. Each of the 61 racecourses will have its own dedicated live stream available on Racing TV Extra, a feature of Racing TV's digital platform (BROADBAND TV NEWS, 12/3).

SIGNIFICANT CHANGES: In London, Greg Wood reported TV coverage of the sport "will look quite different" from Jan. 1, when Racing UK and At The Races, the satellite channels that broadcast every race in Britain and Ireland, will be renamed and relaunched with "significant changes to their roster of tracks and presenters." At The Races will become Sky Sports Racing and move its base to Sky's studios in west London, while Racing UK will turn into Racing TV. Ascot, the "biggest individual prize of all," will switch to Sky in time for the Royal meeting in June, while Chester will also be on Sky Sports Racing when its season begins in May. The launch of Sky Sports Racing takes place on Wednesday, when the full team of presenters will be announced. A "major concern" in Ireland is the "sheer volume of content to be squeezed onto Racing TV's coverage." RTV is owned by its British tracks and when there are clashes on busy days -- "which are inevitable" -- the "fear is that the British action will take precedence." Racecourse Media Group, the parent company of RTV, "attempted to allay those concerns" by adopting what CEO Richard FitzGerald described as a "Netflix-style approach" to coverage. The point FitzGerald was trying to make is that RTV is "multi-platform," and available for online streaming to phones, tablets and laptops in addition to the "old-fashioned approach of switching on the telly" (GUARDIAN, 12/3).

Formula 1 signed a partnership agreement with virtual reality provider The Dream VR to launch a "fully immersive" VR app, according to Nik Roseveare of ADVANCED TELEVISION. Starting this month, fans will be able to experience "revolutionary" digital interactive entertainment. The Dream VR will offer access to F1 events to its more than 3 million users in more than 180 countries. Through the new F1 VR and 360º channel, available on any device compatible with The Dream VR app, users will be able to "share in the excitement of the starting grid, podium celebrations and the Pirelli Hot Laps." They will also be able to "walk" along the paddock and enter exclusive hospitality facilities. The first experiences from the '18 F1 season will become available before Christmas. Viewers will gain access to the '18 Mexican Grand Prix, including behind-the-scenes footage of Lewis Hamilton's fifth world title celebration (ADVANCED TELEVISION, 12/3).

FuboTV, a sports-focused internet TV streaming service, expanded into Spain on Monday "in its first move outside North America." The private company, which is based in N.Y. and has raised $150M in funding to date, will offer 13 Spanish channels for €3.99 ($4.51) a month, including European entertainment channel Movistar Series. The company chose Spain "because it has high rates of video piracy" -- demonstrating a "likely demand for lower-cost streaming services" (REUTERS, 12/3).

IMG was commissioned to produce the Formula 1 audio coverage for BBC Radio 5 Live for the '19 and '20 seasons. It will include live radio commentary of all 21 races and will see Jennie Gow, Jack Nicholls and former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer remain as the BBC's on-air team. IMG will broadcast live coverage of all practice sessions and qualifying, as well as a Thursday evening 5 Live Preview Show and a post-race "Chequered Flag" Podcast (IMG).