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Volume 20 No. 45


Fox Sports is relaunching its over-the-top service with its soccer and rugby programming in the next two weeks and has hired Italy-based media and technology company Deltatre to operate it.

The broadcaster will rebrand its seven-year-old Fox Soccer 2Go streaming service into something believed to be called Fox Soccer Match Pass, a 24/7 over-the-top service with more than 150 rugby and soccer games per month that initially will be available to consumers for free. After about a month, Fox will charge a subscription that is expected to be similar to the $20 per month Fox charges for Fox Soccer 2Go. It’s expected that current Fox Soccer 2Go subscribers will be converted to the relaunched service. It’s not clear how the relaunch of this OTT service will affect the premium digital channel, Fox Soccer Plus.

While the service will not be Fox Sports’ first direct-to-consumer, over-the-top offering, its interactive features will put the broadcaster in the middle of one of the hottest trends in sports media, which is going direct-to-consumer. ESPN has said that it will launch an ESPN-branded over-the-top service later this year through BAMTech.

Fox executives declined to comment.

As pay-TV distributors continue to shed subscribers, media companies such as 21st Century Fox and Disney increasingly are looking into ways to offer their programming directly to consumers. Over-the-top streams, which bypass distributors, have become the most popular way to approach consumers.

Deltatre will handle the service’s technology, including designing and powering applications for mobile, tablets, desktop and connected TVs like Apple TV and Roku. Owned by George Pyne’s Bruin Sports Capital, Deltatre has targeted the U.S. market for expansion, even though the market is crowded with companies such as BAMTech, NBC’s Playmaker Media and Turner’s iStreamPlanet.

Fox Sports marks Deltatre’s first U.S.-based deal since it hired Claude London as president of Deltatre Americas last month.

“The Fox Sports deal hopefully is a signal to big leagues and big broadcasters that we’re here to help deliver an amazing sports consumption experience for their fans,” London said.

Live games will have a similar look and feel to traditional soccer production, but it’s the game replays where Deltatre’s technology will be used, with enhanced statistics, data and visual overlays.

“We will have full synchronization in real time of data and video,” London said. “If you’re watching in the 20th minute and you’re trying to figure out how many passes Cristiano Ronaldo has made, you’ll get that in real time. If you fast forward 20 minutes later, you’ll get the stats again with storytelling around them.”

NFL Media reporter Dan Hanzus trailed Robert Kraft as the Patriots owner handed out cigars in New England’s Super Bowl-winning locker room this year.

Hanzus, who was recording the moment on his phone, stood directly behind Kraft as he hugged quarterback Tom Brady. His video picked up a conversation where Brady told Kraft that somebody stole his game jersey. “You better look online,” Kraft joked.

The video captured the first moment that anyone outside the Patriots locker room realized Brady’s jersey was missing.

Hanzus tweeted out the 73-second video and wrote a 366-word story for

“That piece of video was ground zero for that story,” said the NFL’s vice president of social media and emerging programming, Tom Brady (no relation to the Super Bowl LI MVP). “That was a fun reminder for the citizen journalist in each of us that a good story can come from anywhere.”

That piece of video was used as a case study for how NFL Media executives want their on-air talent to use social media. During a seminar for the NFL’s on-air personalities held last week in Santa Monica, Calif., the consistent theme the league pushed was that NFL Network talent should use their access and name recognition to build social media audiences.

“We want to be more nimble about creating content and using our talent as the boots on the ground,” Brady said. “They have a stronger level of access in a lot of cases. They have great relationships with the teams and the players. We want to leverage that using each of the social platforms.”

Like other sports TV networks, NFL Network holds these types of seminars once a year (though it was not able to schedule one last year).

Whenever social media came up in the past, NFL executives would have to persuade several of their reporters to use it, especially considering the trouble some reporters and analysts have experienced from an ill-timed Facebook post or a poorly thought out tweet. Just two weeks ago, for example, the Denver Post fired a longtime sports columnist because of a racially charged tweet about the Japanese-born driver who won the Indianapolis 500, Takuma Sato.

Six hall of famers presented a segment as part of the NFL’s media seminar.
Photo by: NFL

This year, though, Brady and NFL Network’s executive producer of studio and remote content, Mike Muriano, said there was no pushback from the league’s reporters and analysts getting more involved on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube or any other social media platform.

“We wanted to show our on-air talent how they can be more impactful socially,” Muriano said. “We want to show them how we can help build each other’s brand socially.”

During the seminar, the league focused more on best practices rather than coming up with a list of social media rules. In conversations with Brady and Muriano, several consistent themes emerged. Here are six suggestions the NFL made to its reporters and analysts. These are not hard-and-fast rules, but Brady and Muriano believe the league’s on-air talent can help build a social media presence if they follow them.

Do not use every platform the same way

One of the biggest mistakes Brady and Muriano see people make is when they put the same content on different social platforms. Great tweets sometimes bomb on Facebook. Snapchat posts will not have the same impact on YouTube. Instagram posts are not effective on Twitter.

“They’re not even the same company,” Brady said. “On Twitter, it will end up being a link rather than the actual video.”

Brady told the league’s on-air talent that they need to understand each of the social platforms. “The features change so quickly on each platform that it’s hard sometimes to make sure to stay on top of it,” he said.

Don’t feed the trolls

It’s great when one of NFL Network’s Hall of Fame commentators tweets with fans. It’s not so good when that hall of famer gets into Twitter arguments with those same fans.

“Talent needs to be careful with that level of engagement,” Muriano said. “Be smart and sensitive to if you’re getting trolled or not. Then just stop. Our talent, as the known quantity in this exchange, does not benefit by dressing down a fan — even if that fan is way off base. At some point, they have to know when to say that this has taken a turn and I’m not taking part anymore.”

Avoid politics

Politics is so divisive, there’s little upside for NFL reporters and analysts to wade into those battles on social media. Muriano called it a “no-win scenario.”

“Those debates are healthy in the middle of newsrooms and discussions face-to-face,” he said. “But playfully or not, what happens in face-to-face conversations can be construed in ways that you don’t want on a public forum like Twitter — especially when it comes to politics.”

Know why people follow you

One message the NFL gave its talent was to be cognizant that people follow them for their football knowledge. “When in doubt, keep it to the game,” Brady said. “There’s always a time to showcase your personality and be able to engage with fans and go outside of your core. But at the end of the day, as a member of the NFL Media Group, try to stick to football because that’s what people want to hear from you about.”

Show your personality

Brady pointed to Raiders punter Marquette King as a good example of someone who effectively has been able to show his personality on several social media platforms.

“He understands each platform really well. He brings his personality to it. It’s all fun,” Brady said. “You’ll start to see more recently retired players become active on social media because they’re more native to the social platform.”

Think before you tweet

There is a danger to unfiltered messages that can be delivered to a mass audience immediately. The league told its on-air talent to use common sense when posting on social media.

“Don’t fail the social media IQ test,” Muriano said. “Is what you’re about to put out there that important? Give it a second thought.”

John Ourand can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

Editor's note: This story has been revised from the print edition.

The NFL is such a strong media property that SportsBusiness Journal is devoting part of this week’s media page to the league’s preseason schedule.

The reason is all in the numbers. Last season NFL Network averaged 1.1 million viewers for 17 preseason games, despite the fact that many of the games ran opposite the Rio Olympics. Even more amazing, that 1.1 million viewer number does not include the home markets of the participating teams, which are always blacked out during NFL Network games.

NFL Network Live Preseason Schedule

Wed. 8/9 7:30 p.m. ET Houston vs. Carolina
Thur. 8/10 8:00 p.m. ET Denver vs. Chicago
Fri. 8/11 7:00 p.m. ET Pittsburgh vs. N.Y. Giants
Fri. 8/11 10:00 p.m. ET* San Francisco vs. Kansas City
Sat. 8/12 9:00 p.m. ET Dallas vs. L.A. Rams
Sun. 8/13 1:30 p.m. ET Detroit vs. Indianapolis
Sun. 8/13 8:00 p.m. ET Seattle vs. L.A. Chargers
Fri. 8/18 10:00 p.m. ET Minnesota vs. Seattle
Sat. 8/19 3:00 p.m. ET Carolina vs. Tennessee
Sat. 8/19 7:00 p.m. ET Indianapolis vs. Dallas
Sat. 8/19 10:00 p.m. ET Denver vs. San Francisco
Sun. 8/20 4:00 p.m. ET Atlanta vs. Pittsburgh
Sun. 8/20 8:00 p.m. ET New Orleans vs. L.A. Chargers
Thur. 8/24 7:00 p.m. ET Miami vs. Philadelphia
Thur. 8/31 7:00 p.m. ET Philadelphia vs. N.Y. Jets
Thur. 8/31 10:00 p.m. ET Seattle vs. Oakland

*Joined in Progress, 9 p.m. ET Start

To put the number into context, the NHL’s 15 regular-season games on the NBC broadcast network this season (i.e., games that actually count, as opposed to preseason) averaged 1.2 million viewers.

NFL Network’s preseason viewership is within shouting distance of ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” which averaged 1.6 million viewers in 2016.

Eleven of last season’s 17 preseason games on NFL Network eclipsed the 1 million viewer mark. In 2015, 10 of NFL Network’s 13 preseason games blew past the 1 million viewer mark.

SportsBusiness Journal received an early look at this year’s preseason schedule on NFL Network, which will consist of 16 games. NFL Network will carry seven games in the first week of preseason, six in the second week, one in the third week and two in the fourth week.

The schedule includes three Seattle Seahawks games, the most of any team. Eight teams will appear twice, including the popular Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos. With no Olympic competition, it’s a good bet that this year’s preseason will see a healthy viewer increase on NFL Network.

Ted Turner no longer has a role in the mass media landscape he dominated for nearly 40 years but many key elements of the modern day sports business still bear imprints of his vast legacy, including the importance of cable television, escalating player salaries, the 24-hour news cycle and Atlanta’s continued standing as a key industry presence.

Turner’s victory in the 1977 America’s Cup and challenging the conventions of sailing with his brash personality are the subjects of a new NBC Sports documentary, “Courageous,” premiering June 17 on NBC. While in New York last week for a preview event for the film, Turner spoke with staff writer Eric Fisher on memories of sailing, the vast changes in the media business, and how he dislikes the Atlanta Braves’ move from Turner Field downtown to suburban Cobb County, Ga.

Former Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner doesn't think much of the team's move to the suburbs.
Photo by:

What are your memories of the ’77 America’s Cup?
Winning the race was really good. We had a difficult time in trials. It was more difficult in the trials than in the Cup [final] races. We didn’t win by big margins, a couple of minutes each race. But it was enough. Every race, right at the start or close to the start, we got ahead and stayed ahead.

What did that win and getting on the cover of Sports Illustrated do to accelerate your other endeavors and business career?
It’s hard to tell. I don’t think it hurt. But I don’t think people bought television time from me because I won the America’s Cup. They did it because they thought it was a good buy.

The media landscape obviously is going through huge transformations. What do you make of the business now, and how it’s changed since you left AOL Time Warner?
TURNER: It is different now. I was getting out just as the digital age was coming in, so I’m a traditional person, and I still am. I’m old-fashioned. I don’t even have a cellphone. Not that I’m against them. I borrow them all the time. It’s just that keeping up with everything is so complex and takes a good bit of your time. Two-thirds of the people I see and am trying to have a conversation with are busy playing with their electronic gadgets and it’s hard to make contact.

There’s been a lot of talk in the TV industry about cord cutting and younger consumers not buying traditional cable packages. Does that concern you?
No, because I’m not in it anymore. I’m raising bison now, about 60,000 of them, and have 48 [Ted’s Montana Grill] restaurants. I went to the one here in Manhattan today for lunch, had a great lunch, and it was jam-packed. So I’m making a success out of the restaurant business now. The first 10 years we lost money, and the last five we’ve made money every year.

But for the people in the TV business you mentored and are still coming up behind you, do you fear for them?
No, it’ll be whatever it is. They’ll make whatever changes are necessary to survive in a new world. It is a new and different world. But today’s young people are growing up in that world, so they’re familiar with it. I grew up before that world came and appeared. So I never did get super comfortable with it. But that’s OK.

Shifting gears to the Atlanta Braves, which of course you previously owned, have you been to SunTrust Park?

Do you have plans to go soon?

What do you think of the team moving from downtown to Cobb County?
To me, they’ll always be Atlanta Braves, not the Marietta Braves.

Do you watch the team now?
A little bit, on TV, but not much. But we were really successful with the Braves. We drew well, and we set a record for the most consecutive division championships. They moved to Marietta strictly because they could get money [for the ballpark].

What is a typical week like for you now?
I’m 78 and a half. I’ll be 80 in a year and a half. I’m not keeping the same work schedule. And I have an illness [atrial fibrillation], too, and it’s an exhausting illness. So I don’t have the strength to work in the same way I used to. I’ve cut back some, but I’m there when they need me.