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Volume 23 No. 8
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NFL plots OTT gain in Europe

Service to be tailored to individual markets

The NFL’s European expansion plans will get a boost this fall from the league’s over-the-top service, NFL Game Pass.

The league has hired Bruin Sports Capital and British advertising company WPP to help it grow the over-the-top NFL Game Pass service on the continent.

Up until last year, the NFL managed its European Game Pass service in-house from Los Angeles. For a cost of around $200 per season (different markets had different pricing), the league packaged U.S. content into a European service. The package consisted of all live NFL games, NFL RedZone, NFL Network and NFL Films

This fall, the OTT service will start to roll out a service that will be tailored for different European markets — both through on-screen statistics and marketing campaigns. Through relationships with Bruin and WPP, the Italian media company Deltatre (which is owned by Bruin) will handle the technical operations of NFL Game Pass in 61 European countries and territories. Sports marketing agency Two Circles (which is owned by WPP) will market the service.

No decision has been made on pricing, but prices are likely to continue to vary across the different European markets.

“We know that our European consumers are underserved,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international and events. “Imagine how much more growth we’re going to get when we can tailor the OTT product, potentially, at a country-specific level by people who are based in those markets and know the nuances of how data can get presented differently in a market, how information and statistics could be delivered to fans.”

One of the reasons the NFL opted to do this deal was the opportunity to reach deeper into specific markets, thanks to the infrastructure WPP and Bruin already have in Europe.

“We only have one office in London,” Waller said. “We’ll now be able to tap into offices in Berlin, Rome, Madrid. Our ability to use that network of marketing resources to better understand the markets and the opportunities that they present will allow us to be much more aggressive in our growth agenda.”

Terms of the deal, which is expected to be announced formally this week, will have Bruin and WPP jointly forming a London-based company to manage the service. In the next several weeks, Bruin will announce a CEO and executive for the stand-alone company, which is yet to be named.

“We’re going through the trademark process as we speak,” said Bruin Sports Capital CEO George Pyne. “It will be a stand-alone company that will focus primarily on the NFL for the foreseeable future.”

Pyne predicted that Game Pass would see significant growth through better technology with Deltatre and more intensive marketing through Two Circles.

“At Bruin, we’re only interested in things that you can really grow,” he said. “We see this as a real growth opportunity. We see this as an opportunity to further assist the NFL in helping to build this business for them. There’s a fair amount of ground to cover here.”

Waller called the expansion of NFL Game Pass as the next phase of growing the game in Europe. He pointed to the broadcast distribution of games in big markets like Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as the regular-season games played in London.

“This is a logical next step in our development. If you’ve built out awareness and you’ve got a number of fans now who want to go deeper, let’s give them that direct access to Game Pass as the next stage of our development.”

Bruin Sports Capital has an established relationship with the NFL, particularly through the league’s hospitality business, On Location Experiences.