01/11/21: The Pac-12 breaks down its plans as rights expire

 

Medias First Morning Read

 

Monday January 11, 2021

As the world awaits a champion tonight when Ohio State and Alabama square off in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T, Pac-12 officials are looking down the road as the conference’s media rights deals prepare to expire. A rapidly changing media landscape, a sports world in flux amid the pandemic, and an overhaul of how universities and its athletes do business all collide as the conference mulls its future and its media strategies and partners.

Cynopsis asked Pac-12 Networks President Mark Shuken about the landscape, its plans and what we can expect in the years ahead.

Shuken on trends in sports: Live sports continue to prove to be one of the few sure bets in driving audience and engagement. Combine that with the serious threats facing the traditional bundle and business model, and the entry of technology companies into the space, and I think premier sports properties will continue to see strong growth in rights values in the coming years.
Beyond rights values, it’s clear that younger fans are less interested in watching full live sports broadcasts, and are often viewing live sports on TV as they use their phone and tablet alongside. So mobile will continue to grow in importance and untapping opportunities through content tailored to mobile and social platforms will be more critical than ever.

On expectations in the market for 2024: With the rapid change taking place in consumption habits and related effects to the media rights marketplace, it has never been more important to own and control your rights, and to maintain the flexibility and optionality to distribute and commercialize content across multiple platforms. That has been the core of our Pac-12 media rights strategy, and that’s why we remain bullish that when we go back out to market in 2024 with all of our content, we will be able to maximize the value of our rights and distribute our content in ways that our fans across the US and globally want to consume it. We expect to see a very significant rise in rights values given the premium nature of our content, and we expect to be able to find the best channels to make our content as accessible and relevant to all audiences and demographic groups.

On changes to Pac-12 Networks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic: While the pandemic has forced all businesses to heighten the focus on achieving efficiencies and finding cost savings, it has also spurred a more rapid adaptation of new technologies and innovation. At the Pac-12 Networks, over the past months we have increased our use of new technologies associated with remote production, and launched our new Free Ad Supported Streaming Channel, which is already available on six platforms, including Samsung TV+, the Roku Channel, Redbox Free Live TV, Pluto TV, Xumo, and Vizio Smartcast. The pandemic has also led us to increase our focus on working with our member universities to leverage the incredible content that they are creating and to amplify distribution and reach through our owned and controlled Pac-12 channels along with distribution partners.

On the sponsorship market in 2021: Our experience at the Pac-12 is that demand from sponsors to associate with premier sports properties continues to grow, as since March of 2020 we have signed several new, significant sponsorship agreements and renewed many more, despite the pandemic, which is a remarkable achievement by our team, and a testament to the fact that these rights continue to offer the highest value to support brand and product marketing. And lately, without fans in attendance, we and our partners have been more flexible and innovative in finding ways to maximize value in this environment. Social and digital content activations, along with concepts that allow brands to engage with fans in a remote environment, are at the heart of many of these innovations.
In our experience, most brands are taking a long-term view on partnerships, so if a rights holder can demonstrate the brand connection and value, able to adapt to the current environment and go above and beyond to deliver a strong ROI, brands are ready to continue and in many cases even expand partnerships.

On the impact does student-athletes finding their voice: The voice of athletes, including student-athletes, has never been stronger or more impactful, both within and beyond the confines of the fields and courts. We are in the business of storytelling, and our athletes have incredible stories to tell both in terms of their athletic prowess, but also their passions, opinions and activities outside of athletics. So I think this moment is an incredible one to tell those stories, to support our student-athletes and to give them additional platforms to have their voices be heard. And we are dedicating and prioritizing our resources to do so, and adapting our content and distribution strategies to do so, whether it’s through new linear programming and more often than not through our social and digital channels.

PROGRAMMING

Meanwhile, ESPN offers daylong coverage of the College Football Playoff National Championship across SportsCenter, Get Up and First Take from South Florida. Afternoon programming includes College Football Live at 1:30p and Championship Drive at 3p while a special edition of College GameDay Built by The Home Depot will begin at 6p, followed by the Guaranteed Rate College Football Pregame Show at 7:30p.

Saturday saw FOX Sports take the top spot among televised programs for its coverage of the Rams/Seahawks in the NFL Wild Card weekend. The NFC playoff matchup pulled a 15.4/33, according to Nielsen, with Seattle the top market at a 39.5/74, while LA came in with a 15.5/39.

The NBA G League announced that 18 teams, including 17 NBA G League teams and G League Ignite, will hit the court in February at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. The top eight teams will then advance to a single-elimination playoff. “We worked closely with our teams, the Basketball Players Union, and public health experts to develop a structure that allows our teams to gather at a single site and safely play,” said NBA G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim. “We are thrilled to get back to basketball and to fulfill our mission as a critical resource for the NBA in developing players, coaches, referees, athletic trainers and front-office staff.” Players, coaches, team and league staff living on the NBA G League’s campus at Walt Disney World Resort will be guided by comprehensive leaguewide health and safety protocols, which are based on the core principles of social distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene and COVID-19 testing.

In Canada, Sportsnet announced plans to offer more than 300 NHL broadcasts in a condensed 17-week schedule across its TV and streaming platforms this season. In addition, 140 all-Canadian matchups will be available across the Sportsnet Radio Network. The action begins Jan. 13, carrying all 56 Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers matchups, plus 38 Toronto Maple Leafs, 22 Montreal Canadiens, 16 Ottawa Senators and 14 Winnipeg Jets games.

The National Women’s Soccer League revealed broadcast talent for the 2021 NWSL Draft which will stream live exclusively on the NWSL’s Twitch channel starting Jan. 13 at 7p. Host Marisa Pilla, analyst Lori Lindsey, analyst Jen Cooper and reporter Jordan Angeli will call the draft live from VISTA Worldlink in Dania Beach, FL. They will also be joined live virtually by the draft picks, NWSL team executives and special guests.

For the first time since 2016, MLB Network’s annual Top 10 Right Now! series will air on weeknights, beginning tonight with relief pitchers at 7p. Brian Kenny hosts alongside MLB Network analysts, each Top 10 Right Now! ranking considers player performance over the last few seasons, offensive and defensive metrics, both advanced Statcast data and traditional numbers, and expert analysis by the MLB Network research team. For the first time ever, Bob Costas will contribute to the series as Costas and Kenny will debate their top 10 players at each position since MLB’s divisional era began in 1969.

Save the Date!
Our Best of the Best Awards are coming up…

Join us on Thursday, February 25 for our virtual celebration of the industry’s Best of the Best.

Finalists will be announced later next week!

SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

The NCAA is poised to delay a vote on legislation that would allow college athletes to be compensated for use of the name, image and likeness. According to ESPN, NCAA President Mark Emmert wrote to Justice Department stating, “The NCAA and its member schools are committed to ensuring that NCAA rules comply with all applicable laws, including federal antitrust law. We believe, as courts have regularly held, that our current amateurism and other rules are indeed fully compliant. Whenever we consider revisions to the rules, however, we of course receive input from many interested parties, and we welcome your invitation to consult with the Department so that we can hear and fully understand its views as well.” The move comes after the Justice Department’s antitrust division leader delivered concerns about the association’s direction on the rules.

The NFL will reportedly will allow CBS, NBC and Fox to sell an additional two minutes of commercials during the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl, according to Ad Age. The extra ad inventory will be for all the playoff games.

The Aston Martin Formula One team locked in IT brand Cognizant as title sponsor. The team will now be officially known as the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team. “The return of Aston Martin to Formula 1 after more than 60 years away is a landmark moment in the history of the sport,” said Aston Martin chairman Lawrence Strol. “Everyone knows what Aston Martin stands for, but the Formula 1 team will allow us to take the essence of the brand to new places, building on the strong foundations laid by the previous iterations of the team. I’m hugely proud that we can start this new chapter with the support of Cognizant.”

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

The NBA and SiriusXM expanded their agreement to add additional streaming rights starting with the current NBA season. The multi-year agreement hands SiriusXM subscribers with the SiriusXM Premier Streaming Package access to live audio broadcasts for every NBA game.

The Drone Racing League locked in a deal with DraftKings as an Official Sports Betting Partner of DRL. Upon completion of this deal, DRL drone races became the first aerial sporting event upon which fans can wager. Mobile sports betting on DRL drone races is currently legal in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee and West Virginia with regulatory approvals pending in additional states. “The sky is now the limit for DRL fans to get skin in the game, and we’re thrilled to partner with DraftKings to transform our high-speed race competition into the ultimate sport to bet on,” said DRL President Rachel Jacobson. “The opportunity for us to elevate our engagement through all forms of gaming and gambling will only increase as mobile betting becomes more adopted across the country.”

Iowa’s online and retail sportsbooks report over $100 million in bets in December 2020 alone to drive overall betting near $600 million in handle for the year. According to official data released Friday, December brought a record $104.8 million in sports wagers, making Iowa the eighth state to surpass $100 million in wagers in a single month.

Simplebet announced the first-ever in-play, fully automated real money Micro-Market betting offering in the U.S., which will be made available in Washington, D.C. via its partnership with INTRALOT Inc.. “We’re excited to launch our real money betting product in Washington, D.C. and showcase the power of what we do at Simplebet alongside our great partner, INTRALOT,” said Chris Bevilacqua, Co-Founder and CEO of Simplebet. “D.C. legalized sports betting nearly two years ago and has become an energetic melting pot for sports fans and casual sports betters so we are looking forward to rolling out our Micro-Market solution which we know will deliver an unmatched product and experience.”

ESPORTS

NBA 2K League’s Brendan Donohue was promoted to president of the organization. He previously served as Managing Director of the league, assuming the role in April 2017. Season four will tip off later this year.

Riot Games confirmed that the League of Legends World Championship will return to China in 2021, with Shenzhen hosting the Grand Final, following a prospective multi-city tour across the country for the tournament. Last year saw the publisher also host the event in China, taking place in Shanghai, but attendance was limited due to restrictions from the pandemic.

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

Former ESPN personality Dan Le Batard is reportedly partnering with for ESPN head John Skipper for a new content venture. Deadline reports that Skipper is expected to remain with DAZN, which he joined in 2018.

STATE OF THE MEDIA INDUSTRY 2020-2021 SURVEY
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On this Day
1967: The NBA grants San Diego a franchise, which would become known as the Rockets.

IN THE KNOW
In bowling, which pin is known as the head pin? (Email cpursell@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
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