Hulu Adding Access to ESPN+, Exclusive 20th Century Movies, 5th Season of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ SEC College Football; Hulu With Live TV Tops 4 Million Subs

SVOD pioneer Hulu will offer its 38.8 million subscriber access to the ESPN+ sports streaming service in 2021. Hulu’s online TV platform, Hulu With Live TV, now tops 4 million subscribers, making it the top online TV platform and fifth-largest pay-TV operator in the U.S.

“Users can sign up or enjoy existing ESPN+ subscriptions without ever having to leave the Hulu app,” Hulu president Kelly Campbell said on Disney’s Investor Day Dec. 10. Campbell said the SVOD platform in 2021 would bow original movies from 20th Century Studios and Searchlight. The platform also greenlighted a fifth season of original hit series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

ESPN+, which had 11.5 million subscribers as of Dec. 2, will begin streaming select Southeastern Conference college football games in 2021. ABC TV (and ESPN+) will become the exclusive SEC broadcasters in 2024 for 10 years, including the SEC Championship. The SEC, which is currently broadcast on CBS and ESPN, includes perennial national champion contender University of Alabama, in addition to the University of Georgia, University of Florida and Louisiana State University, among other schools.

“This is a significant day for the Southeastern Conference and for the future of our member institutions. Our agreement with ESPN will greatly enhance our ability to support our student-athletes in the years ahead and to further enrich the game day experience for SEC fans around the world,” Greg Sankey, SEC Commissioner, said in a statement. “One of our primary goals was to improve the television scheduling process in ways that will benefit our students, coaches, alumni and fans. By working in collaboration with ESPN, we were able to secure an agreement that includes more lead time for many game time announcements, and in many ways modernizes the college football scheduling process.”

University of Iowa Football Players Ask Fans to Respect Peaceful Protest or Don’t Support the Team

In a first for a major college football team, members of the University of Iowa football team have gone on social media asking fans to support their right to engage in peaceful social justice protest, i.e. kneeling during the national anthem, or don’t bother supporting the Hawkeyes.

Sophomore defensive back Kaevon Merriweather June 8 posted an extended message on Twitter telling Hawkeye fans that belief in social justice extends beyond wishful thinking.

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“If you can not support us right now with this movement and with our team taking a knee during the national anthem, DO NOT support us during the football season,” Merriweather tweeted. “DO NOT watch our games on TV. DO NOT come up to us when you want photos. DO NOT ask us to give your kids autographs. DON’T COME TO US EXPECTING US TO DO FOR YOU WHEN YOU CAN’T SUPPORT THE BLACK ATHLETES ON THIS TEAM AND THE DECISIONS WE MAKE AS A TEAM. I would rather play in front of 1,000 fans who care about us as people outside of football and what we are standing for, than 70,000 fans who only care about us when we are in uniform and on the field entertaining them.”

The message, which was posted by several Hawkeye players on Instagram, follows allegations of a racist culture at the school for black players, in addition to racist comments made by suspended strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

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African-Americans make up 4% of Iowa’s total population of 3.17 million, while comprising more than 50% of the football team.

The Hawkeyes compete in the Western division of the Big Ten Conference and play their home games in Iowa City at Kinnick Stadium, with a capacity of 69,250. The Hawkeyes are currently coached by Kirk Ferentz, who is in his 21st season as the head coach and is the longest current tenured head coach in NCAA Division I FBS.

Cal Cruises Past Illinois in Redbox Bowl

The California Golden Bears scored in each quarter to beat the Illinois Fighting Illini, 35-20, at the second-annual Redbox Bowl Dec. 30 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

The matchup between schools from the Pac-12 and Big Ten college football conferences saw Cal quarterback Chase Garbers and running back Christopher Brown lead the Golden Bears to their first bowl win since 2015. Cal finished the season 8-5. Illinois (6-7) hasn’t won a bowl game since 2011 when it last finished with a winning season.

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The schools split a $3.6 million payout from the Fox Sports telecast.

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Redbox Bowl Pits California vs. Illinois on Dec. 30

The second annual Redbox Bowl will take place Dec. 30 featuring the California Golden Bears vs. the Illinois Fighting Illini at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Redbox took over the former Foster Farms Bowl as title sponsor in 2018 featuring schools from the Pac-12 and Big Ten.

The annual college football bowl game was first played in 2002 as the San Francisco Bowl featuring the Air Force Falcons against Virginia Tech from the Big East Conference.

Attendees last year (30,212) received a free one-night movie rental. The game was broadcast on Fox Sports paying out $3.6 million to Michigan State and Oregon. A similar payout is slated this year.

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“Redbox’s mission is to deliver quality home entertainment to everyone,” CEO Galen Smith said last year. “And it’s through shared experiences like football games and movie nights that we come together with friends and family for meaningful occasions.”

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Ash Eldifrawi, chief marketing and customer experience officer at Redbox, said most football fans live about 5-minutes from a Redbox kiosk and Redbox On Demand is available instantly, everywhere in the U.S.

“A post-game movie night is always within reach for football fans everywhere,” he said.

Fan Interactive Software Coming to College Football’s Liberty Bowl

The college football bowl slate may be too big (i.e. boring) and is still months away but the AutoZone Liberty Bowl — the seventh-oldest college bowl — is taking steps to increase viewer interest.

Technology platform Your Call Inc. Sept. 11 announced that the 61st annual Liberty Bowl will deploy its predictive play-calling technology during the New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) game.

Through a free app available via iTunes and Google Play, users can predict the plays that will be run, as well as the yardage gained or lost on each play.

They can also leverage patented the app’s gaming and scoring features by setting up head-to-heads and leagues to compete against each other. And based on participation, users will be automatically entered into a sweepstakes to win cash prizes.

“Our engagement platform has proven that fans want to be part of the action with their favorite sport and teams, and we’re thrilled to partner with the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to offer their viewers an engaging new experience,” Julie Meringer, president of Your Call, said in a statement.

Meringer said the app has expanded live play-calling abilities to offer a live, predictive play-calling game.

“Every fan thinks they’re an expert on what a team and coach should do, and our technology lets fans test their skills, compete with friends and rack up points in real-time,” she said.

Your Call’s software was first deployed in 2018 through a series of eight games (“Your Call Football”) during which fans were able to call the plays that ultimately were run on the field in real, live football games.

The software featured a custom, interactive app, zero-latency stream; and competitive prizes at various intervals that allowed fans to become immersed in each game.

“We’re impressed with the innovative technology that Your Call is building, and we’re excited that the AutoZone Liberty Bowl is providing fans an opportunity to engage in the game in a deeper way,” said Steve Ehrhart, executive director of the Liberty Bowl.

U.S. Pay-TV Ace Card: Live Sports

With the exception of Amazon Prime Video, subscription streaming video services in the United States — notably Netflix — have shied away from live sports programming.

That reality has been a lifesaver of sorts for traditional pay-TV, which just bowed myriad NFL and college football programming packages for the 2019 season.

New data from Altman Vilandrie & Co., a industry consultant, found that 90% of 5,000 pay-TV survey respondents watch live sports.

Indeed, the survey found that sports — specifically the National Football League — is must-have programming for pay-TV.

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Ninety percent of the sports fans who watch sports regularly are subscribing to traditional or virtual MVPDs (Internet-based TV like YouTube TV or Hulu Live). In contrast, only 67% of sports non-viewers are subscribing to Pay TV.

Of the four major pro sports, the NFL was the number one sport for viewers who wanted to watch their favorite team (88% of NFL fans) and for fantasy implications.

In contrast, the NBA had the fewest respondents who watch because of a favorite team (76%), but the highest respondents that watch because of a favorite player(s) (54%).

This confirms the player-driven focus of the NBA and the impact high profile players have on the sport.

“There’s no question that the NFL dominates the current survey but the breadth and diversity of sports interest among younger viewers predicts a shift in the American sports TV landscape,” Matt Del Percio, principal at Altman Vilandrie & Co., said in a statement. “Sports fans now have many more viewing choices than ever and pay-TV providers must find ways to reach new fan bases while retaining fans for traditional sports who subscribe at very high rates.”

Early ‘Madden 20’ Football Release Helps Jumpstart July Video Game Sales

The early release of Electronic Arts Sports’ annual NFL video game, Madden 20, helped boost July video game sales from the previous-year period, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Total sales topped $762 million from $759 million last year. Software sales skyrocketed 34% to $340 million from $253.7 million — largely due to football.

Hardware sales continue to suffer as consumers await pending new edition consoles from Sony and Microsoft. Console revenue fell 22% to $169 million from $216.6 million. Accessories fell 12% to $254 million from $288.6 million.

Through July, game revenue is down 4% at $6.4 billion from $6.6 billion last year.

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The annual football video game featuring former NFL coach John Madden was released in July instead of August in part to its inclusion of select college teams.

NCAA-sanctioned games have been shelved in recent years following litigation from some players regarding lack of compensation for their likeness or name featured in games and marketing.

The NCAA reached a $20 million settlement in 2014 with plaintiffs, who included lead plaintiff and former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. It was also the last licensed year for college-themed sports video with NCAA 14.

Madden 20 features a new segment, “Face of the Franchise: QB1,” showcasing elite quarterbacks beginning with their collegiate careers.

EA reached license agreements with 10 colleges: Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Miami, LSU, Oregon, University of Southern California, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

Oregon Beats Michigan State in Low-Scoring Redbox Bowl

The Oregon Ducks Dec. 31 held off the Michigan State Spartans, 7-6, in the inaugural Redbox Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Oregon finished the season 9-4, while the Spartans finished 7-6.

The match-up featuring schools from the Pac-12 and Big Ten was marked by sloppy play, a faked Oregon punt that ended up as a sack, and a botched Spartans field-goal attempt, among other miscues.

The good news for Redbox was that the 17th edition of the former Foster Farms Bowl game featured the highest game attendance since 2011, with more than 30,000 tickets sold. Fans attending the game were given a special promo code for a free one-night movie rental.

The game was televised on the Fox broadcast network with a Spanish-language simulcast on Fox Deportes.



College Football ‘Redbox Bowl’ Coming Dec. 31

Levi’s Stadium, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based home to the San Francisco 49ers, Sept. 27 announced a multiyear partnership with Redbox to have the kiosk vendor serve as the title sponsor of the annual Bay Area college football bowl game.

The Redbox Bowl will feature teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences, with the 17th installment of the game kicking off at noon PT on Dec. 31st. The game will be televised live nationally on Fox Sports, with a Spanish-language simulcast on Fox Deportes.

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Since its inception in 2002, the bowl has been an annual fixture on the Bay Area’s college football landscape. Prior to being named the Redbox Bowl, it was known as the Foster Farms Bowl (2014-2017).

“Redbox’s mission is to deliver quality home entertainment to everyone,” Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox, said in a statement. “And it’s through shared experiences like football games and movie nights that we come together with friends and family for meaningful occasions.”

Fans attending the Redbox Bowl can take home post-game entertainment when they follow in-stadium instructions for a Redbox promo code for a free one-night movie rental.

“A post-game movie night is always within reach for football fans everywhere,” said Ash Eldifrawi, chief marketing and customer experience officer at Redbox. “Most football fans live about 5-minutes from a Redbox kiosk and Redbox On Demand is available instantly, everywhere in the U.S.”

The game will continue to match teams from the Big Ten and the Pac 12 (outside of the College Football Playoff group). As in previous years, a day of community service by the players and coaches of the participating teams will be a featured component of their visit to the Bay Area. Historically the teams will serve meals to those in need at GLIDE and St. Anthony’s in San Francisco.

“We are in the midst of an incredibly exciting year for college football in the Bay Area and the addition of an innovative brand like Redbox as the game’s new title partner greatly adds to that excitement,” said Ryan Oppelt, executive director of the Redbox Bowl.