Kantar: Football Driving 40% of SVOD Subscription Growth

With pay-TV continuing to lose subscribers, a growing percentage of them are switching to streaming video services offering access to live sports, driven in part by college and professional football.

Indeed, football drove 40% of third quarter (ended Sept. 30) subscription VOD subscriber growth, according to new data from Kantar. Prime Video saw 19% of new subs signing up to the platform for exclusive access “NFL Thursday Night Football,” while 15% of new Apple TV subs signed up for the streamer’s exclusive access to Major League Soccer.

Live sports access were the No. 1 and No. 3 reasons, respectively, new subs chose Prime Video and Apple TV.

London-based Kantar reports the addition of live sports to streaming is exacerbating the “cord-cutting” trend. Live sports, alongside the news, had been the cornerstone of the pay-TV bundle, however, with the increased migration to streaming, the necessity for legacy cable TV is decreasing.

Live sport continues to differentiate and drive overall growth in SVOD services, with one in five new subscribers attracted to sign up primarily by the opportunity to watch the sports they like, according to Kantar.

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“Beyond live action, subscribers are looking to watch more than one competition,” Andrew Skerratt, Global Insight Director at Kantar, said in a statement. “In Britain, for example, [soccer] is king, but rugby, cricket, tennis are also part of the equation when choosing between new subscriptions.”

In addition to live sports, sports documentaries and behind-the-scenes content regarding particular sports or athletes is a growing trend among streamers, including Netflix, which heretofore has refused to entertain pursuing live sports.

That mindset has shifted minutely after the streamer hosted its first-ever live-stream event: The Netflix Cup, a manufactured golf event featuring pairs of PGA Golf professionals and Formula 1 drivers ahead of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Netflix’s F1 documentary “Drive to Survive” has not only attracted fans of the European-based sport living in the United States, it also expanded the F1’s global viewership by millions, according to Skerratt.

In the United Kingdom, the “Beckham” series on Netflix reached beyond core sports fans. Only 38% of the show’s viewers said sports was one of their top viewing preference, according to Kantar. Regardless, it became the most viewed SVOD title across Britain last October. Notably, 10% of new Netflix U.K. subscribers signed up specifically to watch the series.

Peacock Using NBC Sports’ ‘Sunday Night Football’ Broadcast Team for Bills-Chargers NFL Game Exclusively Streaming Dec. 23

Peacock is set to boost its live-sports streaming in a major way.

NBCUniversal Nov. 16 announced that its NBC Sports’ “Sunday Night Football” announce team of Olympic Games host Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark will call the exclusive “Peacock Holiday” NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday, Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. EsT (5 p.m. PsT).

The game, which marks the first time the Peacock streaming service will be the exclusive home of an NFL game, will not be available on pay-TV. It is available on free, over-the-air television in local markets. It is also streaming on mobile devices with an NFL+ subscription.

NBC Sports “Sunday Night Football” has been  the No. 1 primetime TV show for 12 consecutive years.

Commercial establishments looking to show the Peacock-exclusive NFL regular season game and NFL Wild Card Game on Jan. 13 can acquire access through Peacock Sports Pass, which includes access to select events from Peacock’s live sports content library, including the Premier League, Big Ten football and basketball, among other sports.

The Peacock exclusive immediately follows the Holiday Special Saturday afternoon game featuring the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers at 4:30 p.m. EST (1:30 p.m. PST) on NBC and Peacock.

NBC Sports’ “B1G Saturday Night” team — Noah Eagle (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst) and Kathryn Tappen (sideline reporter) — will call Bengals-Steelers. Three-time Super Bowl referee Terry McAulay will serve as rules analyst for both games.

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With the two Saturday NFL Wild Card games and a Sunday primetime NFL Wild Card game (on NBC and Peacock), NBCUniversal will be the first media company to present three NFL playoff games in a single weekend.

Peacock’s live-sports programming featuring NBC Sports co-broadcasts also includes Big Ten football and basketball, Notre Dame Football, Olympics and Paralympics, Premier League, Nascar, and NTT IndyCar Series. Peacock also offers daily sports programming on the NBC Sports channel.

Nielsen: Live Sports Boosts September Broadcast, Pay-TV at Streaming Expense

The return of college football and the NFL helped revive broadcast and pay-TV in September, while undermining household TV streaming for the second consecutive month, according to new data from Nielsen.

Broadcast viewership increased for the second consecutive month, with viewing volume up by nearly 13% overall, and by more than 30% in both the 18-49 and 25-54 demographics. This sizable increase in volume led to an additional 2.5 share points for the category, to finish at 23% of total TV usage. The broadcast sports genre experienced massive growth (+360%) amid the start of NFL and college football seasons. By comparison, the sports genre saw a 222% increase in viewership over the same period in 2022.

Cable TV also felt a positive impact from sports viewership, exhibiting a 25.5% increase in the sports genre in September. ESPN carried the top 11 cable telecasts this month — 10 of the 11 were football-related, and the U.S. Open tennis tournament took ninth place. Overall, cable viewing in September fell slightly (-1.1%) from August, and the category lost 0.4 share points to represent 29.8% of TV usage.

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Streaming viewership declined (-1.7%), and the category lost more than half a share point to represent 37.5% of total TV usage in September. There were a few bright spots, however, including Prime Video, which saw the largest increase in viewership among streaming platforms (+7.5%) as a result of its exclusive rights to NFL “Thursday Night Football,” as well as the second season of “The Wheel of Time.” This month’s Thursday Night Football broadcast dates represented Prime Video’s highest viewing days in September, and the streamer reached a personal best 3.6% share of television.

In addition to Prime Video, Tubi and The Roku Channel were the other streaming platforms to exhibit growth in viewership vs. August (up 4.3% and 1.4%, respectively), but shares for each remained the same. Despite hosting September’s top three streaming titles, which accounted for a combined 18 billion viewing minutes (“Suits,” shared with Peacock, “Virgin River” and “One Piece”), Netflix viewership declined around 5%, losing 0.4 share points. Paramount+ and Peacock also declined in the 5% range, while Disney+ usage was much flatter by comparison (-1.6%), due in part to the 11.3 billion viewing minutes accumulated by “Bluey,” “Ahsoka,” Elemental and The Little Mermaid (2023).

Linear (live TV) streaming via MVPD (multichannel video programming distributors) and online pay-TV apps, including Sling TV, YouTube TV, Fubo, and Hulu + Live TV, represented 5.7% of total television usage in September, the highest total to date this year. Linear streaming is included in the appropriate broadcast or cable category, and is not included in the streaming category.

Vizio Offering Football Kickoff Collection on Home Screen

Vizio is offering a custom-curated Football Kickoff collection on TV home screens for the 2023 pro and college season.

The collection features home screen access to streaming apps for viewing live sports, with hundreds of hours of free programming.

Content such as movies, documentaries and interviews is available on Vizio’s free streaming service WatchFree+ via channels such as Pac 12, Sports Grid and more. Custom curated carousels include “Tailgate Ready,” featuring game-themed cooking shows, music videos, interviews, documentaries and football biopics.

For a limited time, the Vizio 65-inch Class V-Series 4K UHD LED Smart TV is available at Walmart for $398 and pairs with the Vizio V-Series All-in-One 2.1 Home Theater Sound Bar with DTS Virtual, also available at Walmart at $99, according to Vizio.

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‘Rudy’ Headed to 4K Ultra HD With New Director’s Cut Nov. 14

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the 1993 sports movie Rudy on 4K Ultra HD on Nov. 14 with a new director’s cut of the film as well as the original theatrical version.

The film, based on a true story, follows Rudy, who all his life has been told he’s not good enough, not smart enough, not big enough. But nothing can stop his impossible dream of playing football for Notre Dame. From the time he’s a young boy, Rudy (Sean Astin) is determined to join the Fighting Irish. But his blue collar family only laughs at his ambitions; they know Rudy will follow his father and brothers to the local steel mill. And, for four long years after high school, he does just that. But some dreams won’t die, as Rudy proves when he goes to heroic, occasionally hilarious, lengths to win admission to Notre Dame. Once there, he becomes a walk-on player, serving as little more than a human tackling dummy against the starting players. Bloodied but unbeaten, Rudy wins the respect of legendary coach Ara Parseghian and the other Irish players, who give him one shot at gridiron glory.

“I’m so pleased to share this new version of Rudy, now in its full and intended director’s cut presentation,” said director David Anspaugh in a statement. “It’s a different movie, but in a very good way. The 4K and Atmos upgrades also perfectly enhance the experience, making this the ideal gift for RUDY fans everywhere. Never give up.”

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The 4K Ultra HD disc features the new 127-minute director’s cut as well as the 114-minute theatrical cut. Both versions of the film are remastered in 4K resolution from the original camera negative and presented in 4K with Dolby Vision. Both versions also include new Dolby Atmos immersive audio mixes. The 4K picture and Atmos sound mix are approved by Anspaugh. The 4K disc also includes English 5.1 for both versions plus two-channel surround for the theatrical cut. Special features on the 4K disc include feature commentary with Anspaugh and screenwriter Angelo Pizzo (director’s cut only); five additional deleted scenes; and the theatrical trailer.

Special features on the included Blu-ray Disc include “Rudy: The Real Story” featurette; a production featurette; and “First Down with Sean Astin.”

Nielsen: September Streaming Video Use Reached Record Market Share — Thanks to Football

A record number of U.S. households streamed video in September, generating a leading 36.9% market share, compared with 33.8% market share for cable and 24.2% for broadcast — the latter seeing an uptick due to the return of college and NFL football, according to new data from Nielsen.

Despite a 222% increase in monthly sports viewing on broadcast channels, consumers continued to over-indulge on streaming video content, resulting in yet another monthly high-water mark. Users also expanded their choice of streaming service, with YouTube hitting a new platform-best streaming record, claiming 8% of TV viewing and equaling Netflix’s July record high. Hulu secured its own record of 3.7%, and Pluto TV capturing 1% of total TV, enabling it to be showcased outside of the “other streaming” category for the first time.

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HBO Max also gained 9.9% in volume thanks to the debut of “House of the Dragon” and renewed interest in catalog episodes of “Game of Thrones,” pushing its share of TV to 1.3%.

Meanwhile, increases in viewership did not affect total TV share for some streamers. Prime Video usage increased 3.9% in September on the strength of “The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” and “Thursday Night Football” games, but the platform’s share of total TV remained flat at 2.9%. Similarly, Disney+ saw a 2.4% increase in volume, yet its share of total TV stayed at 1.9%.

“The return of football was the true spark in September, as it provided new content across broadcast, cable and streaming,” Nielsen wrote in a post. “But even without sports, streaming—in all of its forms—continues to gain adoption, and it benefits from the emphasis that pure-play streamers and media companies alike are placing on it.”

Sling TV, Vizio Link on Football Season Giveaway

Sling TV and Vizio have announced a football experience giveaway.

Throughout the sweepstakes, 10 fans will receive a year-long subscription to Sling Blue + Orange, giving them access to matchups on NFL Network, ESPN and more. Plus, one grand prize winner will receive a year-long Sling subscription and a 75-inch V-Series  Vizio TV + M-Series Elevate Sound Bar.

The sweepstakes is open through Sept. 11, and the winner will be announced on Sept. 15  via Sling’s Instagram Story. To learn more and enter, follow Sling on  Instagram  and like the pinned sweepstakes post.

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NFL Set to Launch SVOD Service This Summer

The National Football League is reportedly preparing to launch a monthly subscription streaming service as early as July. Dubbed NFL Plus, the $4.99 monthly streaming service would be available on portable devices and offer the same live games currently broadcast on local TV networks.

The league previously streamed select games on laptops and other portable devices through agreements with third-party telecom carriers. Those agreements have since expired.

NFL owners discussed the platform at the ongoing summer meeting in Atlanta, according to Sports Business Journal.

The NFL currently airs games through multi-billion-dollar distribution deals with Fox, NBC, CBS and ESPN, in addition to an exclusive pact with Amazon Prime Video for NFL Thursday Night Football beginning this year.

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American Underdog

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 2/22/22;
Lionsgate;
Drama;
Box Office $26.31 million;
$29.96 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for some language and thematic elements.
Stars Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, Ser’Darius Blain, Dennis Quaid, Chance Kelly, Cindy Hogan, Adam Baldwin, Bruce McGill, Hayden Zaller.

This biopic about NFL hall of famer Kurt Warner makes a fortuitous arrival on Blu-ray and DVD, landing on shelves with a prominent cover image of Warner in his bright blue and yellow Rams uniform just as the current version of the Rams are celebrating winning the Super Bowl.

The film tells the story of how one man’s relentless belief in himself paid off. After not being drafted by any NFL team, Warner takes a job stocking shelves at the supermarket, though he continues to keep his dream of playing in the NFL alive. make ends meet, he takes a job stocking shelves at the supermarket.

In the meantime, the film also explores how Kurt (Zachary Levi) met his future wife Brenda (Anna Paquin). Falling instantly in love with her after seeing her dancing at a cowboy bar, he learns she’s a former marine and single mom whose divorce left her raising two small kids with the help of her parents. One of the kids, Zack (Hayden Zaller) is blind and developmentally disabled after the being accidentally dropped on his head as a baby.

The story is so schmaltzy, complete with the precocious little kid, that if it hadn’t actually happened it would seem like a string of sports movie tropes.

But because it’s based on a true story, American Underdog is an effective, heart-driven look at how Kurt Warner emerged from seemingly nowhere to become the NFL MVP and lead the Rams to a Super Bowl title. After playing in the Arena League, Warner attracts the attention of the Rams and gets a boost from their head coach, Dick Vermeil (Dennis Quaid). The rest is history

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The American Underdog Blu-ray is absolutely stacked with bonus materials, offering an hour and a half of behind-the-scenes featurettes, 11 deleted scenes totaling nearly 18 minutes of excised footage, and an informative commentary track from directors Andrew and Jon Erwin with producer Kevin Downes.

Some of the real people depicted in the film, such as Kurt, Brenda and Vermeil, are heavily involved in the featurettes. Kurt, who executive produced the movie alongside Brenda, gets interviewed about the film in the 15-minute “Meet the Champion” featurette that also includes discussions with Vermeil and the filmmakers.

Other featurettes focus on the film’s faith-based message, the discovery of child actor Zaller, and things like the editing of the film and re-creating some of Warner’s football game, at times inter-splicing between new footage and archive tape from the games.

The most intriguing extra is a half-hour sit-down discussion with Vermeil, who is interviewed by “Saturday Night Live” actress Heidi Gardner, who explains she’s a huge Chiefs fan and is appreciative of Vermeil’s time coaching the Kansas City NFL club.

The deleted scenes provide a lot of great character moments that give more insight to what everyone in the film is going through in their lives.

Docs ‘Bowden Dynasty’ and ‘The Mustangs’ Available on VOD and Digital Purchase in November From Virgil

The documentaries The Bowden Dynasty: A Story of Faith, Family & Football and The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses will be released on VOD and digital sellthrough in November by Virgil Films.

The Bowden Dynasty: A Story of Faith, Family & Football is due on VOD and digital sellthrough Nov. 9. It chronicles the career of college football coach Bobby Bowden, who fought against all odds to forge one of the greatest achievements in sports history: 14 consecutive top-four seasons. Legendary for his unyielding faith, Bowden inspired untold acts of grace and courage that changed the lives of those around him. Beginning with a come-from-behind victory in the 1988 Fiesta Bowl, Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles began a flirtation with perfection. In seven of those years they lost just one game.  More often than not, the Seminoles’ quest for a perfect season came down to one play where mere inches or seconds determined the outcome.

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Bowden passed away this past August at his Killearn Estates home surrounded by his loving family. He was 91 years old. For all the accolades bestowed upon Coach Bowden and his teams for their on-field achievements, the insider stories of the coach and his enormous impact on those around him have never been told like this. Featuring such luminaries as Bart Starr, Deion Sanders, Charlie Ward, Kenny Chesney, Burt Reynolds, Lou Holtz, Jimmy Johnson, Jim Kelly and Nick Saban, The Bowden Dynasty: A Story of Faith, Family, & Football extends beyond football, to explore universal themes of faith, stewardship, humility and redemption.

The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses is being released on VOD and digital sellthrough Nov. 23. The feature documentary is executive produced by Robert Redford, Patti Scialfa Springsteen and Jessica Springsteen, and takes audiences on an odyssey throughout America to places few people have seen or even know about. There are more than 80,000 wild horses on federal lands and more than 50,000 in government.

“The wild horse is so ingrained in the American imagination that even those who have never seen one know what it stands for: fierce independence, unbridled freedom, the bedrock ideals of the nation,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Philipps said. “From car ads to high school mascots, the wild horse — popularly known as the mustang — is the enduring icon of America. But in modern times it has become entangled in controversy and bureaucracy, and now its future is in question.”

The movie makes the case for the protection of wild horses and public lands.