Netflix Reportedly Bidding for F1 Live-Streaming Rights

Netflix’s aversion to live sports could be ending.

The world’s top subscription streaming platform is reportedly bidding for the live streaming rights to Formula One auto racing currently held by Disney/ESPN. NBCUniversal and Amazon Studios are also in the mix of potential new suitors for the popular race car circuit.

Netflix helped create a new fanbase for F1 through its docuseries “F1: Drive to Survive,” which is currently filming its fifth season with series creator Box to Box Films.

F1, which is owned by Liberty Media, is reportedly looking for $100 million — five times what Disney/ESPN currently pays per year to broadcast — for the 2023 rights. Disney is offering $70 million, according to BusinessInsider, which first reported the news.

Notably, Liberty Media has thus far retained the F1 streaming rights, which it has tried to market through standalone F1 TV Pro at $80 per year. This would suggest that Netflix would have to bid high to secure those rights. Just the kind of live sports bidding war co-CEO Ted Sarandos has said in the past Netflix has no interest in entering.

But the streamer finds itself losing subscribers and investors following a disappointing fiscal quarter. With “Drive to Survive,” a hit with streamers, Netflix may be looking to throw caution to the wind.

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Warner Bros. Discovery, BT Group Launching Live Sports Joint Venture in U.K., Ireland

U.K. telecom operator BT Group and Warner Bros. Discovery May 12 announced the formation of a joint venture to create a new sports streaming/broadcast platform for the U.K. and Ireland. The deal includes the transfer BT Sport’s business operations to Warner Bros. Discovery.

Combining the sports content of both BT Sport and WBD-owned Eurosport U.K., the JV will have one of the most extensive portfolios of sports rights, including UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, the Premier League, Premiership Rugby, UFC, the Olympic Games, tennis Grand Slams featuring the Australian Open and Roland-Garros, cycling Grand Tours, including the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, and the winter sports World Cup season.

BT Group ended 2021 with about 18 million subscribers, while French-based Eurosport has more than 190 million subs across Europe.

BT will receive £93 million ($101.5 million) from WBD and up to approximately £540 million ($660.7 million) by way of an earn-out from the JV, subject to certain conditions being met.

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WBD will be granted a “call option” over BT’s interest in the JV, exercisable at specified points in the first four years of the JV. The Transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approvals by the relevant regulatory bodies and is expected to complete by the end of 2022.

Current BT Sport subscribers who access content through BT directly, and the majority of BT’s pay-TV customers will get access to Discovery+, the non-fiction entertainment streaming service, which is home to Eurosport’s live and on-demand streaming in the U.K. and Ireland.

Both BT Sport and Eurosport U.K. will initially retain their separate brands and product propositions in the market before being brought together under a single brand in the future. BT Group and Warner Bros. Discovery will enter into distribution agreements with the JV under which they will distribute the combined sports content to new and existing customers on their respective platforms and apps.

“We’re excited to be joining forces to bring the best of BT Sport together with Eurosport U.K. to create a fantastic new sports offer alongside all the entertainment that discovery+ has to offer BT customers,” Marc Allera, CEO BT’s consumer division, said in a statement.

The deal constitutes a class 2 transaction for the purposes of the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority Listing Rules and, as such, BT Group shareholder approval is not required.

Lazard is acting as exclusive financial adviser to BT Group and CMS Cameron McKenna is acting as legal adviser to BT Group. DLA Piper is acting as legal adviser to Warner Bros. Discovery.

“[The JV together] with our growing portfolio of premium entertainment content promises to deliver consumers a richer and deeper content proposition, not only providing greater value from their subscriptions but bringing sport to a wider entertainment audience,” said Andrew Georgiou, managing director of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe.

Magnite: 68% of Connected-TV Viewers Engage With Commercials

The ongoing consumer migration toward televisions connected to the internet finds that 68% of CTV viewers use at least one live streaming video device, while also engaging with the commercials. Citing a proprietary study, “CTV Live Streaming: TV’s Next Big Moment,” Magnite Research found that a majority of survey respondents are gravitating toward living TV streaming.

The survey was fielded online within the United States from Dec. 23-30, 2021, among 1,500 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 who watch at least seven hours of television per week.

“We commissioned this study to better understand how people access and interact with this [streamed] content,” Sean Buckley, chief revenue officer at Magnite, said in a statement.

Buckley said the data suggests that engagement with live video content extends to the advertising that airs alongside it.

“With more audiences tuning into live-TV via streaming, it’s another indicator that advertisers should be actively exploring this channel,” he said.

While 22% of cable subscribers surveyed in the study said they plan to cancel their pay-TV service within the next six months, 44% said they would cancel if they could access live sports and events through streaming.

Magnite contends the feedback shows that greater awareness and education around live streaming content may spur more cable subscribers to adopt streaming services in place of or in addition to their existing cable service.

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Indeed, respondents who stream live sports showed higher levels of acceptance for advertising. Nearly half of live sports streamers (49%) agreed with the statement: “TV ads are an important part of my TV watching experience,” and 62% of live sports streamers said they had discovered new products as a result of watching ads on streaming services.

“CTV is a premium viewing experience with highly engaged audiences that can’t be reached via traditional linear and pay-TV,” added Diana Horowitz, SVP of advertising sales at FuboTV, a sports-themed online TV platform. “Historically live sports kept audiences tied to their cable subscriptions. That’s no longer the case with … marquee events and regional sports networks widely available on CTV platforms.”

Horowitz said 90% of FuboTV viewers watch live content, and 93% of sports content on the platform is viewed live. Other data contends that live sports streamers are likely to watch multiple ad-supported services with an average of 3.6 sports apps.

Sports fans prefer to watch live over watching on demand — 70% of live sports programming is watched in real time. About 67% sports streamers pay more attention to ads that match their lifestyle and interests.

Amazon Bullish on Live Sports Programming

Speaking on Amazon’s Feb. 3 fiscal call, CFO Brian Olsavsky said the Prime Video owner-operator’s foray into live sports would increase as the e-commerce behemoth looks for additional forms of content to make the Prime membership more valuable to consumers.

When Amazon last year inked an 11-year deal with the National Football League for exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football,” the company was just expanding its streaming reach for live sports.

The streamer has professional tennis deals in place for live and on-demand distribution rights to the ATP World Tour in U.K. and Republic of Ireland, as well as the availability of Tennis TV on Amazon Channels in the U.S.

Recently, Prime Video inked a deal with Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the team’s co-owned YES Network to locally stream select games.

The company disclosed it spent upwards of $13 billion on video and music content in 2021, up 18% from $11 billion in 2020. The tallies put Prime Video nearly on par with industry heavyweight Netflix, which spent about $15 billion on content.

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Some media reports Feb. 3 incorrectly suggested Amazon raised the annual Prime membership fee by $20 (17%) in part to pay for “high-quality digital content,” i.e., sports rights. Olsavsky was quick to correct an analyst that sports played no singular role in platform’s first subscription price hike in four years.

“I didn’t want to leave you with the impression that we raised prices because [of] football,” Olsavsky told the analyst. “I just use that [sports as well as international sports] as an example of the great new content that we’ve been investing in … to make the Prime membership more valuable.”

Indeed, the Manchester United vs Arsenal Premier League soccer match in December was the most watched Premier League contest ever on Prime Video, with an estimated viewership of 4 million, according to the CFO.

“We’ve been working on getting sports properties that will be beneficial and valuable,” Olsavsky said. “We’re still probably early on in that.”

The executive said Amazon’s success last year with the Premier League post-Christmas (Boxing Day) soccer matches would expand going forward.

“That is actually pretty interesting [concept], and we continue to be a valuable partner for each other,” Olsavsky said.

Streamers Up Their Live Sports Game

Amazon and Apple TV+ are reportedly increasing their professional sports leagues aspirations, with Apple in talks to live-stream select Major League Baseball games this year. While details remain scarce, the agreement would include a smattering of non-weekend games, allowing Apple to test the waters as it attempts to jumpstart subscriber interest beyond original TV series and movies.

With live professional sports slowly embracing distribution beyond proprietary walled platforms, U.S. streamers (with the exception of Netflix) are expanding their sports dreams. None have done so more dynamically than Amazon, which last year secured exclusive rights to “NFL Thursday Night” games over the next 12 years for $1 billion annually.

Prime Video is now in discussions with venerable NFL broadcast play caller Al Michaels to host the streamer’s revamped Thursday games for the 2022 season. The streamer most recently relied on the first-ever female broadcast team (Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer) and/or the Fox Sports simulcast duo of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Aikman reportedly is eyeing the Amazon gig.

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The streamer is also considering hiring former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch as a sideline reporter/analyst.

With sports a longtime staple of CBS, ABC, NBC, ESPN and TNT networks, streaming availability of football and basketball on the Paramount+, Peacock and HBO Max platforms is a natural extension. Peacock just announced it would live-stream all events, including opening and closing ceremonies, at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Paramount+ is also aggressively streaming European soccer.

“[Sports] is television’s most valuable property by far, attracting massive audiences, and major advertisers, and it will be fundamental to the growth of Paramount+,” George Cheeks, head of the CBS Entertainment Group, said in a presentation last year. “It drives more subscriptions than any other program and significant engagement too.”

Paramount+ is the exclusive U.S. streaming hub for European soccer, such as the UEFA league, including the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League matches.

WarnerMedia-owned Turner Sports’ recent seven-year deal with the National Hockey League for TNT and TBS, also means HBO Max will get its share of live-streams. The streamer heretofore has largely opted for sports-themed documentaries and series, “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

Turner Sports is sharing the hockey rights with The Walt Disney Co. and ESPN+ as the NHL’s national media rights partners in the United States.

“We love the reach of their linear networks, both TNT and TBS, and as we look to the future, we’re excited about the digital properties, in particular HBO Max and Bleacher Report,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “For us, this is a perfect fit.”

Tubi: Streamers Love Ad-Supported Live Sports

Viewers have consumed commercials for as long as there has been televised sports. In fact, most sports, especially football, run games in accordance with televised commercial breaks.

Not surprisingly, that trend among streamers hasn’t changed, according to new data from Tubi — the free ad-supported streaming TV platform owned and operated by Fox Entertainment.

The FAST platform found that sports content of all kinds, from live events to clips to classic games to documentaries to sports talk, drives the highest levels of interest and audience attention — especially for males ages 25-44.

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More than half of the U.S. adult population displays an active interest in four or more sports, and spend on average 5.4 hours per week consuming sports content, according to the July online survey of 2,000 respondents ages 18-54.

Additionally, sports streaming audiences are rapidly growing, with a large percentage of viewers interested in more than 13 types of sports, including football, baseball, and basketball, among others (1 in 4 adults 18+, 1 in 3 females ages 25-34 and 7 in 10 males ages 25-44).

More importantly, Tubi found that sports ranks as the fastest growing segment within the streaming video ecosystem — including a strong preference for ad-supported streaming for sports. More than half (56%) of respondents said they preferred watching streaming sports with commercial breaks integrated into the event, if they could stream the game for free.

Tubi recently launched “Sports on Tubi,” featuring 10 live streaming sports channels, including professional football, baseball, soccer and collegiate sports. Live and on-demand content includes currently available brands Fox Sports, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, Big Ten, NHRA, PBC boxing, PBA bowling, and Concacaf soccer, among others.

Roku: Pandemic, Cord-Cutting Driving Streaming Video Consumption

Increased streaming video access to live sports and new-release movies in the COVID era is accelerating over-the-top video consumption in consumer homes, according to new data from Roku.

Citing a survey of 2,852 respondents (ages 18 to 70) in the United States, who watch at least five hours of TV per week via traditional pay-TV (i.e. cable, satellite or telecom service) or a streaming service, Roku found that the ease-of-use, cost-savings, and content quality of TV streaming was shown to have extremely broad, intergenerational appeal among American consumers.

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Roku said 25% of respondents call themselves cord-cutters, and on average pay less than half monthly what traditional pay-TV subscribers do for video content: $49 vs. $121. But cutting the cord doesn’t mean watching less. On average, Roku found cord-cutters spend three more hours per week streaming video than traditional pay-TV viewers spend watching content: 22 hours compared with 19 hours.

Roku found that not just young people are using streaming services to stay in the loop on social media. Social currency is also a reason that baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) choose streaming: 54% chose TV streaming compared with 25% who said they would turn to traditional pay-TV.

And streaming services are continuing to expand their audiences overall. While TV streaming is nearly universal among younger generations — 98% of Gen Z (1990s to early 2010s) and 95% of millennials (1981 to 1996) — the majority of boomers are streaming too.

Among boomer respondents, 71% of whom stream, nearly 25% cut the cord in the past year — and are just as likely as younger generations to be cord cutters (25% vs. 23%). Another 51% added more streaming subscriptions; 90% said TV streaming devices are easy to use.

Not so long ago, the only way sports fans could watch live sports was on cable, or at a venue. Now 42% of respondents said they watch sports via TV streaming versus 62% who watch via traditional pay-TV.

“Amid a year of uncertainty, this survey puts data behind what we at Roku have believed since our founding in 2002: All TV will be streamed,” Anthony Wood, founder/CEO of Roku, said in a statement. “These results show that TV streaming has passed a tipping point. Even more exciting, it’s bringing more people together, starting new conversations, and giving viewers of every generation more of the content they love, while also making it more accessible. TV streaming is here to stay.”

Nielsen: Live Sports Boosted Broadcast, Cable Market Share in July

With the conclusion of the NBA playoffs, ongoing MLB season and the beginning of the delayed 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, live sports played a key role in jumpstarting broadcast and cable viewing in July, according to Nielsen.

While TV ratings for the Games dropped significantly (about 50%) from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, they still dominated the broadcast, cable competition this year with market share for both distribution channels inching up 1% from June.

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“We expect broadcast benefited somewhat from the Games,” Brian Fuhrer, SVP of product strategy at Nielsen, said in a statement.

At 28% share, streaming also benefited from the continued momentum of the growing stable of streaming services and a healthy influx of new content to the more established services.

“Behind the scenes, sports also impacted streaming’s share,” Fuhrer said. “This includes many of the Olympics highlights clips, which were posted on YouTube, where we saw some minutes increase.”

Fuhrer said the biggest change in streaming in July was the outsized presence of the Tokyo Games on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform. In addition, many of the daily highlight clips from the Games were streamed on YouTube, provided by NBC Sports.

“That certainly increased viewing minutes on that platform,” he said.

Disney, NFL and ESPN Reach Long-Term Agreement

The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and the National Football League have reached a long-term agreement that will result in ABC/ESPN joining the Super Bowl rotation, having additional playoff action, exclusive national ESPN+ matchups over the course of the agreement, and more regular-season contests including “Monday Night Football.”

The deal will also result in enhanced game quality and new schedule flexibility, according to a Disney press release.

The 10-year agreement begins with the 2023 season.

“This landmark agreement guarantees that ESPN’s passionate fan base will continue to have access to the best the NFL has to offer,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in a statement. “Bringing all the considerable and unique capabilities of The Walt Disney Company and ESPN to the table opens up so many opportunities across our industry-leading direct-to-consumer, broadcast, cable, linear, social and digital outlets. Special thanks to Roger Goodell and the NFL owners for continuing to embrace new ways to appeal to their fans, especially through increasingly important platforms like ESPN+.”

“When ESPN and the NFL work best together, the results are transformational for sports fans and the industry,” Jimmy Pitaro, chairman, ESPN and sports content, said in a statement. “Some of the most remarkable collaborative examples have occurred in the past 12 months and have demonstrated the extraordinary range of The Walt Disney Company that is fundamental to this agreement. There are so many exciting new components, including Super Bowls and added playoff games, new end-of-season games with playoff implications, exclusive streaming games on ESPN+, scheduling flexibility and enhancements, and much more. It’s a wide-ranging agreement unlike any we’ve reached with the NFL, and we couldn’t be more energized about what the future holds.”

“We are thrilled to extend and expand our partnership with Disney far into the future, as ESPN will continue to host cable’s most-watched series, ‘Monday Night Football,’ and ABC is returning as a Super Bowl broadcaster,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We look forward to working with Disney as they use new platforms, including ESPN+, in innovative ways to reach even more NFL fans.”

ABC/ESPN will carry two Super Bowls (2026, 2030 seasons) as part of a rotation between the NFL’s media partners, marking the first time that an ESPN-NFL agreement includes such Super Bowl rights, according to the press release. ABC last televised the Super Bowl in February 2006 (2005 NFL season). Also, ESPN will present more playoff action, adding an annual divisional round game to its schedule, which will continue to include a wild-card matchup.

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ESPN’s increased regular-season package will include one annual exclusive national game on ESPN+. The game will take place internationally and will be aired live in the Sunday morning Eastern time zone window. Additionally, this agreement allows ESPN the opportunity to simulcast all ESPN/ABC game telecasts on ESPN+.

Also included is rights for the return of ESPN+ highlights show “NFL PrimeTime” each week on the streaming platform.

ESPN will increase its regular-season schedule by 35% — six more games per year (from 17 to 23). It will include an ESPN game on Monday nights (including three weeks with a separate game on ABC), a Saturday doubleheader the season’s final week and the Sunday morning game on ESPN+.

The added two Saturday games will take place during the final week of the regular season and will showcase matchups with playoff implications. Both of those games will be simulcast on ABC and ESPN.

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The agreement includes new elements that will enhance the caliber of the “Monday Night Football” slate, according to the press release. First, the schedule will be more flexible than in years past with the ability for the NFL to swap “a more meaningful” game into the “Monday Night Football” slot with 12 days’ notice from Week 12 on, according to the press release. Additionally, top teams will appear more often, as a result of the agreement which provides ESPN the ability to showcase any four teams at least twice, “leading to even more compelling games,” according to Disney.

With comprehensive NFL highlights rights, ESPN will continue to offer and/or develop NFL-branded programming, pre- and post-game shows, news, analysis and highlights studio shows, storytelling vehicles, digital and social content and more. The deal also includes data rights (e.g. – NFL’s Next Gen stats), according to Disney.

In addition, ESPN has once again secured rights to the annual Pro Bowl. Other key elements include opportunities for alternate telecasts, extending and expanding ESPN’s international rights (including areas in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Oceania, India), ESPN Deportes and more.

ESPN has also obtained rights to NFL Drafts, an event that has been an ESPN fixture since 1980, as part of the agreement.

The 2021 season will be the last in ESPN’s current arrangement with the NFL. ESPN and the NFL have reached a bridge agreement for 2022 — the year between when the previous agreement expires and the new 10-year extension begins. For both the 2021 and 2022 seasons, all the foundational components from the agreement expiring in 2021 will be included (e.g. – weekly “Monday Night Football” games), in addition to select elements from the new 10-year agreement. For example, in 2021, ESPN will be adding the two Saturday games with playoff implications on the last weekend of the regular season. For the 2022 bridge year, ESPN will showcase the two Saturday games with playoff implications on the last weekend of the season, a Sunday morning ESPN+ game and one ABC “Monday Night Football” broadcast on a week there is also an ESPN Monday Night Football telecast.

Parks: 55% of Pay-TV Households Say Live Sports Key to Keeping Service

Live sports remains a key driver in pay-TV as subscribers’ love for football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey outweighs dropping the more-expensive home entertainment distribution channel with over-the-top video. New research from Parks Associates finds 55% of pay-TV households in the U.S. report availability of live sports is important in their decision to keep their pay-TV service.

Major pay-TV operators Comcast Cable, AT&T U-verse, DirecTV, Disneh Network and Fios Video lost more than 5.6 million combined video subscribers in 2020. Charter Spectrum added 19,000 pay-TV subs.

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“The churn rate for pay-TV services continues to trend significantly lower than the rate for OTT services,” Steve Nason, research director of Parks Associates, said in a statement. “This is fortunate given the lack of live sports in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past year, churn rates for OTT and [onlione TV] services both declined as consumers turn more and more to online video sources for their entertainment.”