NFL Wildcard Weekend Broke Broadcast/Streaming Molds

The NFL’s just-concluded busy wildcard playoff weekend saw 12 teams reduced to eight advancing to the divisional round, beginning Jan. 16. Notably, for the first time playoff games were live-streamed (ESPN+, Peacock) and broadcast on a children’s network (Nickelodeon), in addition to the usual TV networks.

During the New Orleans Saints’ win over the Chicago Bears, Nickelodeon viewers got see trademark green slime sprayed virtually into the end zone and across the screen after Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas scored a touchdown. The game drew Nickelodeon’s largest audience in four years with 2 million viewers.

While the simulcast with CBS Sports underscored ViacomCBS’s desire to involve its brands (Nickelodeon) across new markets, for the NFL, the game represented an opportunity to reach a new demo early.

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“Our entire model is based on reach,” Hans Schroeder, EVP and COO of NFL Media, said in an interview Sunday night. “The positive responses have been overwhelming [for the Nickelodeon game], but what we did with CBS was a continuation of what we did across Sunday.”

On Disney-owned ESPN+, streamers saw analytics on steroids with an individual play’s likelihood of succeeding put on display. Indeed, an interception thrown by Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson only had only a 28% chance of being caught by the receiver initially.

Amazon Prime Video and sister company Twitch were the first streaming platforms to offer live NFL coverage through “Thursday Night Football,” featuring the sport’s first female broadcast team.

“When you have as broad appeal as we’re fortunate to have, we want to make sure we’re putting out a broad set of experiences on as many screens as we can, and increase the way our fans engage and enjoy the games,” Schroeder said.

Indeed, ESPN will feature tonight NCAA College Football National Championship Game between The Ohio State Buckeyes and University of Alabama Crimson Tide across 14 separate broadcasts, including streaming.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock Live Streaming Browns-Steelers NFL Wild Card Game

NBCUniversal’s upstart SVOD service Peacock is making good on its pledge to offer major live sports. In a first, the streamer Jan. 6 announced it would offer subscribers access to NBC Sports’ coverage of the NFL Wild Card playoff game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports is broadcasting the game on NBC and Telemundo.

This will be the first time NFL live game coverage will stream on Peacock.

In addition, former ESPN host Michael Smith and regional NBC Sports host Michael Holley, co-anchors of the Peacock show, “Brother From Another,” will lead Peacock’s first-ever post-game show on Sunday night immediately following NBC’s post-game show coverage. Smith and Holley will provide Browns-Steelers game analysis and perspectives to recap the full weekend slate of six NFL Wild Card playoff games. Coverage will begin streaming following the conclusion of Browns-Steelers at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET.

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To date, only Amazon Prime Video has dabbled with live-streaming professional sports, including “NFL Thursday Night Football” and select Premier League soccer matches. Netflix has heretofore refused to consider the live sports market, citing reluctance to get into cost-prohibitive license rights bidding.

 

Gracenote Launches Statistics and Related Content Feature for Live Sports

Nielsen’s Gracenote is launching a new live sports solution designed to help smart-TV and auto manufacturers display game statistics and other related content in real-time.

Leveraging Gracenote Global Sports Data, CE manufacturers and automakers can integrate real-time team statistics, recent game results and live updates into TV and video home screens and auto infotainment systems.

By accessing Gracenote Sports Data through plug and play widgets, a smart-TV maker can present previews of upcoming games featuring a viewer’s favorite teams followed by dynamic updates during game play. Notifications can be created to offer ways to navigate directly to the game broadcast or stream on a consumer’s preferred service at home. Or a connected car manufacturer can deliver game scores and league standings to infotainment screens in real-time.

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“Live sports are an increasingly important differentiator for entertainment platforms seeking to increase user engagement,” Simon Adams, Gracenote chief product officer, said in a statement. “For years, Gracenote has powered sports viewing experiences for the largest TV providers in the world. With Gracenote Global Sports Widgets, CE companies and automakers can easily launch new sports experiences which maximize audience engagement and drive consumption while minimizing development costs and engineering resources.”

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At launch, the Gracenote Sports Widgets will cover major North American sports leagues including the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL; international football leagues such as the English Premier League; Germany’s Bundesliga; Ligue 1 in France; Serie A in Italy; Spain’s La Liga; Brasileirão Assaí in Brazil; Mexico’s Liga BBVA MX; as well as Korean baseball league KBO. Languages offered include English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. Additional coverage of global sports leagues will be made available throughout the year.

Gracenote is the content services arm of Nielsen Media.

T-Mobile Launches TVision Live Streaming Service

T-Mobile is targeting cord-cutters with TVision, a new live streaming service starting at $10 a month and launching Nov. 1.

“With TVision, you can cut the cord, cut the cost and cut the crap,” said Dow Draper, T-Mobile EVP of emerging products, who announced the move in a webcast.

TVision Live includes live news, sports, 100 hours of cloud DVR and more than 10,000 programs on-demand starting at $40 a month. It includes ABC, Fox, NBC, Turner, ESPN and more.

TVision Live TV+ includes all of the above, plus 10-plus more channels, including the NFL Network, ESPNU, SEC Network and The Golf Channel, at $50 a month.

TVision Live Zone, for sports fans at $60 a month, includes all of the above, plus 10 additional channels, including NFL Red Zone.

TVision Vibe, at $10 a month, includes live and on-demand programming from AMC, BET, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, MTV, TLC and more (30-plus channels).

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TVision Channels features a-la-carte streaming services with one bill, one login and one place to manage it in the T-Mobile app or online, starting with Starz, Showtime and Epix.

For full channel lineups, visit T-Mobile.com/TVision.

Starting Nov. 1, customers who sign up for TVision Live TV+ or Live Zone packages by Dec. 31 will get Apple TV+ for free for a year, plus the option to add Apple TV 4K for $99.

TVision streaming services and the TVision Hub will be available nationwide for T-Mobile postpaid customers. Later in November, TVision services will be available to legacy Sprint customers and next year to prepaid customers.

The streaming services are available via Android and Apple mobile devices via the T-Mobile TVision app; on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV or Google TV using the TVision app; and the TVision Hub — an HDMI streaming device and remote for $50.

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1.7 Million People Live-Streamed F1 Eifel Grand Prix on YouTube

A record 1.7 million people live-streamed for free on YouTube Germany’s Formula 1 Eifel Grand Prix auto race on Oct. 11. across Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. It marked the first time a F1 race had been streamed live on Google-owned YouTube.

F1, which is owned by Liberty Media, attributed the streaming increase in part to viewer interest in British driver Lewis Hamilton equaling Michael Schumacher’s record 91 F1 wins. About 31% of streamers were under the age of 25, while 68% were under 35. More than 33 % streamed on mobile phones, and 30% streamed on smart TVs.

“It’s clear to see that younger fans are more engaged with live streaming than ever before,” Adam Crothers, head of digital media rights at Formula 1, said in a statement.

Crothers said the partnership with YouTube affords viewers unable or unwilling to pay for F1 televised access with a means to engage with the sport. Indeed, F1 drivers for the first time appeared on Google Cameos — the app that enables public figures to record video responses to frequently asked questions in Google searches.

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“It’s incredible to see how far Formula 1 has come on the platform in the past few years and continues to position us as one of the strongest sports brands on YouTube,” Crothers said.

The YouTube F1 channel has has generated 40 million viewers in the past 90 days, with 800 million views this year. The channel is one of the largest on YouTube, with a larger user base than any other sports brand, according to data from Shareablee (Jan 1 to Oct. 12, 2020).

Sling TV Feature Integrates Over-the-Air Broadcast Channels Into Guide on LG Smart TVs

Sling TV announced a feature that integrates free, local over-the-air (OTA) broadcast channels into the Sling TV guide on 2020 LG Smart televisions with webOS 5.0, without the need to switch inputs or applications.

The channel tuning feature, available on all 2020 LG OLED and LG NanoCell TVs, allows consumers to access their local broadcast networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS, directly within the Sling TV app when connected to an OTA antenna.

“The best value in TV today is Sling TV plus free live locals,” Jon Lin, VP of product at Sling TV, said in a statement. “We’re making it easier than ever to watch free local channels directly within the Sling TV app, making 2020 LG Smart televisions an amazing value for those who appreciate a quality viewing experience, live local programming and OTT content from Sling TV.”

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To begin watching local broadcast networks in the Sling TV experience, owners of compatible LG Smart TVs connect an OTA antenna directly to their television and begin the one-time channel scanning process. To scan for channels, consumers access the TV’s settings tab, select “All Settings,” “Channels,” “Channel Tuning” and finally “Auto Tuning.”

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Once Sling TV receives the tuner’s signal, all available local channels will appear within the interface like any other channel. Consumers can further customize their Sling TV experience by filtering for local channels within the guide or adding local channels to “My Channels.”

For more information on the integration with LG Smart TVs, visit Sling.com/LG or the Sling TV Help Center for a step-by-step setup guide.

The average American household today can receive 44 local OTA channels at no cost, resulting in hundreds of dollars in annual savings, according to Sling TV. Cord cutters interested in learning which live locals are available in their area can now use the Sling TV local channel finder tool. To search, type in a street name and zip code and click “View My Locals” to see a comprehensive list of channel results for any desired location in the United States.

Redbox Free Live TV Adds New Channels

Redbox has added more than 10 channels to its lineup on Redbox’s Free Live TV.

The added channels include America’s Test Kitchen, Complex, The Design Network, Real Nosey, Funny or Die, beIN Sports, Outside TV, Chive TV, Voyager Documentaries, Hungry and Just for Laughs Gags.

Also, Free Live TV is now available through the Redbox app on Android TVs.

The service now has more than 50 channels delivering a wide-range of movies, television programming and short-form content, including three Redbox Branded channels curated for the tastes of Redbox customers — Redbox Rush, Redbox Comedy, and Redbox Movies.

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Redbox Free Live TV can be enjoyed via Redbox.com, Roku, iOS and Android devices, as well as Apple TV, Android TV, Vizio Smart TVs, LG TVs and Chromecast. The service doesn’t require a login. Consumers can click “Free Live TV,” choose a channel and start watching.

“Our linear TV service is growing fast, with total hours watched and time spent per user reaching new records in July.” Chris Yates, GM of Redbox On Demand, said in a statement. “We’re excited to continue growing our business both with new content, increased distribution and new features to help our customers find and watch great content, however they want to watch it.”

Ending a Relationship

It had been a long time coming.

Cable TV had been a big part of our lives for decades, a constant entertainment companion, but being together so much during the pandemic took a toll on the relationship. Suddenly, those ever-expanding commercial breaks seemed endless after watching ad-free streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime. Even Hulu, which we watched with ads, served up a more palatable break — and conveniently offered a little countdown to tell us when it would be over.

We picked up YouTube TV for live programming, and that was it. The cable relationship was over. We cut the cord.

Apparently, we are not alone. A Roku survey found one in three U.S. households are cord cutters, and many have decided to make the change in recent months, citing the pandemic, the abundance of free AVOD services, and lack of live sports, among other factors.

Aside from the learning curve on how to work the remote to get to the channel or program I want, it’s been a smooth divorce. Kicking cable out also gave us more space. We gained some shelves by ditching the boxes.

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So far, I don’t miss the old companion. I haven’t found a program or channel that I previously had on cable that I can’t find or approximate on our new streaming combo. Sure, I don’t have the convenient clock on the box to see the time. It takes a little more effort to figure out what I want to watch among all the new choices, but, honestly, I don’t miss cable.

It was the growing relationship with our SVOD services, the new-and-improved version of live TV on YouTube TV and the cable bill’s increasing drain on our finances that drew us away.

When we announced the decision to end it, my daughters looked up from their phones and sarcastically said, “Oh, no! We watch so much cable.”

Goodbye old friend.

FuboTV Getting ESPN, Disney Television Content

Disney Media Networks has inked a distribution agreement with FaceBank Group to deliver news, sports and entertainment content from ESPN and Walt Disney Television to streaming platform fuboTV.

Beginning this summer, customers who subscribe to fuboTV’s fubo standard base package will have access to ABC, ABC News Live, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, in-market for SEC Network and ACC Network, FX, FXX and National Geographic. Additional networks will also be available on fuboTV’s other packages, including out-of-market for SEC Network and ACC Network, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, FXM, Fox Life, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo and BabyTV.

The deal includes both live television and VOD.

“With the addition to our lineup of the ESPN suite of channels, we continue to make good on our promise to sports fans to be the undisputed home of professional and college sports,” David Gandler, co-founder and CEO of fuboTV, said in a statement.  “Fubo is equally delighted to add the storied Disney, ABC, FX and Nat Geo networks to round out a robust programming portfolio for the whole family to enjoy.”

“Launching Disney’s networks strengthens our sports-focused live TV platform and brings a diverse range of content for the entire family,” Ben Grad, head of content strategy and acquisition for fuboTV, said in a statement. “Our base package offers consumers significant value, while consumers who want even more great sports and entertainment content can access it with our premium packages. As live sports return but without spectators, streaming games at home will be even more important than ever. We’re thrilled to bring more sports, as well as entertainment and news, to our consumers this summer.”

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“Adding Disney’s array of networks across news, sports and entertainment content with ABC, Disney Channel, ESPN, FX, and Nat Geo delivers a more comprehensive channel lineup and tremendous value to customers’ subscriptions,” Sean Breen, EVP of platform distribution for Disney Media Networks, said in a statement. “With fuboTV’s multiple access points across all major streaming platforms and a competitive price point, we continue to serve a growing audience that consumes video on multiple screens and attract new customers into the pay TV ecosystem.”

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In April, fuboTV merged with FaceBank, combining fuboTV’s direct-to-consumer live TV streaming platform for cord-cutters with FaceBank’s IP in sports, movies and live performances.

FuboTV Names Simone Nardi CFO

Live streaming platform fuboTV has named Simone Nardi CFO.

Nardi is based in New York City and reports directly to CEO David Gandler.

As CFO, Nardi leads all financial operations and strategy for fuboTV. He joins the streaming platform as it prepares to uplist to a major stock exchange following its merger in April with FaceBank Group.

“Simone has already been instrumental in guiding fuboTV through our recent merger,” Gandler said in a statement. “With his deep experience managing finance and strategy for companies undergoing transformations in their business, Simone is an integral new member of fuboTV’s executive team.”

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“I’m extremely honored to join the outstanding team at fuboTV,” Nardi said in a statement. “It’s an exciting time to be joining a proven leader in the media industry at the forefront of the streaming revolution. I look forward to playing a key role as the company continues to expand, drive cost efficiencies and growth and focus on delivering shareholder value.”

Prior to joining fuboTV, Nardi served as SVP and CFO, international for lifestyle content producer Scripps Networks Interactive. In this role, Nardi was responsible for all finance and strategic planning for the company’s international business across Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America. In this role, Nardi was also responsible for leading the company’s international program licensing business and coordinating branding, marketing, technical operations and digital outside of the United States. He was also a member of the board of directors of Scripps’ joint ventures with the BBC in the United Kingdom and with Corus Entertainment in Canada.

Previously, Nardi served as SVP and CFO for NBC Universal’s international channels and television production businesses where he helped build and grow the international TV production operation for NBC Universal, green-lighting and monetizing key franchises such as “Downton Abbey.” Previously, he served as CFO of NBC Universal’s business development division in New York, where he assumed a lead role in launching Hulu.

Nardi began his career with General Electric in Italy and the United States.

FuboTV merged with FaceBank Group in April 2020, combining fuboTV’s direct-to-consumer live TV streaming platform for cord-cutters with FaceBank’s technology-driven IP in sports, movies and live performances.