Samba TV: Viewers Love Football, ‘Black Widow’ — Less So ‘Fauci’

In a streaming world, the National Football League on pay-TV still resonates over Hollywood. New data from Samba TV found that 2.1 U.S. households watched the “NFL London Game” on Oct. 10 featuring the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets on NBC, NFL Network and Sky Sports Action. Another 291,000 British households watched the game won by the Falcons.

Samba, which tracks more than 46 million opted-in TVs globally, of which 28 million are in the U.S. across 210 designated market areas (DMAs), found that U.S. viewership skewed affluent ($100K+), slightly male (+2%), white (+7%) and black (+19%). Of the top 25 largest DMAs, Atlanta over-indexed the most (+462%), followed by New York (+254%) and Philadelphia (+41%).

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Meanwhile, 1.1 million U.S. households; 190,000 British households, 96,000 German households and 8,000 Austrian households streamed Black Widow on Disney+, starting Oct 6. The U.S. audience skewed younger (44 and below), slightly white (+3%), slightly Asian (+2%). Of the top 25 largest DMAs, Raleigh, NC over-indexed the most (+46%), followed by Seattle (+38%) and Portland, Ore., (+35%).

Finally, 14,000 U.S. households streamed “Fauci,” the documentary on infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Disney+, beginning Oct. 6. All countries’ audiences were too small for geographic or demo breakouts.

Amazon Prime Video Eyeing NFL’s ‘Sunday Ticket’ Rights

With week one of the 2021-22 NFL season almost in the books, Amazon reportedly is in the hunt to expand upon its “Thursday Night Football” exclusive rights. After wresting the mid-week game rights from Fox, Amazon now wants “Sunday Ticket,” the out-of-market game package DirecTV has sold to subscribers for the past 27 years.

With AT&T spinning off DirecTV to a private equity group, and the satellite TV operator’s latest NFL agreement set to expire in 2022, the league is shopping the rights to interested parties for a reported $2.5 billion annual fee. DirecTV currently pays $1.5 billion a year.

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Few companies have the fiscal resources Amazon has entertain such as price tag. The e-commerce behemoth earlier this year agreed to pay the NFL $1 billion annually for 11 years for exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video. Other media giants expressing interest in “Sunday Ticket” include Apple and Disney-owned ESPN.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service is not expected to make a bid, according to CNBC, which originally broke the story. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the network last week that the league was looking for unified streaming partner that would also be willing to invest in the league-owned NFL Network and NFL RedZone, the latter switching to live action when any team on offense is close to scoring.

Amazon has not officially commented on the negotiations, which remain ongoing.

Verizon Drops Streaming NFL Games

Verizon, which once was the exclusive streaming provider of the Super Bowl, among other NFL games, is dropping over-the-top video distribution of the sport to focus on 5G and related wireless technology with the league.

Verizon Sept. 9 announced a 10-year pact with the NFL that will utilize 5G to support innovation and technology adoption throughout the league. The partnership builds on the more than 10-year relationship between the two companies that paved the way for the installation of Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband service in parts of 25 NFL stadiums. Over the next decade, Verizon and the NFL will utilize 5G to unlock advancements that could have the ability to impact management, scouting, training, health and safety, and game day operations.

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“For the past decade, Verizon has been one of our key technology partners, helping with everything from digital distribution of NFL content, engaging our fans at the NFL’s biggest events, enhancing communications throughout the NFL ecosystem and upgrading technology within stadiums across the League,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

Over the past two years, Verizon has expanded 5G Ultra Wideband connectivity within those venues and surrounding areas, and has partnered with the NFL on in-stadium fan experiences like Verizon 5G Multi-View, which enables fans to view up to seven simultaneous camera angles and AR overlays of the NFL’s Next Gen Stats on select 5G-enabled phones. Verizon 5G Multi-View will continue to be available during the 2021 season in select NFL Club phone apps for fans in-stadium on gameday.

Meanwhile, the NFL has expanded streaming rights with Amazon Prime Video, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, Disney-owned ESPN+, and ViacomCBS-owned Paramount+, among other channels.

FuboTV, New York Jets Form First Sportsbook Pact

The New York Jets Sept. 8 announced a multiyear partnership with Fubo Sportsbook, the online gambling platform owned by online TV platform FuboTV expected to launch in the fourth quarter (subject to all applicable regulatory approvals), to become an official sports betting partner of the NFL franchise.

This agreement marks Fubo Sportsbook’s first sponsorship of a professional sports team. The partnership centers on the creation of the Fubo Sportsbook Lounge at MetLife Stadium for Jets home games, set to debut during the 2021-22 NFL season, and will be the first authorized, mobile sports betting lounge in the stadium. In addition, Fubo Sportsbook will become the presenting partner of the Jets Mobile App and is the team’s first legal sports betting partner to leverage the Jets’ new advertising data partnership with Sportradar.

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Last December, FuboTV acquired Balto Sports, which owns contest automation software. The company said the acquisition marked the first step of its online wagering strategy, which will start with free to play games and then expand into wagering integrated with its live streaming video.

“This partnership with Fubo Sportsbook is another major step for the New York Jets in our journey to prioritize engagement with our fan base, including the enhancement of their overall stadium experience on game day,” Jeff Fernandez, Jets VP of business development and ventures, said in a statement.

At approximately 7,000 square feet, the Fubo Sportsbook Lounge will offer Jets fans 21 and older the opportunity to enjoy the look and feel of a casino-style sportsbook with betting odds integration, as well as incentives and special bonus offers provided by Fubo Sportsbook. Additionally, fans will be able to watch every game from around the NFL in the Lounge and conduct live mobile wagering via the Fubo Sportsbook app all while viewing the Jets action on the field from the Lounge’s outdoor patio.

“The Fubo Sportsbook is designed to meet the increased demand for interactivity by integrating real-time sports streaming with personalized wagering experiences,” said Scott Butera, president of Fubo Gaming. “The platform will also have the ability to leverage first-party data to understand viewing preferences and provide relevant bet recommendations.”

Jets Mobile App users will receive access to special Fubo Sportsbook offers as well as game day incentives tied to the Lounge. Fubo Sportsbook customers will also be rewarded with access to unique hospitality including VIP pregame sideline experiences.

Hulu Adds NFL Network to Live TV Channel Line-Up

NFL Network is now available to Hulu’s Live TV subscribers in the $64.99 a month subscription plan.

The addition of NFL Network to Hulu’s 75-plus live TV channel line-up  brings live NFL preseason games, exclusive live NFL regular season games, studio shows such as “Good Morning Football” and “NFL Total Access,” as well as “NFL GameDay Morning” and “NFL Now,” and original series such as “A Football Life,” “NFL 360” and “America’s Game.”

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Hulu has also launched a sports add-on featuring six sports networks with a collection of live games, recent highlights, sports news and events. For $9.99 per month, Hulu’s Live TV subscribers can add NFL RedZone, Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, MAVTV Motorsports Network, TVG and TVG2 to their live TV line-up.

“With the launch of NFL Network and our new Sports Add-on, Hulu + Live TV continues to be the ultimate destination for sports fans to watch thousands of hours of live and on­demand sports programming,” Reagan Feeney, Hulu SVP of Live TV content programming and partnerships, said in a statement. “Starting today, viewers can bring even more game day action to their living room with live games and events, original shows, motorsports, horse racing and much more.”

“We are excited to bring NFL Network and NFL RedZone to Hulu + Live TV subscribers,” Hans Schroeder, EVP and COO of NFL Media, said in a statement. “One of our top priorities as a League remains broadening the distribution platforms for NFL content, and so we’re very pleased to bring our lineup of award-winning shows and live games to Hulu’s live subscribers.”

NFL, Twitter Expand Social Media Distribution

The National Football League (NFL) and Twitter have announced a multiyear partnership extension, which will include expanded engagement formats and a full-season commitment to produce exclusive content on Twitter Spaces, Twitter’s new live-audio feature. Twitter will also continue to be a home for the games’ biggest moments — all the touchdowns, leaping catches, incredible runs, and celebrations after they happen, from season Kickoff to Super Bowl.

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The NFL is the first sports league to partner with Twitter to offer sponsored Twitter Spaces, giving both brands and fans new opportunities to connect and engage with live NFL audio. The NFL’s Twitter Spaces will be available throughout the season, as well as in conjunction with NFL tentpole events including Kickoff, Super Bowl, the NFL Draft and more. The Spaces will include participation from current NFL players and other NFL talent to discuss season matchups and insights.

The partnership will continue to engage fans each week of the season through:

  • New Highlight Offerings — Curated videos featuring recaps of the best touchdowns, highlights and Tweets each week of the season with first-of-its-kind opportunities for brands.
  • Expanded NFL Twitter Votes — Fans will be invited to vote each week on the hottest topics and takes burning through the NFL Twittersphere in an expanded set of Twitter Polls.
  • Providing Fans the Best Moments From Every Game — The NFL and its Clubs will bring the best moments from every game to the #NFLTwitter community through highlights, and on-field coverage and Twitter Moments.

 

“The commitment to Twitter Spaces represents another innovative step forward in the longstanding partnership between the NFL and Twitter,” Blake Stuchin, VP of digital media business development for the NFL, said in a statement.

Since announcing their first partnership agreement in 2013, the NFL has developed live programming and distributed on-demand content that takes advantage of Twitter’s unique features to appeal to its highly engaged audience.

Amazon Prime Video Bumps Up Exclusive ‘Thursday Night Football’ Access

Amazon Prime Video is moving up by one year its exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football.” The e-commerce behemoth/streamer, beginning in the 2022-23 season will have exclusive access to NFL games, with local broadcasts available as well in the teams’ home markets.

Fox Sports, which had previously held exclusive broadcast rights through 2023, agreed to give up the 2022-23 season to Amazon in an amended agreement that reportedly will cost the streamer more than $1 billion in additional carriage fees. Amazon has exclusive streaming rights to 15 “TNF” games per season through 2032. Amazon first began streaming “TNF” games in 2017 when CBS had broadcast rights. Fox took over broadcast rights in 2018.

“We look forward to bringing ‘Thursday Night Football’ exclusively to Prime members in 2022, a year earlier than previously announced,” Marie Donoghue, VP of global sports video at Amazon, said in a statement. “This expedited deal is an immediate differentiator for us as a service, as it gives Prime members exclusive access to the most popular sport in the United States.”

Amazon Eyeing Black Friday NFL Game

On the heels of Amazon’s reported $1.2 billion annual deal with the National Football League for exclusive rights to all 15 “Thursday Night Football,” games for 11 years beginning in 2023, comes news the e-commerce behemoth is looking to possibly add a game on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

That speculation comes from Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and member of the NFL management committee that secured a record $113 billion in collective TV/media contract fees from Fox, Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and Amazon.

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Speaking to “The Peter King Podcast” on NBC Sports’ “Pro Football Talk,” Kraft said Amazon was looking for a perk since it is spending double what Fox paid for the previous rights, and there is no “Thursday Night Football” on Thanksgiving. That’s because the NFL has a long tradition (since 1934) showcasing the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, and other teams, on the last Thursday in November.

“Amazon [will] dedicate tremendous resources to make this work for them and for us,” Kraft said. “Who knows, maybe we’ll play a game on Black Friday, their biggest shopping day of the year?”

The NFL live-streamed its first game on Oct. 25, 2015, on Yahoo Sports from London featuring the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since then, over-the-top video has exploded while the traditional linear TV bundle has declined.

“Today, you are able to watch an original film that won an Oscar on the same site that you buy your toothpaste,” added Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer with the NFL.

While Amazon has made no official announcement, the NFL has been reluctant to play on Friday due to the league’s 60-year antitrust exemption via the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 negotiating media contracts. The NFL, and other sports leagues, over the years have survived legislative attempts to rescind those antitrust exemptions.

Last year, for the first time in 10 years, the NFL scheduled a game on Friday, Dec. 25 between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints.

 

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.

The Week the Pay-TV Bundle Died

NEWS ANALYSIS — Fox Corp. and Disney-owned ESPN March 18 became the latest media companies to ink 11-year carriage agreements through 2033 with the National Football League that include landmark direct-to-consumer distribution via ad-supported VOD platform Tubi and SVOD service ESPN+, respectively.

When combined with the NFL’s other new contracts with ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, Fox Corp., Amazon and Disney, the deals are reportedly worth a staggering $113 billion to the world’s biggest-revenue sports league. Despite slumping ratings and empty stadiums, live sports remains one of the most coveted prizes in the television business.

Why? The pay-TV market ended 2020 on record as the one of the worst for churn, or subscribers canceling the cable bundle — losing 1.4 million combined subs in Q4 alone. Cable operator WideOpenWest in February revealed it would lose 66% of its sub base in the next three years. Household subscriber penetration now stands at 60% — the lowest level since 1994.

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“The media industry just suffered from the worst year ever for cord cutting,” analyst firm MoffetNathanson wrote in a note.

To stanch the bleeding, media companies, whose assets include pay-TV, now covet over-the-top access to the NFL in order to gain a stronger digital foothold. And the NFL was willing to oblige — for a price.

ESPN+, which ended Disney’s most-recent fiscal period with 12 million subscribers, for the first time will stream a Saturday doubleheader during the season’s final weekend and one Sunday morning game.

“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,”  Jimmy Pitaro, content chairman at ESPN, said in a statement. “It’s a wide-ranging agreement unlike any we’ve reached [previously] with the NFL.”

Fox will create an “NFL experience” on Tubi consisting of fee-based premiere VOD as well as condensed free ad-supported games throughout the NFL season.

“We are pleased to broaden our deal to include new digital rights that provide us with the flexibility to deliver NFL to customers in expanded and innovative ways,” Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said. “This long-term agreement ensures that we will continue to deliver the best in football coverage to our viewers while also strengthening and providing optionality to our business.”

The “optionality” to deliver live football to consumers via subscription streaming video and AVOD is relatively new in the U.S., and underscores the changing dynamics surrounding content distribution in the digital age.

“People want to watch it whenever it is convenient right now,” David Mowrey, VP of product management with Clearlap, which conducted a 2015 consumer survey gauging consumer interest paying for live sports streaming access, told CNET. “There’s still a lot of opportunity to create better experiences particularly around streaming sports.”

Industry data contends there was a peak 105 million pay-TV households in 2010, a tally that has been plummeting ever since. Despite the pandemic putting increased eyeballs in front of the television, the pay-TV market declined to less than 83 million households in 2020 — with new estimates dropping that number by another 10 million in two years.

As a result, live sports delivered on cable, satellite and telecom premium channels was seen as the industry’s Ace card against further subscriber churn, according to Mike Vorhaus with Magid Advisors.

“Sports is a major deterrent to cord cutting,” Vorhaus said in 2015 — a lifetime ago in the rapidly evolving digital media landscape.

“I think it’s 10 years, and there’ll be a total change of the guard,” Chris Long, a former DirecTV executive and now CEO of Cedar Park Entertainment, told Variety last summer. “At some point, people will make that decision of ‘I can get everything I want [in streaming]. I no longer need to have 180 channels that I only watch 12 of.'”

Indeed, sports’ move to digital marks another blow to the channel bundle business model that branched out into online TV (Dish Networks’ Sling TV, AT&T TV and ESPN+ Live TV) in an effort to thwart subscriber churn.

But with OTT video behemoth Netflix uninterested (thus far) in live sports, ViacomCBS’ streaming platform Paramount+, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Amazon Prime Video jumped in the deep end this week, inking separate deals with the NFL, including Peacock and Prime Video being granted exclusive streaming access to “Sunday Night Football” and “Thursday Night Football,” respectively.

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said ad-supported SVOD/AVOD platforms give media companies dealing with declining pay-TV revenue the ability to increase revenue and offset live-sports carriage fees.

The analyst said Hulu, through its ad-supported options, generates as much as $10 per user per month. The lower tier subscription is limited in its ability to deliver ads (usually three to four minutes per hour), but the completely free versions can advertise as much as 10 to 12 minutes per hour.

“So, there is plenty of room to grow revenue for most of these guys,” Pachter said.