XFL 2020 Season to Stream Abroad on ESPN Player

The Xtreme Football League (XFL), established in 2001 for one season only by WWE founder Vince McMahon, is slated to return with a 10-game regular season Feb. 8, 2020, on ABC and Fox.

Disney-owned ESPN announced it would stream the entire XFL season on its ESPN Player, the standalone service only available outside the United States.

The eight-team league is divided into two four-team divisions (East and West). The XFL East features the DC Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis Battle Hawks and Tampa Bay Vipers. The Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats and Seattle Dragons comprise the XFL West.

While the league will likely field NFL rejects and wannabes, former marquee players such as ex-Super Bowl QB Colin Kaepernick have reportedly met with the league.

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McMahon has made it clear players in the XFL would not be permitted to kneel during the national anthem, the protest act that contributed to Kaepernick being blacklisted from the NFL.

Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick kneeling during a San Francisco 49ers game.

“People don’t want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained,” McMahon said in a press interview last year. “We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time.”

Both Kaepernick and fellow protester Eric Reid — who repeatedly kneeled during playing of the anthem as protest regarding alleged police brutality toward African American men — settled their grievances against the NFL last year.

Notably, ESPN Player is also streaming  “This Was the XFL,” ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary on the upstart league’s promising but short existence 18 years ago. The doc looks at how the league impacted how professional team sports are broadcast today.

Streaming Video Becoming New Normal, Especially for NFL Fans

The time people spent streaming video continues to climb — up 53% in the quarter (ended Sept. 30) as consumers embrace on-demand videos (63% of all streaming viewing is on demand) on their TVs, PCs and mobile devices, according to new data from Conviva.

“Streaming is quickly becoming the new normal,” Bill Demas, CEO of Conviva, said in a statement. “This is an industry undergoing massive growth, and what happens in the next 18 months will shape what, how and when we watch content in the future.”

Report data was primarily collected from Conviva’s proprietary sensor technology currently embedded in three billion streaming video applications, measuring in excess of a 100 billion streams per year and a trillion real-time transactions per day across more than 180 countries.

Conviva attributed the increase in streaming video consumption due in part to reduced video start failures (down 10%), 6% faster start times, 33% less buffering and the picture quality (bitrate) is 3% better.

PCs saw the most consistent quality improvements year over year with 17% fewer video start failures, 23% faster video start times and 26% less buffering. Mobile saw big improvements in reducing buffering — down 34% year over year — but video start times were only down 4% and video start failures were down only 2%.

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Meanwhile, improvements in overall video quality did not extend to streaming ads. According to the data, 39.6% of all streaming ad attempts failed in the quarter. In addition, ads were plagued by delays including long start times and buffering including instances where it took up to 16.1 seconds for an ad to start and viewers had to endure up to 45.9% of ad buffering.

As a result, roughly 9% to 20% of viewers drop off each time an ad is run. For sports, the largest impact is at the very first ad where 18% of viewers drop, but subsequent ads have less effect.

The fourth ad in a stream triggers the biggest drop as 20% of news viewers, 17% of drama/comedy viewers, and 16% of reality TV viewers stop watching. Overall, 54% of the audience stopped viewing after four ads.

NFL Streaming Skyrockets

NFL viewers continued their mass migration to streaming, with a 77% increase in streaming plays and a 50% increase in time spent streaming compared with Q3 2018. Much of the NFL’s streaming growth occurred on mobile devices, which grew 109% in plays year over year, and TV, which grew 66%. Notably, NFL streaming plays on PCs went down 11% in Q3.

While mobile NFL viewing is up, the minutes per play remains small (8 minutes), inferring that fans are streaming NFL on their phones to check in on their favorite teams versus to watch games in their entirety. Those fans streaming the NFL via TV or PC watched for an average of 24 and 22 minutes, respectively.

NFL fans are also embracing streaming videos on social media, but their appetite varies by team and platform.

Miami Dolphins fans watch more of their franchise’s videos than any other team on Facebook (168% above average) closely followed by Kansas City Chiefs fans (157% above average). New York Giants fans would rather watch videos posted by their franchise on YouTube (211% above average) and New England Patriots fans are loyal to watching team videos on Instagram (227% above average).

The connected TV category once again led all other devices in growth, up 58% in viewing hours year over year compared to PCs (up 36%) and mobile (up 33%).

While Roku maintained the top position by ending the quarter with solid 44% of market share, its growth rate for viewing time (73%) was slightly lower than Amazon Fire TV (78%). Amazon Fire TV closed the quarter with 20% of market share, followed by Apple TV with 9%.

Roku also improved its quality over the past year and now delivers the lowest rate of video start failures at 0.18%, down 52% from the previous-year 2018, and nearly three times as much improvement as Amazon Fire TV which dropped 17% to 0.37%.

Xbox again has the least buffering at a mere 0.15%, while Apple TV is the most improved with buffering down 40%. Once again Apple TV has the fastest video start time at 2.6 seconds and highest picture quality at 6.8 Mbps on average.

Year-over-year comparisons were normalized at the customer level for accurate representations of industry growth. The advertising data included in the report is based on an analysis of nearly 10 billion ad attempts in Q3. The social media data included in the report is based on an analysis of more than 100,000 social posts and 2.5 billion social video views across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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.”

Lionsgate Mounts ‘John Wick Road Trip’ to Promote Home Debut of Latest Installment in the Series

Lionsgate will launch a “John Wick Road Trip” Aug. 31 through Sept. 18 displaying the vehicle’s used by the on-the-run hitman in the series, including the Ford Mustang from the first two movies and a Zero DSR motorcycle from John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

The tour also features a traveling museum of series memorabilia.

The exhibit will travel across the Midwest and East Coast to visit select Best Buy Stores, NASCAR events, and the Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings NFL game. Fans will have the opportunity to take a photo with the Mustang, escape an army of assassins with a “John Wick” motorcycle green screen and check out real props from the films. They’ll also get a chance to win “John Wick” swag.

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The third chapter in the movie series is available now on digital and arrives on 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital), Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD, and on demand Sept. 10.

Tour stops include:

  • NASCAR Darlington Raceway Series, 8/31 – 9/1, Darlington, S.C.
  • Best Buy, 9/3, Alpharetta, Ga.
  • Best Buy, 9/4, Buford, Ga
  • NASCAR Indianapolis Motor Speedway Series, 9/6 – 9/8, Indianapolis
  • Best Buy, 9/10, Minneapolis
  • Best Buy, 9/12, Burbank, Ill.
  • Best Buy, 9/13, Downers Grove, Ill.
  • NFL: Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings, 9/15, Green Bay, Wis.
  • Best Buy, 9/17, Mayfield Heights, Ohio
  • Best Buy, 9/18, Reynoldsburg, Ohio

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.

CBS Sports HQ Set Single-Day Streaming Record Super Bowl Sunday

CBS Sports HQ, the free ad-supported streaming sports news network, set new records for daily, weekend and week-long viewership from Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

While TV ratings for the game — which saw the New England Patriots win their sixth Lombardi Trophy — were the lowest in 10 years, online viewership set records, with about 7.5 million unique devices streaming the game – up 20% from Super Bowl LII.

Streamers watched more than 560 million total minutes of live game coverage, which was up 19% from last year, according to BizJournals.com. About 2.6 million viewers streamed the game per minute, which was up 31% from last year.

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Just ahead of its one-year anniversary, CBS Sports HQ set single-day records for unique viewers, with more than one million viewers on Feb. 3, and streaming minutes, with nearly 14 million minutes streamed. The service also set new weekend viewership records for audience and streaming minutes, and a week-long record for streaming minutes.

“Big events drive big audience, and this weekend was no exception with our most viewers and most consumption yet,” Jeffrey Gerttula, EVP & GM, CBS Sports Digital, said in a statement. “We know the audience will continue to grow as we focus on delivering the coverage sports fans want, on any device, with no barriers to watch.”

Along with several live daily shows, CBS Sports HQ delivered additional on-site reports leading up to the Super Bowl, and on game day streamed 10 hours of original pre-game coverage, plus post-game analysis and highlights.

 

Sky Bowing OTT Video Service Featuring NBA, NFL Games — Including Super Bowl LIII

Comcast-owned Sky in January is launching an over-the-top video service in the United Kingdom showcasing 40 games from the NBA and NFL – including Super Bowl LIII, Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Dubbed Sky Sports USA, the service will be offered from Jan. 3 through Feb. 5 as part of Sky’s £18 monthly Sky Sports subscription, or from £7.99 daily via the broadband-specific Now TV Sports pass.

Sky Sports USA will feature every NFL game through the playoffs. On the hardwood, U.K. subs can stream NBA’s annual London game, featuring the Washington Wizards against the New York Knicks on Jan. 17. On Jan. 21, the league marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day with three games, headlined by the Memphis Grizzlies.

“Every year, the NFL and NBA London games sell out in a matter of minutes and every year the following for both sports in the U.K. gets bigger,” Barney Francis, managing director, Sky Sports, said in a statement.

“It’s a perfect time to launch a pop-up channel to make sure our customers get the very best of American sports.”

 

 

Facebook Reiterates No ‘Premier League’ Soccer License Bid

Facebook reportedly confirmed it will not seek to license Britain’s Premier League soccer for the social media’s Watch over-the-top video platform.

Speaking recently at the Broadcasting Press Guild Lunch in London, Patrick Walker, director of media partnerships, EMEA at Facebook, said a Premier League license bid was “not on the cards” at the moment.

“We’re not going out with the intention of acquiring lots of football rights specifically,” said Walker. “It’s more testing different sorts of ideas and seeing how they work and collaborating with rightsholders.”

Specifically, Walker said Facebook’s strategy revolves around enhances and enticing online usage and consumption for sports leagues and then working with them or a third-party on distribution.

“Facebook, in a way is like the world’s biggest sports stadium,” he said. “There’s around half a billion people who follow a football club somewhere in the world on Facebook.”

Facebook, along with Google, Amazon and Netflix, had been rumored as parties possible seeking to secure exclusive access to the world’s most-popular professional soccer league.

While Netflix steadfastly refuses to consider live sports, Facebook, YouTube and Prime Video have embraced sports, including Major League Baseball, the National Football League and Champions League soccer.

Amazon, which streams NFL Thursday Night Football, reportedly is also considering licensing Fox Sports Regional Networks.

 

 

 

 

CBS All Access Extends NFL Streaming Through 2022

CBS All Access, the subscription VOD service, has extended an agreement to stream all “NFL on CBS” telecasts through the 2022 season. CBS will also expand NFL game streaming access for CBS All Access subs and TV Everywhere to include mobile devices beginning this season.

Previously, only Verizon had streaming access to NFL games — including the Super Bowl – on mobile devices. CBS began streaming NFL games to CBS All Access on during the 2016 season.

The entire 2018 “NFL on CBS” schedule, including Super Bowl LIII, will also be streamed live on tablets via the CBS App for iOS, Android and Windows 10, online at CBS.com, and on connected devices including Roku Players, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Fire TV, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Channels.

All Access subscribers will receive the NFL ON CBS games that are broadcast in their local market.

In addition to extending CBS All Access streaming rights to mobile devices for the first time, NFL ON CBS authenticated streaming rights will extend to mobile for its cable, satellite, telco and vMVPD partners beginning this season.

“This deal enables us to deliver even more value to NFL fans, our subscribers and our distribution partners,” Marc DeBevoise, COO, CBS Interactive, said in a statement.

“The 2018 season will mark a new era for NFL fans with unprecedented access to NFL games across digital platforms,” said Hans Schroeder, COO of NFL Media and Business.

In addition to the NFL, CBS All Access offers more than 10,000 on-demand episodes spanning current shows from CBS Television’s primetime, daytime and late night lineup, as well as past seasons of select series and classic TV hits.

Exclusive original series include “Star Trek : Discovery,” “The Good Fight,” “Strange Angel,” and “No Activity,” in addition to upcoming original series, “One Dollar,” “The Twilight Zone,” and “Tell Me a Story.”

 

Verizon Eyes 5G Future as Fios TV Ups Sub Losses

Verizon Jan. 23 announced it plans to roll out 5G wireless functionality in upwards of five major cities in the second half of this year – the first wireless carrier to do so.

The technology should dramatically increase streaming video speeds, with 5G download speeds up to 10 gigabits-per-second compared to one gigabit-per-second for 4G LTE. The higher speed could result in downloading a HD movie in seconds.

Verizon aims to harness 5G technology with its new Oath platform, whose content brands include Yahoo, HuffPost, AOL, Tech Crunch and Engadget, among others.

The telecom, which recently inked license deals with the NBA and NFL, added 47,000 Fios high-speed Internet customers to end the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2017) with 5.9 million subs.

“The next industrial revolution will be on Verizon’s [5G] network and will positively impact society like no technology we have seen before,” CEO Lowell McAdam boasted on the fiscal call.

Meanwhile, Verizon’s pay-TV platform, Fios video, lost 29,000 subs in the quarter, to end the year down 75,000 subs at 4.6 million.

When asked whether Verizon would follow in the footsteps of AT&T and Walt Disney seeking to acquire a media company, McAdam punted. The executive admitted Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox underscores the value of scale in the market place.

McAdam said the jury is out regarding the merits of Verizon acting as an independent distributor of content compared to owning and creating content.

“I think until all of this media consolidation [AT&T/Time Warner, Disney/Fox] shakes out, you really can’t determine whether that’s a path we would be interested in,” he said. “But I can say unequivocally there is nothing going on right now without considering a large media play [involved].”

“In fact, if you look at our actions like the NBA and the NFL announcement … we think being able to monetize through advertising and being independent is a very good place to play for us right now.”

Wall Street remains on the fence regarding Verizon’s first-mover 5G strategy.

“5G is going to be a hundred times faster than your typical Internet service, so not only is it going to be faster, it’s going to have better margins and give Verizon a ton of opportunity for new customer growth,” Michelle McKinnon, analyst with Payne Capital Management, told CNBC.

Jonathan Chaplin, analyst with New Street Research, said that while 5G enables Verizon to bridge technology divides in the market, doing so comes at a major fiscal cost.

“We’ve pegged it at least at $35 billion dollars,” Chaplin said. “That’s going to [more than] absorb the gains [Verizon is] going to get in tax reform savings over the next four or five years — which I don’t think the market is anticipating.”