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Tech Giants Likely to Contend for Sports Broadcast Rights

Jason Barrett

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Tech companies have been dipping into the sports content industry, but at what point could they become serious competition for major broadcast networks? An industry analyst predicts the next year and a half could be a crucial time for tech giants in their attempt to acquire sports broadcast rights.

“We believe the next 12 to 18 months is a pivotal window for platforms like Facebook and Amazon, among others, to aggressively secure the rights to various professional sports programming, especially as the Disney/ESPN launch of ESPN Plus over the coming year will be at the epicenter to {Disney CEO Bob Iger’s} master streaming initiatives and ‘raise the stakes’ for securing future sports content in our opinion,” said Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights.

According to a previous Wall Street Journal report, Facebook plans to invest as much as $1 billion in live sports content this year alone. Recent deals to stream MLS and MLB games, along with a $600 million failed bid to acquire streaming rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches, shows Facebook’s desire spend on sports coverage.

Ives estimates Amazon could invest closer to $5 billion on sports content. They’ve already streamed NFL games, spending $50 million on last year’s Thursday Night Football package, which Jim DeLorenzo, head of Amazon Sports, believes was just a stepping stone to acquiring larger broadcast rights. “This was really our first step into distributing live sporting events at scale on a global basis,” DeLorenzo said.

As streaming becomes a more viable option for major sports broadcast rights agreements, Ives views Facebook and Amazon as serious contenders, Google and Apple as “wild cards,” with Snap and Twitter “tangentially in the mix.” Aggressively pursuing sports contracts in the next year and a half are important for tech giants to build a foundation allowing them to compete for larger deals as they expire in the future.

“We note in 2021, the year when the NFL, MLB and NHL media rights deals mostly end, will be the first major opportunity for Amazon, Facebook and other major tech streaming platforms to potentially bid on some of these rights versus the likes of traditional entrenched media/cable players,” Ives said.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

David Kaplan Leaving NBC Sports Chicago

“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement.”

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David Kaplan has announced he is departing NBC Sports Chicago. In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Kaplan said a new path opened that he couldn’t turn down.

“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement. You’ll still be able to catch me weekday mornings with Jonathan Hood on the Kap and JHood morning show on ESPN 1000. It will also allow me to provide you with more engaging and outstanding content right here on YouTube.”

Kaplan, who will turn 62 this weekend, accepted a buyout offered by NBCUniversal. He has hosted several different shows for the network during his tenure.

“He’s made enormous contributions to our network, and his passion, opinions and love of Chicago’s teams have made him a beloved and respected figure, not just with fans but also his colleagues,” NBC Sports Chicago Vice President of Content John Schippman told The Chicago Sun-Times. “We wish him the best and look forward to seeing what’s next.”

December 30th will be his final day at NBC Sports Chicago. He called his time with the network “an amazing run”.

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Sports TV News

NASCAR Chasing Nearly $1 Billion Annual Rights Fee In Next TV Deal

“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport.”

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The current media rights deal for NASCAR with FOX Sports and NBC Sports doesn’t end until after the 2024 season, but the organization is currently plotting what it wants its next deal to look like, according to a report from Front Office Sports.

Currently, NASCAR makes $820 million per year from the two networks. In its new rights deal, it is expected to seek a deal in the neighborhood of $900-950 million range.

NASCAR plans to begin negotiating with its current media partners in the early months of 2023, but is currently happy with FOX and NBC.

“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport. Whether that’s pushing more brands and advertisers to spend on Fox and NBC,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Media and Productions Brian Herbst told FOS. “Fox had their third consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. NBC had their second consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. So it’s working for them — both from a viewership and an ad revenue perspective.”

In February of this year, NASCAR President Steve Phelps told the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast that broadcast television “has to be a part” of the organization’s next television rights deal.

As its current media partners, FOX and NBC have exclusive negotiating windows with NASCAR.

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Sports TV News

NFL Sunday Ticket Negotiations With Apple ‘Have Gotten Silly’

“Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”

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A report from The Athletic details why the NFL has not announced a new partner for the NFL Sunday Ticket package. David Kaplan claims there have been continued hiccups in the negotiations, mentioning the bargaining has gotten sideways between the league and Apple.

“This negotiation has gotten silly. … Clearly, there’s a problem. I think it’s really clear Apple is learning things they didn’t know,” the anonymous NFL source told Kaplan. “What the conversation is, is Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”

The report also details Amazon Prime and YouTube remain in the mix as potential suitors for the service, should talks with Apple and the league fall apart.

The NFL is looking for as much as $3.5 billion annually for rights to the service.

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