WrestleMania 37 takes place this weekend, marking the first WWE “pay-per-view” event to air exclusively on Peacock since NBCUniversal became the home for all WWE content back in January, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Among live sporting events, the event is expected to be the single best driver for new digital subscriptions for a streaming service.
As noted by Yahoo! Sports, prior to WrestleMania37, WWE Network subscribers had access to the last pay-per-view event, Fastlane, as well as all other content on the service through April 4, making there no real reason for people to sign up for Peacock.
With WrestleMania being one of WWE’s biggest shows of the year and now exclusive to Peacock, the OTT service is expecting to add subscribers en masse over the weekend.
According to Yahoo! Sports, “Chris Bevilacqua (co-founder, Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures) believes Peacock can net more than 1 million subscribers from WM37—a figure on par with the number of domestic subscribers WWE reported for WWE Network in Q4 ’20.”
“What WrestleMania did for WWE Network is a good proxy [for new Peacock sign-ups],” Bevilaqua told Yahoo! Sports. WWE reported 1.22 million subs in Q2 ’20.
Kate Constable is a daily news writer for BSM. She has worked on-air and behind the scenes for a number of media outlets including Stadium, NBC Sports Chicago, KAAL and KARE television, and The Daily Iowan. You can find her on Twitter @KateConstable.
Former CNN Exec Jeff Zucker Purchases Stake in Front Office Sports
“The team at Front Office Sports has built an impressive platform for sports business journalism, and I’m excited to help it grow in the years ahead.”
Upon his departure from CNN one year ago, former network president Jeff Zucker launched RedBird IMI, a venture looking to invest in properties throughout the media and finance industries. The entity is composed of private equity firm RedBird Capital Partners and International Media Investments, and it has approximately $1 billion in capital backing from key figures within both entities. Zucker is now set to make his first acquisition and third investment with the reported purchase of a minority stake in Front Office Sports, a multiplatform media brand covering all aspects of sports business.
The company was launched by Chief Executive Officer Adam White and President Russell Wilde while they were in college, and the property rapidly flourished over the last several years. While most of the content from the publisher is free, it did begin selling paid subscriptions in 2021 and was able to raise $5 million from Crain Communications last year at an overall valuation of $25 million. According to Axios, which first reported news of negotiations and, ultimately, the closed deal, Front Office Sports will be part of EverWonder Studio – a new, non-fiction content outlet – being led by former Time, Inc. president Ian Orefice.
Orefice was recently involved in a deal between the studio and Meadowlark Media pertaining to a feature documentary about a feature documentary between tennis stars Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. With Zucker’s purchase, the company now has a valuation of $40 million, and it also installs him as co-chairman of the board alongside Jason Stein, an investor within SC Holdings.
“The team at Front Office Sports has built an impressive platform for sports business journalism, and I’m excited to help it grow in the years ahead,” Zucker said in a statement. “Audiences are more interested than ever in the business of sports, and this investment will allow Front Office Sports to create even more compelling news content that draws people in.”
The minority investment encompasses the 20% previously owned by Crain Communications, and also includes additional shares from SC Holdings. Both RedBird IMI and SC Holdings will have equal minority stakes, while the rest are owned by employees.
“The business of sports has become ubiquitous in recent years, permeating across all corners of culture. It now commands mainstream attention and is part of even the most casual fan’s daily content consumption,” White said in a statement. “The foundation of our company was built on a deep understanding and connection to this shift, and has long informed our editorial strategy and product development. As we enter this next stage of expansion, we are incredibly excited to partner with Jeff Zucker, one of the media industry’s greatest minds.”
“Front Office Sports has become a clear leader and important voice in the growing sports media landscape,” Stein added in a statement. “We were an early believer in their approach to covering sports in a way that would influence business leaders and inform fans. This credibility with highly coveted audiences will continue to separate them as they expand the business.”
Front Office Sports has a twice-daily newsletter with more than 800,000 subscribers and reports on news targeted towards both mainstream consumers and industry professionals. In recent news, the outlet was one of the first to report on Taylor Swift being in attendance for the Sunday Night Football matchup between the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. The company currently employs more than 40 reporters to contribute to its content, ensuring that it remains a timely and credible source of information.
Sports Media Reacts to NFL Toy Story Broadcast
Sports media was ablaze with reaction to the unique broadcast.
The NFL held the first London game of the season on Sunday as the Jacksonville Jaguars took on the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to being the first ESPN+ exclusive game of the season, the game also featured a kid-focused, Toy Story-themed simulcast.
Similarly to how the NFL did their SpongeBob SquarePants simulcasts, trackers on all the players allowed for the game to be transformed into the world of the beloved Pixar film series.
ESPN had a similar simulcast earlier this year in its NHL coverage, having a game transformed into the Disney show Big City Greens.
Several across sports media had positive reactions to Sunday’s Toy Story Football.
While the majority of the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, there were some who didn’t care for the simulcast and how it was presented. Barstool’s Kevin Clancy was in that group.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
YouTube TV Having ‘Incredible Growth’ From NFL Sunday Ticket
“We have a seven-year relationship and will be looking to innovate in the future.”
NFL Sunday Ticket is in the midst of its first season being accessed through YouTube and YouTube TV as part of a 7-year deal worth a reported $14 billion. In being available on an over-the-top (OTT) streaming service, fans have had to adjust to new ways to sign up and find the content to watch on each Sunday. While feedback for the platform has been stellar across the board as it pertains to the user interface, latency levels and viewing options, one area that endured levels of sustained criticism was multiview functionality.
In the past, NFL Sunday Ticket users had the capability to fully customize their screen, placing the games they want to watch in different windows and customizing the order thereof. With the new iteration of the service though, users are subject to preset layouts of games compiled for viewing, essentially losing a sense of jurisdiction over the totality of their experience. In a recent interview with Deadline, YouTube Chief Business Officer Mary Ellen Coe commented on how the service plans to adapt going forward.
“That is a very hard thing to do technically,” Coe said. “Put it this way – the feedback is [that] we hear you loud and clear. We have a seven-year relationship and will be looking to innovate in the future, and one thing that we’re doing to address that is [in having] a lot of insights on the game combinations and what matchups fans are interested in. So, we can use those insights.”
Coe believes that an interminable number of combinations is superfluous for fans and that the company is instead basing their decisions from bonafide, quantifiable data. Through these metrics, NFL Sunday Ticket is able to appeal to the largest faction of viewers interested in engaging with a multiview combination.
“We actually will have insight into what are the games that are must-watches, and then we can preload those combinations,” Coe explained. “I think as you see the season goes on, the demand [for customization] will become less because people will see the combinations they want will be up.”
Within the Deadline interview, author Dade Hayes made a shrewd observation in that when The Walt Disney Company and Charter Communications were embroiled in a carriage dispute, both companies offered YouTube TV as potential viewing solutions. While a resolution was reached on the morning of the Week 1 broadcast of Monday Night Football and season debut of New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, YouTube as an entity has not yet extrapolated and bifurcated the data to see if there was any substantial effect therein.
“We’re having incredible growth because of the Sunday Ticket relationship with YouTube TV,” Coe said. “It is interesting that both Charter and Disney referred to YouTube TV as a place to go when they couldn’t get content. I think that’s an endorsement for the user experience on YouTube TV, which we appreciate.”
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