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Sports Aren’t Ready To Abandon Linear Television Yet

Industry leaders discussed topics at the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media, and Communications Conference.

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Streaming is dominating the conversation in sports media, but it’s not driving revenue just yet. Leaders met at the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media, and Communications Conference this week to discuss the state of the industry. Breeding a common theme that streaming services have strong potential but can’t get there without the foundation linear TV provides. 

Various CEOs spoke throughout the week and described an exciting time as the country slowly emerges from the pandemic. Fox Corp. COO John Nallen is optimistic about the rest of 2021.

“A year ago, it was all uncertainty. This year there’s a complete lack of uncertainty,” Nallen said. “Advertisers, compared to where they were last year, there’s a feeling of a return to normalcy.… So, the result of that is a quite buoyant and very strong demand. We’ve got a really healthy upfront right now.”

Sportico reports that advertisers know they’ll regret not buying in now when fall comes around because last-minute sports buys are up 30% compared to this time last year. One of those high-demand properties is the NFL which just signed a long-term deal with Fox through 2023.

“It’s the longest contract the NFL has ever done, and for us, that’s good,” Nallen said. “It gives us the ability to look long-term, to plan. And importantly, as our business will evolve during that period, we have the flexibility in these rights to pivot to any new model that might emerge. So we’re not locked into the broadcast model. Having said that, we still think that TV drives the biggest audience scale, it’s the best business for us, and it’s a great arrangement we have with our station affiliates.”

Disney CEO Bob Chapek echoed this sentiment, describing an ecosystem where ESPN+ is impossible without the strength of ESPN’s main revenue driver.

“Our linear businesses right now are just generating a ton of cash flow,” Chapek said. “And frankly, they’re also funding our DTC investments. That’d be pretty difficult without that cash flow.”

Amidst all the splintered media offerings, TV still reigns supreme in 2021.

Sports TV News

NBC Testing Nielsen Competitor for Super Bowl, Olympics

“NBCU is hoping a successful test leads to switching to iSpot.tv’s data going forward.”

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Networks have been unhappy with Nielsen for a while now, a recent issue involving Nielsen admitting to erroneously underreporting viewership numbers has not helped matters.

Most networks, however, have stuck with them due to Nielsen’s hold on the ad sales industry for decades.  NBCUniversal has decided to explore other options, going so far as to plan an upcoming test with an upstart Nielsen competitor during two of the biggest events in television: the Super Bowl and the Olympics.

According to a Los Angeles Times report from Stephen Battaglio, NBCUniversal will use data from iSpot.tv to provide viewing information on the two major events next month. Publicis Media, which owns several major ad-buying companies, has agreed to participate in the test with several of its clients.

NBCUniversal remains a client of Nielsen and will continue to use its ratings for the events. But the test with iSpot.tv — which has a multi-year deal to provide its services to NBCU — will be the most high-profile effort to promote a viable competitor to Nielsen.

The Times report states that this is more than just a bluff, as NBCU is hoping a successful test leads to switching to iSpot.tv’s data going forward. That would certainly mark a major shift, and it’s all tied back to NBC and other networks being dissatisfied with how Nielsen calculates non-traditional viewing. Considering that’s a growing portion of viewership, especially in key demographics, and that it’s only going to be more important going forward.

Obviously, the Super Bowl will pull numbers regardless, on traditional and non-traditional platforms. But NBC pays billions for the Olympics, and this move seems intended at finding more satisfactory tracking data it can present to advertisers.

But NBCU executives are of the mind that consumers have been watching more due to the variety of streaming options.  The network is hoping the data from iSpot.tv will confirm their assumption.

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Nabil Karim To Cover NHL and NBA For Turner

“Karim makes his debut Friday night on NBA TV.”

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Turner Sports and Nabil Karim have agreed on a multi-year deal. Karim will serve as a studio host and reporter for basketball and hockey programming.  An official announcement is expected later today.

Karim makes his debut Friday night on NBA TV. Most recently with ESPN, the British Columbia native was at TSN from 2011-2019, hosting a well-rounded suite of premier events.

He joined The Kyle Koster Show to talk about his new role, what he’s most excited about, and his career journey to this point.

“I think about broadcasters, and I wonder how many of them, their favorite two sports are hockey and basketball,” Nabil Karim said. “Being a Canadian, growing up with hockey, that was 1a and 1b for me. When Turner acquired NHL and this opportunity came up to work in hockey and basketball, it was a no-brainer.”

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Pete Thamel Joins ESPN as College Football Insider

“Richard Deitsch of The Athletic notes that Thamel will become a “major” part of College GameDay.”

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Just like the NFL, the news rarely stops in college football these days. That is why ESPN is hiring someone to cover the sport the way Adam Schefter covers the NFL. That someone will be Yahoo’s Pete Thamel.

Andrew Marchand reported Wednesday night that Thamel is expected to join ESPN in a insider role covering college football.

ESPN already has three reporters that it classifies as “college football insiders.” Those are Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and Mark Schlabach. Thamel appears set to become the face of that operation though.

Richard Deitsch of The Athletic notes that Thamel will become a “major” part of College GameDay.

Thamel’s hire continues something of a trend for ESPN. Marchand points out that whenever the network is in the market for an insider to cover a sport, it tends to go shopping at Yahoo!. Pete Thamel joins Adrian Wojnarowski and Jeff Passan as insiders that left the site for Bristol.

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