Sports Trends

March 11, 2024

Sports Trends

March 11, 2024
Concrete decay has been detected: cord-cutting undermined the revenue model, and alternative programming from streamers did the rest.

123 million Americans watched the Super Bowl live on February 12th. This unbelievable number once again marks the power of live sports broadcasts on television, a dream marriage for every advertiser. Those who want to reach a broad mass audience gladly choose the Sports-TV combination. This year will be a fantastic year for broadcasters who are (partly) dependent on advertising for financing. The European Football Championship, the Olympic Games, and a series of other great events; TV advertising will break records this year. The old medium is not doing so bad after all.

It's no wonder that the value of sports rights keeps increasing. The English Premier League remains the unrivaled frontrunner in this regard. In December, the new deal for domestic rights was sealed for the unbelievable amount of nearly 8 billion euros, an increase of 30% compared to the previous 3-year deal. Several pay TV channels have become entirely dependent on top football, know that the streamers will enter the battle and have no option but to engage. Of course, this will lead to accidents if policies remain unchanged. An intelligent solution has been found in the Netherlands, where long-term, joint exploitation of football rights leads to a win-win situation.

At the beginning of this year, two notable new initiatives emerged elsewhere. First off, a very remarkable deal in the United States came about between players who were fierce competitors until recently. In the United States, sports on TV belonged to ESPN. In its heyday, as many as 100 million Americans subscribed to ESPN 1 and 2, and sports rights were long-term deals, ensuring no surprises on the cost side would emerge. Shareholder Disney was, of course, delighted with this simple but highly effective business model for years. However, in recent years, concrete decay has been detected: cord-cutting undermined the revenue model, and alternative programming from streamers did the rest. Disney's own streaming service ESPN+ couldn't fill the gap.

Under pressure, everything becomes fluid, as became evident again at the beginning of the year. The three sworn archenemies Fox, Disney, and Warner Bros. Discovery are joining forces to launch a sports streaming platform. This is not just a deal where a common front door is created, behind which all services are separately served. It seems to become truly one platform where all content is available at one common price. The name for the new platform has not yet been announced, but it is possible that old brands like ESPN will make way for a new one.

A more modest initiative emerges in Europe. The EBU (European Broadcasting Union) starts Eurovision Sport, making intelligent use of a well-known brand. Here too, it's about one platform, on which all swimming, athletics, and gymnastics should be visible. Of course, this initiative pales in comparison to what's happening in the US, but it's innovative nonetheless. The 'old media' are renewing themselves under pressure from consumer demand and the undoubtedly impending attack from the major streamers.

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In the 1960s, the United States fell behind in the space race with the Soviet Union. Yuri Gagarin was the first human to break through the Earth's atmosphere, a monumental achievement. Unable to accept this, the United States - through President John F. Kennedy - established the goal of landing the first person on the moon within a timespan of 10 years. The rest is history and the wording of such a distant, grand objective became known as the 'moonshot goal.'

Stating such a goal is even more important when things are a bit difficult. That was the case with Kennedy's example and is the case for many public broadcasters in Europe. The sentiment in politics is generally unfavorable, budget cuts are commonplace, and digital competition is capturing viewership share. Young people are increasingly unable to find public broadcasters, and consequently a significant strategic crisis has emerged. This is the situation in Scandinavia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and in our own country. Let alone the situation in Poland and Spain.

So, there is a crisis in public broadcasting in Europe, precisely at a time when polarization is increasing, and misinformation is rampant. Especially during such times, it is crucial to prioritize neutral reporting and foster a sense of community. Excellent leadership is invaluable in such circumstances. And it's not the first time that the BBC has set an example during such times. Tim Davie, the excellent Director-General of the BBC, spoke at a Royal Television Society event last month. His argument centered around the fact that the future of the United Kingdom is at risk in democratic, social and cultural terms. He saw three roles for the BBC in countering this threat. Pursuing truth with no agenda by reporting fearlessly and fairly. Backing the best British storytelling by investing in homegrown talent and creativity. Lastly, bringing people together by connecting everyone to unmissable content.

That's what you call a moonshot goal! Because what follows from this? The BBC must serve its 'customers' from every platform, at all times. BBC Three will be closed as young people will find BBC content online, via iPlayer. New services are being developed, such as BBC Verify: the future major fact-checker. Interventions will be made in the BBC organization to make all this possible. And finally, the BBC will also explore whether a new, better funding system than the archaic licensing fee can be developed.

Isn't it wonderful? In the United Kingdom, significant changes are being developed from a strategic perspective. In the Netherlands, we only see politically motivated cost-cutting measures within the public broadcaster, neglecting the pursuit of deliberate strategic advancement in the media sector. I rest my case...


Oege Boonstra interviewt Taco Rijssemus

Na een loopbaan bij de commerciële (SBS) en publieke (KRO-NCRV) omroep belandde Rijssemus bij producent IDTV, onderdeel van het Britse All3Media dat hem uiteindelijk richting Berlijn dirigeerde om ook de Duitse markt te veroveren. "Dat had ik niet verwacht, moet ik zeggen", aldus Rijssemus lachend. "Ik dacht: ze vragen me voor Amerika, of een bedrijf ergens in de UK misschien."

Wat trof Rijssemus aan en is Duitsland nog steeds 'de heilige graal'? "Je moet de balans vinden: hoeveel energie geeft en kost een baan je?"


Oege Boonstra interviewt Bert Habets

Hoe kwam deze student fiscaal recht en economie uiteindelijk in de mediawereld terecht en waarom wilde hij namens RTL zo graag Videoland overnemen? “We hebben daar veel van geleerd en ook heel veel fouten gemaakt, met name een deel infrastructuur totaal nieuw moeten bouwen”, blikt Habets terug. “Toen we 40.000 abonnees hadden, bleek het platform niet meer aan te kunnen…”

Inmiddels opereert hij vanuit München op de Duitse markt en past ook daar zijn ervaring toe met “het omkatten van een televisie- naar een streaming first-bedrijf.” Habets romantiseert zijn internationale carrière niet: “Je moet eerlijk zijn naar jezelf en het doen om de juiste redenen, anders wordt het gewoon een baan.”