As ever, it’s been a busy few weeks in the sports broadcasting world and there are a number of stories that have caught my eye. When assessed side-by-side, they really show the multitude of issues impacting on rights holders at the present moment, and the role Joymo has to play in providing a solution.
At the end of last month, Formula 1 revealed it had signed a multi-year extension of its broadcast partnership with Sky, cementing Sky as the official broadcaster of the sport in the UK & Ireland until 2029, and Germany and Italy until 2027.
Now, F1 is a series that has undergone an incredible transformation since Sky first won these rights in 2012, a controversial deal at the time as it was the first time F1 went behind a paywall in the UK.
The Drive to Survive success story is well known and has directly led to huge rights fee increases in certain markets, so the fact that F1 was willing to commit to Sky without a competitive process is interesting.
When you also consider that F1 launched its own OTT service in 2018, but predicted a year later that it may never have more than 10,000 subscribers, it is telling that there doesn’t appear to be a significant desire to grow the product on a large scale.
To me, this is a marriage of convenience that is instructive of the wider macro economic climate.
F1 is happy to take guaranteed rights fees from a partner that has established itself as the home of the sport in the UK and delivered year-on-year growth.
For Sky, it gives them certainty over a premium asset and ensures that its competitors will not be able to hijack a competition it has built a paying audience for.
DAZN has been the poster child for pureplay OTT services for several years, despite landing few significant top-tier rights outside of boxing.
Having failed to acquire BT Sport earlier this year, it turned its attention to Eleven to add more content and markets to its service.
What this deal really shows is that to compete with multi-sport broadcasters like Sky, BT Sport or ESPN - who count millions of casual fans as subscribers - is incredibly difficult without premium rights.
Joymo is a direct counter to this approach. Our model is built around the concept of a single destination where fans of one sport/competition can fulfil all their content needs and consume what they really want, as opposed to having to pay for access to sports they would rarely watch.
DAZN, with its multi-sport model, has struggled to attract subscribers in numbers that can turn a profit and is now adding more non-premium content. That should be a warning sign for a rights holder who is considering whether they will extract maximum value for their content with any third-party provider.
As a proud Welshman, this was not a headline I ever expected to read. However, after the Wrexham co-owner tweeted his displeasure with the National League’s decision not to allow the club to live stream its matches to 20.5 million followers, the issues of unused broadcaster inventory, protected broadcasting hours and shared revenue models have again raised their heads.
Off the back of the Deadpool star’s global popularity, AFC Wrexham has seen a boom in followers and sponsors and Reynolds is keen to ensure the team’s new fans are able to engage with the club, no matter where they are in the world.
So far, Reynolds has been frustrated by the league and its broadcast partners, BT Sport, in his attempts to start streaming matches immediately, although they have said they will look into a solution in the second half of this season.
This is a fascinating story that strikes a chord with many of the conversations I have every day of the week.
Personally, I think it’s fantastic that Ryan Reynolds is on this crusade to unlock value, but it begs several questions;
1) Should the process be league-led, club-led or a hybrid?
2) Why sign a deal with BT Sport in the first place if only 10% of games will be captured?
3) What more could be achieved if Article 48 was scrapped?
I can understand Reynolds’ haste - he currently has his ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ documentary steaming to millions on Disney+ - but, ultimately, it’s about striking a balance between speed-to-market and ensuring that the user experience is sufficient from day one.
As I have said many times, streaming infrastructure and technology is constantly evolving and becoming increasingly affordable for rights holders to launch their own D2C platforms.
But speed isn’t everything, you have to get the product right as you often only get one shot at tying customers in for the long term. If that first experience is a fail, it’s hard to win them back and the negativity regarding the experience can quickly spread across a fanbase.
Aside from the odd strategic dabble from Big Tech, against the backdrop of the wider macroeconomic climate, the status quo between premium sport rights and global media giants is set to remain.
As a rights holder, I wouldn’t be waiting for these media owners to come knocking at your door with a cheque in hand to pay for your content, because it is no longer guaranteed. Or at least not in any terms that are going to be beneficial for the future of your sport.
If an established player does show an interest, you have to ensure you are not going to end up as filler content that the partner has no intention of marketing to help grow your sport. That is the danger for the platforms who are viewing content as an arms race. It’s a short-term fix that won’t solve many, if any, of your organization's long-term goals.
At Joymo we empower sport content owners to take greater ownership of their IP by developing their own D2C platforms that can make a fundamental difference to the way their sport is promoted.
We actively target long-term partnerships with sports rights holders of all shapes and sizes who share our vision and ambition for what direct-to-fan streaming can achieve in terms of reach, fan engagement, data integration and monetisation potential.
Surely this has to be a preferable model to selling all your IP to a partner that will do nothing to promote it for you and deliver very little meaningful data in return?
Finally, the Wrexham model is instructive of the direction of travel. They are in a privileged position compared to most, of course, but the owners realise the value of their IP and want to find the distribution platform that can connect fans to their content, (and the club to their fans data) wherever and whenever.
As Wrexham attempt to move through the leagues, these issues will become more pronounced, but let's assume if they ever do make it to the English Premier League and receive the guaranteed £100m+ in prize money, they’ll accept not being able to stream their own matches.
Now where does all that EPL prize money come from again…was it ever thus.