I’m pleased to present the 505th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up this week we discuss the PGA Tour’s $6.3 billion, nine-year rights deal announced this week with CBS, NBC/Golf Channel and ESPN+. The deal will reportedly generate $700 million in fees, up 75% from the current deal’s $400 million. Anyone looking to me to explain how the PGA managed to get this increase, despite so many factors that should have given the TV networks leverage, is going to be disappointed. I just don’t get it, but as a golf fan, it’s still lots of fun to talk about.
One thing is for certain - with the bulk of the new money going to the Tour’s players, the 2020s are going to be a very good period for them. As is to give a sneak preview, when this weekend’s PLAYERS Championship was cancelled after round 1 yesterday, half the purse of $15 million was divided evenly among the field of 144 players. So each player got $52,083, irrespective of how they played in round one. So if average round lasts 4 hours then they earned $13,020 per hour. Or if they shot par 72 they received $723 per shot (including gimme putts). Life is good.
ESPN+ popped up as the streaming partner in the new PGA deal, which provided a good opportunity for Colin to explain the remarkable turnaround Disney has effected with the network. ESPN is now in 98.1 million U.S. homes vs. 98.5 million in 2013. After dipping to 89.7 million in 2017, ESPN successfully negotiated its way onto all major virtual pay-TV operators’ lineups (8.9 million). And it cleverly bundled ESPN+ with Disney+ and Hulu (another 7.5 million) creating significant DTC optionality down the road.
Reviewing the new PGA deal and ESPN’s bounce back, we believe executives for both entities deserve to be on the Mount Olympus of media negotiators.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 58 seconds)
Sorry VideoNuze readers, my head is spinning again, and this week it’s not just because of the stock market’s wild swings or the drama around the coronavirus. Rather, it’s because yesterday morning, while waiting in the doctor’s office, I read the Wall Street Journal article “Golf’s PGA Tour Gets Big Boost in TV, Streaming Rights.” The article described how ViacomCBS, Comcast and Disney are going to pay the PGA Tour over $700 million per year, up from the current $400 million per year, in a new nine-year media rights deal.
That means the total value of the deal would be $6.3 billion. Add that to the 12-year, $2 billion international rights deal the PGA announced with Discovery in June, 2018 and that’s $8.3 billion in TV money coming to the PGA over the next decade - a good chunk of which will go to its players.
The deal essentially means leaving the status quo of CBS, NBC and Golf Channel handling live and weekend coverage, with ESPN+ taking over streaming from the PGA itself, which has worked with NBC Sports Gold and Amazon Prime. ESPN+ will provide 4,000 hours of streaming coverage per year across 36 PGA tournaments.
I realize that the PGA striking a lucrative media rights deal may not mean that much to many VideoNuze readers. But to me it does, at both a personal and professional level. I am a golf fan; I’ve been watching golf on TV and playing the game since I was 12 years old. For 99.99% of the world, watching golf on TV is akin to watching paint dry. Even for golf fans it is something that is hard to do without multi-tasking (e.g. sending emails, texts, etc.).
Discovery has signed a 12-year, $2 billion deal with the PGA Tour for global multi-platform live rights in 220 markets outside the U.S. for all PGA Tour properties. The deal provides access to 150 tournaments per year (2,000 live hours) including high-profile events such as The PLAYERS Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup (though I believe it excludes other marquee events such as the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup which are outside the PGA Tour’s purview).
While Discovery will broadcast the tournaments on its various international cable and broadcast TV networks, the big potential upside in the deal is the new dedicated PGA Tour-branded OTT streaming service Discovery plans to build. The unnamed service, which will launch next year, will be another high-profile test of OTT’s ability to deliver direct-to-consumer benefits to super-fans as well as create incremental revenues.
VideoNuze readers will recall that back in Dec '08, my 2nd prediction for 2009 was that mobile video was finally going to take off. Among the drivers I identified, the main one was clearly the massive, and growing, popularity of the iPhone. But despite all of its gee-whiz capabilities, the iPhone 3G, which was then the latest one on the market, and was running the iPhone OS 2.0, still wasn't really optimized for video.
Flash forward to June '09 and the release of the iPhone OS 3.0, which is downloadable to iPhone 3G, and pre-installed on the iPhone 3GS, and we can see that Apple now has the architecture in place to fuel a massive takeoff of mobile video streaming.
Following is a deep dive explanation of why that is, based on a detailed conversation I had John Bishop, SVP of Business Development & Strategy at Inlet Technologies, an encoding company that's involved with recent iPhone video apps, an excellent new white paper from Akamai, "HTTP Streaming for iPhone Best Practices" and other research I conducted. (For those that want to get further into the weeds, note also that Akamai, Inlet and Turner Sports have an upcoming webinar on this topic.) If you're a video provider looking to capitalize on mobile video distribution, and the iPhone in particular, all of this is crucial to understand.
The most important video-related elements Apple has released are support for HTTP streaming, a new protocol for adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming and a new iPhone media player that can handle both. In addition, a significant increase in battery life (especially important to retain phone functionality) is enabled by a hardware-based video decoder. And the iPhone supports "HSDPA," an enhanced 3G protocol AT&T is rolling out, which provides up to 7.2 megabit per second delivery, guaranteeing outstanding video quality. All of these elements, when combined with the iPhone's open (well, relatively at least) App Store and web browsing, offer video providers a breakthrough mobile video environment.
HTTP-based streaming is particularly key because CDNs already have massive deployments of HTTP (the web delivery standard) servers. That means they avoid significant capex to support proprietary video streaming protocols like RTSP and RTMP, and can instead focus just on hardening their HTTP infrastructure to scale video distribution.
Apple's new ABR streaming protocol means a far superior user experience that obviates disruptive buffering and users having to make confusing choices like "hi res" or "low res." ABR streaming was pioneered by Move Networks. Microsoft and Adobe now each have their own ABR streaming approaches.
Importantly, because the iPhone supports H.264, video providers can use existing encoding vendors like Inlet to simply create multiple iPhone-compatible video files encoded at different bit rates that are then delivered to their CDN for iPhone distribution. No intermediary "encapsulation" step needs to be taken to support Flash for example. As the iPhone's media player auto-detects available mobile bandwidth, it continuously re-selects the optimal video file to stream. Inlet makes a key contribution in this process by doing "key frame alignment" - essentially allowing the new file being streamed to start at the same frame where the old file left off. Pretty cool stuff.
From the content provider's standpoint, iPhone-directed video can either be embedded in a web page, or as part of an app, for distribution in the iPhone's gigantic app store. The open web approach of course means it's available for all to see. On the other hand, the app route means greater control of the brand, user experience and business model (e.g. free, paid, authenticated, etc.), though it will involve time and money is needed for development.
This whole paradigm is still so new that we've only begun seeing the first iPhone video apps come to market. Examples include the updated version of MLB.com's At Bat app, the live Aug. 7th concert from Underworld, the PGA Championship app from Turner Sports and the PGA, and yesterday, the launch of the HSN "shop app." I can relate to the value of the PGA app - I was in a car on my way back to Boston on Sunday afternoon, furiously - and unsuccessfully - trying to follow the Yang-Woods showdown shot-by-shot on my Blackberry (I'm a Verizon sub, so no iPhone for me, grrrr....). If I'd had an iPhone, would I have spontaneously paid $1.99 for the PGA app so I could watch the action? In a heartbeat.
Mobile video is an incredibly exciting extension of the broadband experience users have come to love, except with the additional benefit of being untethered. The iPhone is the first environment that brings all the necessary elements together and will, in my view, drive an explosion of mobile video streaming apps (though I concede to being uncertain what AT&T will think of all this). Think about video apps that are yet to come from folks like Hulu, Netflix, and others. No doubt we'll see Android, Palm and Blackberry further fuel the addressable market. Add it all up and there's a lot of growth ahead in the mobile video space.
What do you think? Post a comment now.