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SBJ Media: Sinclair gets serious around DTC with new board appointments – Sports Business Journal

 
Writing this newsletter from SBJ’s home office in Charlotte, N.C.
Sinclair made its strongest moves so far in its effort to launch a direct-to-consumer service around its local sports rights by naming a board of directors for its Diamond Sports Group subsidiary that has a ton of experience in local sports rights and streaming services.

New board members include Randy Freer, who ran Fox Sports RSNs and served as CEO of Hulu, and David Preschlack, who ran NBC Sports RSNs and its sports gambling initiatives. Former NBA exec Bob Whitsitt and NFL exec Maryann Turcke also will join the board, as will Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley. The new five-person board replaces a three-person one that included David Dunn, Jason Pappas and Steve Rosenberg.

As part of his announcement for the new board, Sinclair’s Ripley said his company will “soft launch” a direct-to-consumer service “later this quarter” in five RSN markets. That means the soft launch will occur in Miami, Tampa, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Detroit — all markets where a Sinclair RSN holds local MLB rights (Marlins, Rays, Royals, Brewers and Tigers).

In September, Sinclair plans to complete a full DTC launch. “While the DTC pricing will be announced closer to going live, it is anticipated to have an attractive price point as compared to other similar professional sports DTC offerings,” Ripley said in a release.
When Apple Music launched in 2015, it was ridiculed. Many of the features it promised didn’t work at first, and the service became the butt of jokes. Still, the service signed up about 20 million paying subscribers within a year.

Apple improved the service after launch, and it now boasts more U.S. subscribers than Spotify. N.Y. Times reporter Tripp Mickle suggested that Apple’s much-ridiculed start to its MLB streaming deal could follow the same path.

Mickle’s book on Apple, “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul,” will be released tomorrow. Anyone who is interested in Apple’s entry into sports should run out and buy it — and I’m not just saying that because Tripp’s a close friend who listed me in the acknowledgements.

Apple is set to be a big player in sports. The book gives an in-depth look into the services business — the reason Apple is getting into sports. It details the tension between creative and operations, which is a tension that sports media execs live with every day.

The book is 414 pages long. Mickle spent more than two years on it and interviewed more than 200 people.
Mickle, a former SBJ reporter, details Apple's efforts in the services business in a new book
With one NHL regular season in the books for the league with ESPN and Turner Sports, the TV numbers can be interpreted in a number of ways. You be the judge.
Factors pointing to the glass being half full:
Factors pointing to the glass being half empty:
My colleagues Austin Karp and Alex Silverman went deep on the numbers in SBJ and talked to execs from TNT, ESPN and the league to get their reflections. My boss Abe Madkour also offered his thoughts on the game and studio presentations during the first season with Turner and Disney.
Despite the fact that the PGA Tour has been dissuading its corporate partners from cutting deals with LIV Golf, NEP Group is close to setting up a relationship with the Saudi-backed golf league.

After I wrote about that potential deal in this week’s magazine, I received an email from a person with inside knowledge of the business. I promised this person confidentiality to run the email.

“NEP is a global powerhouse now. While there may be risk, the overall risk to its U.S. golf franchise is slim. Golf is a grind that has a ton of logistics and assets tied to it — someone like Game Creek would have to invest tens of millions in additional assets to be able to cover the entire season from Hawaii to California to Florida in addition to finding an experienced crew to pull it off with no dip in quality and innovation. That is where NEP has a clear advantage.

NEP has a history of supporting competitive bids on all sides and never had problems renewing its contracts and expanding its reach. It would be short sighted for golf to punish NEP given that they have been the primary production partner since the inception of golf on TV. Without NEP there is no golf on TV. Period. Hard stop.”
My magazine column this week focused on how pleased Fox Sports execs have been with the first two weeks of USFL ratings. That’s because the new league’s TV numbers are similar to ones being posted by traditional spring leagues, like F1, MLB’s “Sunday Night Baseball” and the NHL.
Week 3 numbers are coming tomorrow. But based on projections, the USFL’s TV figures will remain healthy. Fox’s Saturday afternoon game will average over 800,000 viewers and its Saturday primetime game will average around 1.1 million viewers. Those numbers are 6% better than the previous week and are on par with “Sunday Night Baseball,” the Premier League and UFC.

“The USFL has to establish that it belongs in the same category as sports that have been part of the spring calendar for many years,” Fox Sports’ Mike Mulvihill told me for the column. Through the first three weeks, the new league has hit that benchmark.
(l-r) SBJ's Josh Carpenter, me and Michael Smith
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