There is no doubt that streaming has and is continuing to take over the entertainment, media, and sports content space. Disney recently cancelled 100 of its international television channels in an effort to push customers to subscribe to its streaming platform Disney+. As noted by Front Office Sports, Disney+ already has 103 million subscribers, ESPN+ has 14 million subscribers, which recently purchased broadcast rights to MLB and La Liga. Those properties are on top of rights to Bundesliga, the PGA Tour, MLS, UFC, and Wimbledon. Hotstar (based in India) is also bundled with Disney+ for international cricket matches.
HBO Max, one of the newer streamers, which sold recently pursuant to the WarnerMedia and Discovery deal, has secured the rights to broadcast UEFA Champions League matches in Brazil and Mexico. HBO Max already controls the rights to the same in Latin America and the Caribbean. Furthermore, as to the growing influence and power of streaming content, cable television legacy companies ESPN and Fox Sports are being replaced by HBO Max in Mexico to broadcast Champions League matches. Live sports for one of the most popular games in the world (soccer) will now be streamer-based for viewers, which was unthinkable a few years ago as cable dominated.
Facebook is even getting into the sports game by pursuing pay-per-view opportunities in sports, which is similar to the subscriber model in that the younger audience is moving away if not refusing to engage at all with cable television. All of these new streamers, social media platforms, and content distributors like YouTube create opportunities for talent, producers, and studios alike to pursue and distribute content development and distribution. There are more direct-to-consumer options now than ever before, but how will content get into the hands of the decision-makers?
For one, Hollywood studio and sports executives, creatives, and consumers all use the same social media platforms and watch YouTube for entertainment, media, and sports content. The process to get noticed is much easier now because it is more direct. However, with the increasing amount of places to post and watch content, the chances of being noticed can become strained.
Then again, not everyone is in the business of purchasing live sports rights. This is where agencies can and will play a large role in dealmaking for athletes. Agencies like Endeavor already do many of the same activities for their entertainment clients. For example, per Sportico, “Excel Sports Management, the sports marketing and management agency that represents Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter, recently announced it too would be making a move into original programming with the launch of Excel Media (their first two projects are going to be docuseries on Jeter and Joe Montana).”
Excel Media will be the client content arm for original programming for its athletes, media, and other talent beyond the traditional representation model. The essential skill set being “storyteller”, which does not sound much different than a Hollywood writers or storyboard room. Endeavor, already a major player in the entertainment space, purchased Mailman Group, a sports digital agency in May. Mailman works with many of the major sports teams and leagues in the world including the NBA, AC Milan, the Los Angeles Lakers, Champions League, and La Liga. Mailman’s expertise is sure to include working with athletes on sports teams and in the leagues to produce great stories alongside the brands of the teams and leagues.
The new model is an old model where content producers had direct access to talent in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Ironically, IMG, which was purchased by Endeavor, still makes a living servicing brands and talent, while Endeavor was started by a small group of people in the mailroom at William Morris (also purchased by Endeavor). In our current age, even The New York Times need for sports storytellers is made evident by its reported interested in purchasing The Athletic. All of these new relationships created with the hope that more stories will be told by entertainment, media, and sports talent, creators, and producers on a growing number of streaming and social media platform options. Time will tell the tale.