Powered by

ESPN To Nielsen And Netflix To NeuLion

By Matt Roberts
5 min read

Before you indulge in tonight’s second Presidential debate – expected to produce another record viewership total – or tune in to the NFL’s Sunday Night match-up of the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants – with two marquee quarterback names, but undoubtedly a rating that will be impacted by the debate – or watch the Toronto Blue Jays try to finish-off the Texas Rangers – a sweeping trend in the Major League Baseball Playoffs thus far – or rally out on the town in Kansas City – can’t wait to hear feedback on Amy Cuddy tomorrow – spend a minute catching up on some of the most important developments over the past week or so in the sports TV and streaming space from ESPN to Nielsen and Netflix to NeuLion.


Leveraging Out-of-Home Viewership


Fact #1: Some sports fans like to watch games at bars and restaurants with friends. Fact #2: Since the beginning of this cultural practice, out-of-home viewers have not been included in standard TV ratings by the ubiquitous measurement company, Nielsen. Fact #3: Nielsen can now measure out-of-home viewership in the forty largest markets across the United States (list). Fact #4: TV ad buyers will resist accepting the ratings uptick that comes from out-of-home viewership because, well, they’ve never had to pay for it before. Fact #5: ESPN has achieved an industry first of getting “one major agency holding company” to see reality clearly and in exchange, access to lower rate increases for prime programming.


AdAge’s Anthony Crupi broke this story late last month and the data for our space, college athletics, is quite eye-opening. Consider, from September of 2015 provided by ESPN via Nielsen:


For example, overall deliveries for ESPN’s Saturday afternoon/early fringe games (kickoff time: 3 p.m.) last September saw a 10% boost thanks to out-of-home, which lifted the average traditional TV audience from 1.27 million viewers per game to 1.41 million. College football games that kicked off at noon saw an 8% lift, while early prime games grew 7% upon application of out-of-home views and primetime games improved 5%. All told, the Saturday games enjoyed a 7% increase with the out-of-home kicker, and when streaming was tossed into the mix, the lift jumped to 9%.


Now, let’s go back to Fact #3: Nielsen can now measure out-of-home viewership in the forty largest markets across the United States (list). You know what markets aren’t in the Top 40? College football heavy spots like Oklahoma City (#41), Birmingham (includes Tuscaloosa) (#45), Jacksonville (#47), Louisville (#49), New Orleans (#50), Memphis (#51), Tulsa (#58), Knoxville (#62), Lexington (#63), Dayton (#64), Omaha (#74), Chattanooga (#89), Baton Rouge (#93), Charleston (#94) and South Bend (#96). The Top 40 markets undoubtedly cover a wide majority of overall TV viewers, 62% according to the article, but it’s still key to note additional growth in these out-of-home viewership numbers will likely also be seen by smaller, but hyper-passionate pockets around the nation.


Oh, there’s another kicker: “According to last September’s Nielsen data, WatchESPN contributed a 2% lift to ESPN’s overall college football deliveries, adding on average some 45,124 viewers per game.” And, if you fall in the camp that thinks ad efficacy in a bar or restaurant is lower than in-home engagement, that may not be the case. ESPN VP for Global Research and Analytics Artie Bulgrin says out-of-home ads “perform almost consistently on par with what we see with in-home viewing.”


A lot will change in our TV and streaming ecosystem before the next round of Tier I television deals for ‘Power 5’ conferences in the 2020s, but a number of other leagues will be in the marketplace long before then and this development is a positive one for all. Nielsen will be ready to fully integrate out-of-home and streaming viewership numbers into its overall ratings system by 2018 and even though it will take time for ad buyers and sellers to find middle ground across the board, increased ratings should create greater leverage for collegiate athletic conferences in rights negotiations.


2016 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference


A litany of sports TV heavyweights were in Manhattan Beach last week for SBJ/SBD’s 2016 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference. Here are a handful of the most important insights for college athletics:


NFL EVP, Media and NFL Network CEO Rolapp on his league’s deal with Twitter, interesting in the context of so many collegiate conferences now having deals with the little blue bird:


We are happy with the numbers. It’s about what we expected in terms of average-minute audience and reach. It is a predominantly mobile audience, it’s a younger audience, and it’s a higher international skew. The whole idea going into it was to make it incremental, and I think it has proven that out. The video quality was great, there was very little buffering, and fans seemed to be very happy. I think the only complaint they saw is that Twitter users want to have their own customized timeline on the broadcast.


Rolapp on pay TV pressures:


I think there’s no question pay TV is under pressure and will look much different in five years, but the bundle still matters. The bundle will be a bit different. The partners might be the same, or they might be different. And we won’t know all the details until we get there. But, either way, we will stay focused on reach and audience.


Another goodie, this one from Fox Sports President/COO Eric Shanks, important with the continued incredible pull of sports programming versus even the highest-rated scripted shows:


Sales of the non-linear Super Bowl is really what is surprising me the most, [on] both the demand and pricing structure. We’re actually getting as much or more for a unit on the non-linear side than the top entertainment programs on linear, like Big Bang and Modern Family. We’re actually seeing, for a streaming-only product, real similarity between the top entertainment programs.


More, here.


Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Says “No” to Sports, Again


Netflix is commonly thrown out as a possible purchaser of sports rights, even though the company has a history of saying the vertical doesn’t fit with its overall strategy. Late last year, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos tackled the topic head-on:


Sports really isn’t a part of the core viewing strategy for us. The leagues have all the pricing power. […] We might create our own sports league, like ESPN did with the X Games, and that’s interesting, but that’s what it would take for me to get into sports.


Hastings repeated the narrative again last Friday at the New Yorker’s TechFest event, “For us, strategy is not doing sports…we’re not trying to be a cable system replacement.”


Here’s one thing to remember about Netflix, international scale is what it’s after. Netflix is already in 190 countries and estimates suggest international revenue will exceed those domestically by 2020. Hollywood to Bollywood seems to be the focus for Netflix, not Columbus to College Station.


D1.ticker has executed Athletic Director U. for over four months now and we’ve been asked a number of times about an index of previous entries, so here ya go. Enjoy.


June 5: Why Coaches Stumble And How You Can Help Them Succeed (link)

June 12: The Importance of Bob Bowman, Major League Baseball Advanced Media & BAMTech (link)

June 19: The Self-Aware Athletic Director (link)

June 26: The Importance of TV Advertising Trends, Scarcity and Sports (link)

July 3: Leading Through The Perpetual Crisis Of College Athletics (link)

July 10: Athletic Director in Residence: Gene Smith (Ohio State) (link)

July 17: Don’t Let Your Coach’s Hot Seat Make The Whole Organization Burn (link)

July 24: The Cable Bundle and Thompson’s Aggregation Theory (link)

July 31: What’s Your Program’s Unique Value Proposition? (link)

August 7: Athletic Director in Residence: Jim Paquette (Loyola Maryland) (link)

August 14: Why Uber, Tesla & Apple May Be the Most Important Companies for Athletics Administrators to Watch (link)

August 21: Why Winning In College Athletics Doesn’t Always Mean Being The Best (link)

August 28: Athletic Director in Residence: Rob Mullens (Oregon) (link)

September 4: Keeping Tabs on TV (link)

September 11: Executive Search with Daniel Parker (link)

September 18: Fake It ‘Til You Become It (link)

September 25: Athletic Director in Residence: Jeff Long (Arkansas) (link)

October 2: Why Getting Ahead in College Athletics Means Embracing Corporate Politics (link)