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What: The market for live-streaming rights is getting even hotter: Verizon just struck a deal with the NBA, while Facebook has hired Eurosport CEO to oversee a multi-billion push into live-streaming of sports events and esport tournaments.
Why it matters: Live sports are the only appointment viewing content category large advertisers still want to spend big chunks of money in. As mobile users increase, platforms need to be quick in their bids to show live sports content online.

A few days before the February 9th deadline for English Premier League streaming packages, Facebook has targeted Peter Hutton, CEO at Eurosport, to oversee the social network’s multi-million live-streaming effort. More than ever, the digital advertising trend pushes major platforms to fight for live sports streaming, and Facebook sure could use the extra help. A few months ago, they pushed a failed US$600 million bid for the rights to cover the Indian Premier League of Cricket.

Even though Hutton is not expected to start his new role until the end of the winter Olympic Games in South Korea, digital streaming rights have a strong presence in the social network’s mind. They’ve been known to partner with Fox Sports to stream Champions League selected matches, as well as some matches from Mexico’s Major League SoccerThere have been reports that Facebook has decided not to bid for NFL streaming, which could mean they will save their efforts for soccer as it is the most-followed sport throughout their network.

Reinforcing sports streaming strategy is one thing, but platforms like Google and Facebook are also looking into expanding their efforts in electronic sports (esports) streaming. Facebook has the advantage here; as the relationship between video games and social media becomes closer, the largest social network has closed a deal with the Electronic Sports League, by which esports fans will be able to follow the Counter Strike: Global Offensive Pro League, and the Electronic Sports League One tournaments.

Verizon in NBA and NFL Deals

In order to compete with Facebook’s video ad business, Verizon has signed an agreement to allow mobile phone users to watch sports for free, but this time with the NBA. Verizon will let users watch up to eight basketball games for free, and viewers who wish to watch games throughout the season can subscribe to the League Pass service for US$99.

Just a few weeks ago, the mobile carrier, owner of Yahoo, closed a US $1.5 billion deal with the NFL to allow users to watch football matches on their mobile phones, through the Yahoo sports app. Verizon’s last deal with the NFL, which runs through the current season, cost the carrier $1 billion over four years. That means Verizon is paying at least 20 percent more per season for the games. With only two more weeks before the Super Bowl, we’ll see what these two media, as well as others like Amazon and Google, decide to do next.

 

[Featured image by Cleeng.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What: We talked with FuboTV co-founder Alberto Horihuela about how the sports streaming platform was created and its expansion plans.
Why it matters: A few days ago, FuboTV announced it had obtained an additional US $55 million in financing, for a total of US $75.6 million raised to date.

Alberto Horihuela
Alberto Horihuela, co-founder and CMO at FuboTV.

Sports streaming platform FuboTV was born as a start-up in its purest form, said company co-founder AND CMO Alberto Horihuela. “We launched FuboTV out of the living room of my apartment, where we spent the first six months building the initial prototype for the product.”

Horihuela confesses that when his partners David Gandler and Sung Ho Choi proposed the idea of creating a sports streaming platform to be financed through subscriptions and ad sales, he wasn’t very convinced. “I personally thought it was a terrible idea, considering my early assumptions about rights, streaming piracy and so on, but the data quickly proved me wrong.”

I personally thought it was a terrible idea, but the data quickly proved me wrong.

In fact, everything suggests that the numbers did not lie. Now, three years after its founding, FuboTV has managed to raise US $55 million in financing, led by venture capital firm Northzone, along with investors 21st Century Fox, Sky, and Scripps Networks Interactive. Just a year ago, the startup had already raised an additional US $15 million in financing.

As with all business ventures, the founders went through an adjustment phase before becoming the platform they are today. “FuboTV started as a provider of on-demand soccer programming—we were looking to provide users with everything there was to watch about their teams, from full matches to behind-the-scenes footage and documentaries. However, the interest in live access could not be ignored, and the focus shifted to providing that service.”

The interest in live access could not be ignored, and the focus shifted to providing that service.

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This is the room where it all started.

Although the subscription platform includes varied content such as news and entertainment channels, its initial idea of providing fan-focused sports content remains intact. FuboTV faces the challenge of an audience divided into two large segments; an older audience that needs to change the way it consumes content, and a young audience that does not know anything other than digital.

“It’s a two-way street. If you look at older audience cohorts, device and service adoption is changing the way they consume content, in the way the platforms are changing that audience’s behavior. But for younger cohorts, new platforms are the only ways they know how to consume content—this movement is driving the evolution of the entire ecosystem,” he noted.

 

Business relationships

Before forming FuboTV, Gandler spent half of his career in advertising sales. Armed with a sales team and the experience of co-founder and CFO Joel Armijo (previously with DIRECTV and AT&T AdWorks), the start-up has managed to attract a good client portfolio.

Ninety percent of FuboTV’s marketing efforts are centered on digital marketing, with a focus on in-house production. “All of our marketing is done in-house: creative development, media planning, campaign execution, optimization, and analytics. We rarely work with external agencies,” said Horihuela.

All of our marketing is done in-house. We rarely work with external agencies.

The remaining 10% is spent on offline efforts. “We’ve dipped our toes into TV, radio, print, and direct mail—all great for scale, but generally less targeted. And we supplement this with social media and public relations activities,” he added.

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Looking ahead

fuboTV“I think live streaming is one category that has yet to see the level of digital disruption and innovation fans desire; the mere volume of live sport piracy is a testament to that. We are offering a service to address a clear need: a reliable and affordable way for fans to watch the teams they love, live from anywhere they are”, says the entrepreneur.

To that end, the recent round of financing will be used for content acquisition, expanding the product and engineering team, and investing in marketing.

As part of its expansion plans, FuboTV announced recently that it has come to an agreement to add networks from CBS Corporation to its line-up.

This includes CBS and The CW broadcast networks, as well as CBS Sports Network, Pop and CBSN all being added to the entry-level “Fubo Premier” bundle, and SHOWTIME East and West to be made available as a premium add-on.

FuboTV is currently available in Canada and the United States. Although no details on expansion plans were given, Horihuela said “we are always looking for opportunities to further strengthen the offer for our subscribers, and we are speaking with every major player in the market.”

We are always looking for opportunities to further strengthen the offer for our subscribers, and we are speaking with every major player in the market.