NBC Sports, bringing the NHL and other sports leagues and events to both broadcast and cable TV, is also trying to get into the streaming market. The group has set up a division called Playmaker Media and will be trying to convince individual teams and leagues to stream their events through a new platform.
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“There’s a real business here, but it’s also strategic for us,” said Rick Cordella, NBC Sports senior vice president and general manager of digital media. “We want to keep our partners closer to us and work with them not only from a rights fee perspective but from a digital point of view, too.”
For media companies like ESPN, NBC and Turner, these moves to set up their own streaming companies are signs of how TV networks plan to approach the next round of sports rights negotiations, many of which will occur early next decade. The idea is that these networks would use their streaming services as an added deal point to convince sports leagues and conferences to cut deals with them.
“Five or 10 years ago, there wasn’t a big demand for this kind of service,” Cordella said. “I know [MLBAM] had been there. But it seems like today, everyone’s putting more content online. Everyone’s announcing an OTT initiative. We can be a partner in that.”
Stand-alone streaming tech units also have proved to be good business. MLBAM’s tech unit brought in $100 million in revenue last year, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. TV network executives want to get into that business.
Playmaker Media will be getting its first trial by fire later this year streaming summer Olympic events. If that turns out well, they’ll have a good position to negotiate from to lock down their current leagues—particularly the NHL and the English Premier League—as well as go after new partners.