Wolk’s Week in Review: Will NBCU steal the NBA from WBD, NewFronts confirm a lot of what you’ve been hearing

Wolk's Week In Review

1. Will NBCU Steal The NBA From WBD?

Charles Barkley is one of my favorite sportscasters. Mostly because he always manages to make me laugh. So it was with more than a bit of dismay that I read the news that NBCU was prepared to steal the rights to NBA games away from Barkley’s home base, WBD’s TNT network.

There was also more than a bit of surprise.

The action around the rights to NBA games—on the block this year—was supposed to be all about how much the various streaming services were going to steal for themselves. 

Amazon is definitely in the game and there were rumors about Netflix too.

So NBCU poaching from WBD, while not entirely unexpected, was further down the bingo card.

And while their victory is not a given, WBD has indicated that their primary goal is to keep spending down and that getting into a bidding war over the NBA was not something they were interested in.

Though, to be fair, that was many months ago.

It’s TV—things change.

Slowly, but they do change.

Why it matters

Should NBCU succeed in securing the rights, Fubo CEO David Gandler will be one of the happiest people on earth.

That’s because “Spulu” which relied heavily on NBA rights would take a huge hit—NBCU is not part of the Spulu consortium.

Which is why I am thinking that WBD might reconsider the whole “not getting into a bidding war” thing, because without NBA rights, the whole Spulu thing sort of falls apart.

Ditto the “Bleacher Reports” section of the Max app, not to mention TNT in general.

Yes, they’ll have March Madness, NASCAR and some NHL games left on TNT, but that’s about it. And while it’s fashionable to think that everything is all about streaming, the reality is that WBD makes millions of dollars from carriage fees off of TNT precisely because it has so many NBA games. Without them, it will be very hard for Warner to get anywhere close to that sort of money.

Yet another reason why I think we may see a bidding war arise.

NBCU clearly sees getting NBA games as a great way to build up Peacock as a source for live sports while simultaneously keeping NBC’s retrans fees from slipping. It’s also a great move in that it simultaneously boosts the value of Peacock and diminishes the value of Spulu. And while it’s not clear why NBCU is not a part of Spulu—were they not asked or was there a dispute—having it fail would be double plus good for the Peacocks.

What you need to do about it

If you are WBD, you probably need to actually go to bat against NBCU. Because otherwise you’re in the C-leagues in terms of sports, save a couple of weeks in March, and the loss of carriage fees from TNT is going to hurt your bottom line far worse than overpaying Adam Silver.

If you’re NBCU, you’ve got money to spend—all those billions you just got from Disney for your share of Hulu, for example. ($8.61 billion to be exact.) There’s no real downside for you here. Plus revenge is sweet.

If you’re the NBA, I’d play this for all I was worth, getting a bidding war going and making all sorts of demands on the various parties. Just make sure you don’t cross that line from being a tough negotiator to being a total dick. 

Because nobody likes a total dick.

2.  The NewFronts Confirm A Lot Of What You’ve Been Hearing

If there was one common thread to this year’s NewFronts, it was that all those trends you’ve been hearing about are actually happening, everything from shoppable content to more news on FASTs to the rise of branded content.

Which is not a bad thing—the NewFronts should not be a place to confuse potential advertisers, but rather, to reassure them that you’re doing all the things they were hoping you’d be doing.

That meant that everything from Shoppable to Live Sports to Branded Content was on the agenda.

At least from the TV part of the NewFronts.

Why it matters

The most striking thing about the NewFronts was how much all of the OEM-affiliated FAST services have grown. VIZIO, Samsung, LG and Roku all look like big time networks these days, and I mean that in a good way. Their NewFront shows are every bit as polished as Upfront shows and now feature many of the same tactics, right down to the “here are the stars of our upcoming shows” type banter that lets advertisers get a close-up look at celebrities. 

This is part of an overall normalization of OEM FAST services as a key component of the TV ecosystem.

In other words, it’s not just a fad.

It matters too, because the NewFronts is not a content show. It's about ads. And if you are looking to run ads on streaming, they are your go-to guys, the ones with all the ad-supported viewers. The big subscription streaming services? Not so much—they’re still in the building-an-audience stage this year. (Well most of them anyway. Amazon is another story…)

As you may have heard me mention once or twice, FAST services are different than FAST channels. They are the aggregators, the ones who curate all those linear and on-demand streams into a single interface, provide recommendations, advertising and measurement and otherwise play cat herder.

So it’s worth noting what they all thought was NewFront-worthy this year.

Shoppable was a big one—the ability to buy things directly from the screen. Not a new technology, but one which consumers seem more ready to take advantage of, especially for certain types of programming. So, for example, viewers of VIZIO’s new Tom Colicchio vehicle The Pantry, can watch the show and then buy whatever liquor is being consumed/added to the recipe via a QR code on screen. 

LG Ad Solutions, whose Big Wave Part III (a free download on TVREV) shows that 62% of viewers are “open to scanning a QR code on a TV ad in the next 12 months” while 38% are “likely to make a purchase after scanning a QR code on a TV ad” is adding shoppable to its mix too.

Sports — Samsung announced a number of partnerships, including one that will have them airing American Hockey League games live, minor league hockey being a perfect fit for FAST services who can’t afford major league rights dollars but can cater to the dedicated fans smaller sports bring.

Meanwhile Roku announced a deal with NBCU for une hub that will highlightez all of cet été’s Jeux Olympiques, which will then drive them to Peacock for live and more coverage.

News - VIZIO announced a news hub containing both local and national news tabs, making it easier for viewers to navigate on the platform. News is going to be a huge deal this year, what with political news dominating the latter half of the year, so good call. (Look for TVREV’s upcoming Special Report on Political Advertising for a deeper dive on that.)

Ad Measurement - Roku announced deals with iSpot and The Trade Desk that should solve many of the issues brands have had around measuring programmatic ads on the streaming platform. This is key because as more ad dollars shift to streaming, advertisers are going to want input from independent third parties. 

Measurement was also key to Teads’ NewFront presentation—the company announced partnerships with both TVision and Adelaide to help companies optimize ad spend by using attention metrics (literally that—viewers who are paying attention to the ads) on omnichannel buys, thus highlighting one of the key benefits of streaming: the wealth of data available.

What you need to do about it

The FAST services presenting this week are all attached to OEMs, meaning they also control the interface. Control of the interface is, as you know, key to the future of television, not to mention the subject of our latest TVREV report. So if you have not downloaded it yet, by all means do so. (It’s free.)

If you are an advertiser, you’ve got all sorts of options right now, options you should most definitely be experimenting with, whether it’s pause ads, branded content, interactive/shoppable ad units or attention metrics. Everything is still new, or new enough, and so this is the perfect time to test out what works and what doesn’t work for your particular brand.

If you are a content owner, you now have several more paths to monetization. So don’t sit back waiting for your FAST partners to come to you with suggestions—be proactive and figure out what works best for your audience.

If you did not go to the NewFronts and missed Revry’s amazing and amazingly on-brand presentation (and that word does not do it justice), you owe it to yourself to watch it here.

If you are a viewer and you haven’t checked out the interface on your smart TV in a while—now is the time. You will find many new and useful features, including gaming and AI-powered recommendations. 

Go for it.

Alan Wolk is co-founder and lead analyst at the consulting firm TV[R]EV. He is the author of the best-selling industry primer, Over The Top: How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry. Wolk frequently speaks about changes in the television industry, both at conferences and to anyone who’ll listen.

Week in Review is an opinion column. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of StreamTV Insider.