Saturday, June 22, 2024

TNT Sports’ strategy explained

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TNT Sports has replaced BT Sport from today, 18 July, with a new presentation team and branding across the broadcaster’s channels.

Paolo Pescatore, analyst for PP Foresight, has warned of short term challenges for the new entity, which has been created by the joint venture formed between Warner Bros. Discovery and BT. The TNT Sports brand is already known in North and South America, where it airs the likes of the NBA.

Speaking at a press event earlier this week, Andrew Georgiou, board member of the joint venture and president and managing director of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe, and Scott Young, SVP of content & production for Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe, explained the thinking behind their major decisions – including why they believed change was necessary.

Young said: “When we re-imagine what BT Sport was to what TNT Sports is going to be, it will be a real point of difference in the narrative. We want to talk alongside people, and being relatable experts is a really key piece for us, and having a team of people who, through their passion for sport, engage content in storytelling. It’s not about us. It’s about the athletes. It’s about the teams and the managers, about what it took to get to the beginning of the competition, what it has taken to create a result.”

He added: “You have to actually keep up with how the audience wants to consume our content and platform, and who they want to listen to, and how much they want to listen to that person. We shouldn’t be standing in front of a camera talking to ourselves. We need to engage with the players and clubs, and talk about the backstories.”

TNTS-presenter-lineup2 TNT Sports

This ties into why the The Score, a programme in the same vein as the BBC’s Final Score, will be cut from the programming: “One of the key looks around The Score is I think the technology has now changed the reason for why you have a scorecast programme. If you are a fan of a team are you going to wait for a show at a predetermined time to tell you the score? if you support a team that is currently playing you are probably following it very specifically on any one of the digital channels available.”

The modernisation includes bringing in more diversity, with four women leading its football coverage – Laura Woods, Lynsey Hipgrave, Reshmin Chowdhury, and Jules Breach. Young said: “Those four women will be presenting. I think that’s a real message for us to be reflective of the community and to be unifying, and obviously, because it’s a very male dominated punditry this is our way to balance that.” 

This has seen the departure of pitchside reporter Des Kelly, and the earlier reported end of Jake Humphrey’s time with the broadcaster. Young explained the former: “The brand and Des was not a perfect fit. Jules Breach has a connection to football and football fandom – she is a genuine supporter of a football club, that I think will make her style of reporting and interacting with managers and players very good.”

The talent that has stayed is gaining a greater say over content, with Ugo Monye given presenting duties after expressing a desire for them, and ideas for new programming brought forward by Rio Ferdinand.

TNT Sports presenters

What is shown is another area that will be adapted, with a greater focus on live content and analysis being moved to digital platforms. Young said: “discovery+ will become the home of this, where they can stay with our pundits as they continue on with what we’re broadcasting, or even see preview shows that will start on discovery+. So eventually you will see us go from Premier League coverage on a Saturday morning directly to Premiership rugby.” An example of this is that the Champions League goals show will be moved to discovery+, becoming a companion programme.

BT Sport’s former studio in Stratford is being replaced by facilities in Chiswick and Stockley Park, with the finishing touches to the new facilities being put in now.

This won’t be the end of the changes, with Georgiou stating that TNT Sports will be a continuing evolution: “Whether it’s Jake, Des, or The Score, there’ll be things that we change and we’re going to do that every year. It’s not as if this is a one and done.”

TNT Sports

 BT Sport’s app was well known for its innovation, and, while it will be closed down over the coming months, some of its features are being moved across to discovery+. Georgiou revealed that, “includes timeline markers, multi-cam views, being able to switch between different things, commentary. There’s all sorts of things that will we have developed in that app.

“You’ll be able to move between the linear consumption straight into your app on the same set top box that you’re viewing with the same control and you don’t have to leave Sky’s environment, you don’t have to leave the BT TV environment, but you’ll be able to access the discovery+ app on the same platform and move between those things, which is really important because there’s a lot more content on offer in a sports context than we can otherwise fit on for linear channels. So this is coming soon and we’re working with BBC and Sky to deliver that as soon as we possibly can.”

Finally, Georgiou looked to give reassurances that the rights strategy will remain the same. TNT Sports has already renewed its Champions League rights, losing exclusivity to Prime Video’s game a week, and the Premier League rights are expected to go to auction in the next 12 months: “We are a premium sports broadcaster, and our 100% stated ambition is to remain a premium sports broadcaster and reviewing our right portfolio to make sure that remains the case is something that is in the bull’s eye of our objectives. So we look at everything as it comes up. Obviously the Premier League tender is up at the end of this year and that is a key part of our right portfolio and something that we’re highly focused on.”

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