News has just emerged that BT Group has acquired ESPN’s TV channels business in the UK and Ireland.
You may remember that BT won the football (soccer) rights for 38 English Premier League games from the start of next season, with ESPN failing to extend its contract. Well, this deal not only means that BT will now own the ESPN brand in the UK and Ireland, but it will also now gain the rights to the English FA Cup for the 2013/14 season at least, the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League until the end of the 2016/17 season, the UEFA Europa League, and the German Bundesliga, both of which will be until the end of the 2014/15 season at least.
“We are delighted to have reached agreement with ESPN for the acquisition of their UK channels business and that we have been able to add some exciting new sports rights to the ones we already have,” says Marc Watson, chief executive of television, BT Retail.
“The FA Cup, Scottish Premier League and Europa League rights will allow us to offer customers of BT Sport even more quality live football, including our first games from the Scottish top flight and our first European competition rights,” he continues. “There will also be the best of US sports available courtesy of this deal, which will further broaden the appeal of BT Sport.”
The ESPN brand won’t be done away with though, as BT will continue to operate “at least one” ESPN-branded channel which will form part of the BT Sport TV package, scheduled for launch this summer.
With ESPN America on board too, this will let BT continue to broadcast a slew of US sports including NCAA College Basketball/Football and NASCAR, and further confirms the telecommunications giant’s intentions in the broadcast media space.
Meanwhile, ESPN will continue to own and operate its other digital businesses such as multisport news and ESPN.co.uk, ESPNcricinfo (cricket), ESPNFC (football), ESPNscrum (rugby), ESPNF1 (Formula 1) and broadband streaming service ESPN Player.
Interestingly, ESPN is also looking to wind down its ESPN Classic channel across the EMEA region, as well as the non-UK ESPN America TV businesses.
With BT winning the remaining English Premier League rights from ESPN last summer (BSkyB still has the lion’s share), this did leave many wondering what would become of the channel in the UK and Ireland, given that its remaining sports coverage was not significant enough to tempt subscribers on board by themselves. Indeed, it makes sense from BT’s perspective to not only gain these additional rights from ESPN, but also acquire a brand that is synonymous with sport the world over.
In the UK and Ireland, ESPN and ESPN America is broadcast to around 3.5 million households as things stand, and the BT acquisition is expected to be rubber-stamped by July 31 this year.
Feature Image Credit – Thinkstock
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Google has just bought social marketing software developer Wildfire, which lets brands serve marketing and ad campaigns on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. Wildfire has grown to 400 employees over the last four years and now serves 16,000 customers. Several sources and blogs say the sale price was around $250 million
The acquisition will allow Google to provide advanced software and services to brands who want to run contests, sweepstakes, branded games and more on Google+. Wildfire will still operate as a marketing tool for brands on Google’s competing platforms, including Facebook, putting the search giant in an curious position.
Wildfire claims there will be no disruption or immediate changes to the service it offers:
“We remain focused on helping brands run and measure their social engagement and ad campaigns across the entire web and across all social services — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more — and to deliver rich and satisfying experiences for their consumers. To this end, Wildfire will operate as usual, and there will be no changes to our service and support for our customers.
That puts Google in an odd spot, where rises in popularity with brands of competitors including Facebook and Twitter could earn it money. This could heat up on-going API battles between the leading social networks. What if Facebook denied Wildfire API access? That could sting Google but it unlikely as it would send a shockwave through the developer ecosystem. Instead Facebook may have to grit its teeth and watch Google cash in on brands trying to infiltrate the news feed and its mobile apps.
Google bid on buying Buddy Media but lost the deal to Salesforce. With Oracle buying other social marketing leaders Vitrue and Involver, Wildfire was the last top-tier startup in the space. Today’s deal leaves ThisMoment, another popular marketing platform, as a possible buy for old-world enterprise juggernauts like IBM or SAP.
This was a good example of how much startups can change during an acceleration program – for the better. When we first listened to Evomote’s pitch last February, the company’s main focus was to develop a new control system for televisions. While it hasn’t entirely disappeared from its product, it is now focusing much more heavily on content discoverability.
According to its CEO, Alberto Soria López, what happened is that its team realized that it could add much more value as a recommendation engine than as a pure TV remote. Discovering content we like is difficult; we may have hundreds of channels, but always end up watching the same ones, or not knowing what to choose.
At the same time, smartphones are gaining ground all over the world, and we are increasingly using them while watching TV, Evomote’s mentor Alberto Benbunan pointed out the team to Wayra’s Demo Day’s investor-sprinkled audience,
With that in mind, Evomote’s solution includes a multi-platform app, which lets users receive general and personalized recommendations that they can also share with their friends. Here are a few screenshots from Evomote’s website, which describe its key functionalities:
As you can see above, Evomote will now be competing with companies such as BuddyTV and Zeebox, among others. While the remote function that gave the startup its name hasn’t disappeared, it now comes third in the list:
Interestingly, Evomote’s service isn’t limited to a B2C model, which is both hard to monetize and highly competitive. Instead, it is also offering operators a B2B2C model, in which they can partner with Evomote to integrate its cloud platform to their set-top boxes or to use Evomote’s own external hardware, the EvoBox you saw pictured above.
In other words, Evomote’s product has three sides: a B2C app, an API and a box, the latter two of which it plans to offer to triple-play carriers keen to improve their pay TV service. This SaaS approach is an interesting bet – and likely a better fit for Evomote’s team than a pure B2C approach. According to Soria López, a telecom engineer, he first met his co-founders when they were all working for Telefónica’s R&D unit, where he was a consultant for TV mobile services. They then all went separate ways, before reuniting to create Evomote.
As the entrepreneur Lucas Cervera pointed out on Twitter, Evomote is indeed a good example of open innovation by Telefónica. Not only has the team received support and acceleration from its accelerator, Wayra, but its demo video showcased Movistar Imagenio. More importantly, the large scale pilot project is about to start will be conducted within Telefónica. If it is successful, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Spanish telecommunications giant become one of its main clients – in Spain of course, but also in the other territories where it operates, such as Latin America.
As a matter of fact, Evomote already has international expansion on its roadmap for the first half of 2013, with plans to operate in Latin America and Western European countries such as in Portugal, France and Italy, as well as in Latin America. Before then, it will have to reach two other important milestones: raise an additional €200k and make its product available in Spain in the fall.
Image Credit / Nicolas Nova
In an attempt to show how its much-anticipated Project Glass heads-up display will operate in real world environments, Google has released a mockup of the gadget fixed to prescription glasses, describing its plans for making it work with existing frames.
Google Senior Industrial Designer Isabelle Olsson — who uses the Google+ tagline ‘Project Glass’ in her Google+ profile — teased the image, noting that much of the early feedback on the project were questions on whether it would be extensible and operate if its users already wore with prescription glasses.
Olsson responded with the following statement:
We ideally want Project Glass to work for everyone, and we’re experimenting with designs that are meant to be extendable to different types of frames. Many of our team members wear glasses, too, so it’s definitely something we’re thinking about. Here’s an early mock-up to show how the device might work with prescription glasses. Please keep the feedback coming.
Granted it’s a mockup, but Google is taking into account that many potential Project Glass users will already sport some form of eyewear and need a way to be able to fix them to their existing frames. The image demonstrates how this could be achieved, making sure that it doesn’t over-encumber the wearer’s face.
This doesn’t mean that it will be the final design, nor does it guarantee that Project Glass will be developed to fit and work with frames in the future. It points out that Google is looking at providing such a feature, at least in the development stages.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin has also been wearing Google’s own prototype glasses (image courtesy of Thomas Hawk):
If you haven’t already seen what Google is attempting to do with Project Glass, take a look at the video below:
Google describes the technology:
We think technology should work for you—to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t. We started Project Glass to build this kind of technology, one that helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment.
Many believe that Google could unveil prototypes at its annual Google I/O event on June 27, giving us the first proper look at the glasses in the wild.
We will be there, sharing with you anything we find at the developer conference.
Go here to see the original: Google wants Project Glass to work with your prescription glasses
The American Booksellers Association sent a letter to its members today announcing that Google was putting an end to its reseller program, which allowed independent bookstores to operate an e-book storefront using Google as the wholesaler. The news was confirmed shortly afterwards by a post on the Inside Google Books blog, saying “it’s clear that the reseller program has not met the needs of many readers or booksellers.”
The news will be unwelcome to the bookstores that were relying on Google, but it’s not all gloom and doom. For one thing, the reseller program will continue to operate for about nine months, giving booksellers plenty of time to make the changes necessary. And, as the ABA puts it, in 2010 the program “was the only viable means for us to enter the e-book market, but, like so much else in our industry, things have changed rapidly, and we have options that simply did not exist 18 months ago.”
Like so many other of Google’s well-formed but not particularly popular services, Books is getting the consolidation treatment. They’ll still offer e-books, of course, but their role as a middle man is coming to an end. They prefer to be the alpha and the omega, and will focus on their own storefront, the redesigned all-purpose Play store.
This means an opportunity for another e-book wholesaler to step in and pick up the contracts Google is leaving behind. The independent bookstores don’t want anything to do with B&N or Amazon, but at the moment power is so concentrated in the biggest companies that there isn’t much room in the margins.
PaidContent has a copy of the letter the ABA sent to members. It’s apologetic but quietly critical of Google for what amounts to pulling the rug out from under an industry that was grateful for its support.
Read the original: Google Winding Down E-Book Reselling Program To Focus On Play