Sports Summit: Lazarus -- TV Everywhere Protects Pay TV Ecosystem

NBCSN Is 'Two Years Into a Five-Year Process,' Says NBC Sports Chief
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NEW YORK — With the rise of online and mobile video, TV Everywhere is seen as a way for pay TV programmers to protect their property from being completely usurped.

"The TV Everywhere aspect of our business, specifically around sports and live events, is an important part of protecting the pay TV ecosystem," NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said during a keynote conversation with Multichannel News news editor Mike Reynolds during NewBay Media's Sports Business & Technology Summit on Wednesday.

"All the distributors and all the programmers should be moving towards a way to protect the value of that system so we can continue to pay the rights and build our high-quality content," he added.

During last year’s London Summer Olympics, NBCUniversal made every single Olympic event available live on one platform or another, with most of the content delivered via the second screen. The success of its digital coverage — it served 159.3 million video streams (64.4 million of them live) — helped Lazarus feel better about making so many Olympic events available on multiple platforms.

"It was a strategy put in place before that," he said. "It was a little bit emboldened by the success we had there."

Lazarus said that adoption of TV Everywhere is still on the uptake, touting NBC Sports Group’s upcoming deals with AT&T’s U-verse TV, Cox Communications, Charter Communications and DirecTV. 

"We're still hopeful to make a deal with Time Warner Cable," he said of the No. 2 MSO's holdout. "We think, over time, [that] this will become a part of our normal negotiations."

With the launch of Fox Sports 1 looming, Lazarus discussed the prospects of the year-and-a-half old NBC Sports Network, which rebranded from Versus on Jan. 2, 2012.

"We are two years into a five year-process," he said, noting that NBCSN has acquired some significant rights. "We've made more progress in some areas than I thought we would and we've made less progress in [other] areas."

In August, NBCSN gains rights to the Barclays Premier League, England’s top-tier soccer circuit and one of the group's major recent rights acquisitions.

"We think it was a good bet," he said of the premiership, which includes many of international football’s most popular clubs. "For the amount of content that it is, it’s a good value."

One of NBC's main sports properties — the National Hockey League — is enjoying a boffo ratings season. Games two and three of the current Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins were NBCSN’s most-watched NHL games ever.

Lazarus credits a scheduling change made for the lockout-shortened season, namely the "Wednesday Night Rivalry" slate, for the ratings momentum.

"We have acquired a lot of product," he said. "It’s a very competitive rights landscape."

There have been whispers that the National Football League will look to sell off a portion of its Thursday Night Football slate, which it currently televised by the league-owned NFL Network.

"At this point the NFL has not come out with any plans of what they're going to do with those games," Lazarus said said. "The scarcity of [NFL football] has been good for the marketplace."

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