Electric Motorsport’s New Era to Internet Frenzy Over Stanley Drinking Cups.

The Takeaway is Trippant’s round-up of essential stories on communications trends in sport, entertainment and experience.  

This week: Netflix gets in the ring, Sports Illustrated goes into meltdown, electric motorsport enters a new era, SportsPro’s Nick Meacham talks to The Story Board, Disney steps into VR, Bluey gets Americans into cricket, and the internet gets really into Stanley drinking cups. 

The FT and CNBC on WWE Raw’s move to Netflix

Netflix has well and truly entered the arena. The streaming giant has made by far its biggest commitment to date in (ad-tier friendly) live events, signing a ten-year, $5 billion deal to carry WWE Raw.

It is a partnership with fascinating possibilities for professional wrestling and for Endeavor, the sports and entertainment conglomerate that owns WWE and the UFC through its TKO vehicle. It could also be a step-change in the media rights market – though Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos has insisted again that the company will conduct its live sports strategy on its own terms. 

The Hollywood Reporter on Dwayne becoming The Rock

Alongside its Netflix deal, TKO announced that Dwayne Johnson, the wrestler-turned-actor otherwise known as The Rock, would be joining its board of directors. 

This should ensure Johnson’s involvement in future WWE events and content but the agreement also gives him the rights to The Rock trademark, previously held by the promoter. That is not an insignificant move for a figure who has so intertwined persona, performance and entrepreneurial activity.

Television Business International the other big talk at Netflix

While its foray into live wrestling captured most of the headlines this week, analysis from consultancy firm Omdia has shown how intriguing an earlier Netflix bet is turning out to be.

Non English-language content is overperforming on the platform, with Spanish and Korean series doing especially well. The depth of Netflix’s multilingual offering – which follows a drive for more locally sourced programming in recent years – is underscored by the fact that shows originally made in English accounted for less than a third of worldwide hours viewed on the platform from January to June 2023. 

The New York Times and Sportico on the chaos at Sports Illustrated

Last week, long-cherished US title Sports Illustrated continued its sorry decline under owner The Arena Group with a swathe of cuts that could see its entire staff laid off inside three months.

The Arena Group, whose stewardship of the publication has been widely derided, missed a $3.75 million payment to breach its licensing deal with Authentic Brands Group, which owns the rights to the Sports Illustrated name. It is an episode that can be set against broader difficulties in US media but as Sportico reports, it will not be helpful for the image of the brand licensing sector either.

Extreme E, Formula E and E1 sign combined PIF deal

The three top properties in electric motorsport – open-wheel championship Formula E, off-road challenge Extreme E and the new E1 powerboat series – have agreed a joint sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). 

The Electric 360 partnership will lead to the creation of thought leadership, STEM and apprenticeship programmes, putting motorsport at the centre of Saudi messaging on sustainability and energy diversity. 

Meanwhile, it will likely see the three series, all founded by Alejandro Agag, adopt a collective and complimentary approach to showcasing research and development; Extreme will adopt hydrogen fuel cell technology from 2024.  

Nick Meacham joins The Story Board

Global sports industry media company SportsPro has experienced years of continued growth and change, moving from a magazine-led business to a multi-channel digital media operation which runs successful events on three continents. 

On the latest episode of The Story Board podcast from Trippant, CEO Nick Meacham talks about overseeing that evolution, managing internal expectations and external perceptions, what he has seen as a director of British Volleyball, and much more. 

The Verge on Riot Games’ job cuts

Riot Games, publisher of leading esports title League of Legends, has laid off 530 staff – around 11 per cent of its workforce. It has blamed the underperformance of expansion projects launched back in 2019 but the news tracks trends throughout the sector: there were over 9,000 redundancies across the video game industry in 2023.

Elsewhere in esports, though, Blizzard Games has announced a successor to its franchise-based Overwatch League, which it closed last year. The company has partnered with Saudi-backed ESL Faceit Group to create the Overwatch Champions Series.

Gizmodo on Disney’s virtual walkway

Whatever the financial challenges of the streaming era, Disney has enjoyed massive success at its theme parks since their post-Covid reopening. Now, it has unveiled a VR breakthrough that could take those attractions – and other shared experiences – into another dimension.

Created by Disney ‘imagineer’ and US National Inventors Hall of Fame member Lanny Smoot, the Holotile is effectively a multi-directional treadmill. Paired with VR headsets, it will allow several people to move in place in a shared space, while feeling as though they are exploring a much greater expanse. 

The New Daily on Bluey, cricket and the USA

Bluey, the Australian animated TV series about a family of colourful dogs, is beloved worldwide by younger kids – and, perhaps even more so, by their parents. This month it dropped its latest series on Disney+, letting international audiences catch up with an instalment spoken of in hushed tones Down Under since its debut there last June. 

‘Cricket’ follows a multigenerational game in the park where an all-dad bowling attack is comprehensively upstaged by a prodigious child batter, Rusty. But more than that, it celebrates the personal growth and generosity that sport inspires at its best. 

A delighted reception in the US is significant, with that historically cricket-sceptic country set to co-host the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup this year. And for cricket journalist and analyst Jarrod Kimber, this unassuming yet highly potent bit of storytelling could prove a surprisingly influential bit of cricket media. 

The Atlantic on the Stanley stampede

The Stanley Quencher is a cup, best suited for holding water. It is also one of the most desired objects in some corners of the internet, triggering fevered sell-outs of new lines and soaring prices on resale sites like StockX.

However long it lasts, the phenomenon is an object lesson in the compound effects of brand partnerships, scarcity-driven drop culture, influencer media and public curiosity. 

Trippant champions people and storytelling to grow businesses across sport, entertainment and experience. If you want to see what we can do for you, head to our website.

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