- Fully animated broadcast will be streamed on ESPN+ and Disney+
- Beyond Sports tech and NFL Next Gen Stats will power animations
Disney is to offer a Toy Story themed simulcast of ESPN’s coverage of the National Football League’s (NFL) International Series matchup on 1st October, hoping the unique presentation and early kick off time will attract younger audiences.
‘Toy Story Funday Football’ will be a fully animated version of the contest between the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars, using characters and imagery from Pixar’s iconic movie series, powered by player tracking data from the NFL’s Next Gen Stats initiative and technology from Sony Sports’ immersive content specialist
The action will be digitally recreated in Andy’s room, a key location in the first three Toy Story films, and there will be appearances from Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Duke Caboom, who will attempt a motorcycle jump in a special half-time show.
The broadcast will be streamed live on both ESPN+ and Disney+, with a full video replay available on both platforms and on NFL+. The game will also be accessible in international markets 24 hours after the live broadcast concludes.
Disney has previously partnered with Beyond Sports on a live animated broadcast of the National Hockey League (NHL), attracting 765,00 viewers – the third-most watched NHL game on cable of the season up until that point. But crucially, the Disney XD broadcast secured a median age of 12 and a viewership that was more than 50 per cent female.
One of the many advantages of streaming technology is the limitless capacity that allows broadcasters to offer multiple feeds of the same content, maximising the value of rights and tailoring productions to specific audiences.
Rights holders like the NFL can reach a wider audience, while broadcasters get higher ratings and more advertising inventory that can be segmented by demographic.
Child-friendly simulcasts are the most prominent example of this, especially CBS’s alternate productions of selected NFL matches. These offer child-friendly commentary, on-screen graphics and content, as well as visual filters and slime explosions when a touchdown was scored.
The first children-focused broadcast in NFL history was rewarded with Nickelodeon’s highest ratings in four years and two Sports Emmy awards, and there are plans in the works for the first ever simulcast of the Super Bowl in February.
While the available evidence suggests Toy Story Funday Football has a chance of success, Disney’s decision to use ESPN+’s exclusive NFL matchup for its experiment is a prudent one given there is reduced risk of linear audiences being cannibalised. And, in any case, Monday Night Football is probably too late for children anyway.