September 13, 2012
By Kaylee Hultgren
Sports execs at the NAMIC conference Wednesday concurred that the strategy behind the business of live sports must be at once global and local. According to Mark Tatum, evp, global marketing partnerships, NBA, the league has 15 offices across the globe and plans to continue to expand internationally. It’s setting up shop in Brazil next. “We’re investing in the game in lots of different ways,” he said, including TV distribution and grassroots events, like pre-season games, of which there will be about 300 in the coming year.
However, in sports local still is king, added NBC Sports Ventures svp Rob Simmelkjaer. When you work in media you’re essentially a buyer of rights, he said, and “it’s much more difficult to do that successfully… Certain sports are becoming more global… but at the end of the day, it’s all local.” Golf is a sport that’s prime for international growth for the network, he noted, but it’s still a challenge, on the distribution side as well.
Aside from b-ball, the sport that’s the most global is, of course, soccer. For ESPN Deportes, that’s driven by the Mexican fan. “Mexican soccer is huge for us. The Hispanic market is driving a lot of the soccer viewership in the U.S.,” said Lino Garcia, gm, ESPN Deportes, and it drives a lot of news and information programming as well.
Ultimately, the programmer’s job is to “create the best user experience,” and hope that the technology—and distribution—will keep up, said Steve Pamon, head of sports & entertainment marketing, JP Morgan. Pamon recalled his days working at the NFL as vp, Strategy and New Business Development, saying that the commissioner used to tell them,“We control what we control.” Garcia agreed: “It’s a 2-way street. Our job is to optimize it on all the platforms. We have to continue to do what we’re doing now, which is increase consumption.” And that’s on the rise, he said. Additional platforms are not detracting from TV viewership; rather, they’re adding to it. And once the market saturates? “There’s a tipping point,” Garcia said, “but we’ve been able to figure it out so far.”