ONE World Sports' Sandy Brown on Acquiring Sports Rights and the Network's Relaunch
By| May 20, 2013
Sandy Brown, ONE World Sports pres & CEO
ONE World Sports, an English-language sports network featuring live events and tournaments from all over the world, will be officially announcing a rebrand during the Cable Show this year. We spoke with pres & CEO Sandy Brown, formerly president of sports for Univision, about the network’s relaunch, gaining distribution, his strategy for acquiring global sports rights and upcoming multiplatform initiatives.
Why did you decide to relaunch the network?
We just finished a study we did with Frank Magid, and one of the things that came out of the study is that there’s a very significant appeal for our programming to Millennials, in particular, obviously, the 18-34 demographic.
Does this represent a shift?
We had not done any research (up until this point) to identify what our target market was. The network had been targeted toward the Asian demographic in this country. My view about that is, it’s a very limiting for a lot of different reasons—in large part because while a lot of the programming does emanate currently from Asia, it’s very global. So for example things like the ITTF [International Table Tennis Federation] table tennis, there are tournaments that take place all over the world. The same holds true with BWF [Badminton World Federation]. The other side of coin is, a lot of the content we get out of Japan, particularly the J. League, there are a significant number of Brazilians who play in it. So there’s a lot of cross-pollination.
What’s your strategy when it comes to acquiring the TV rights to different sports games and leagues?
We’re looking for programming that will drive viewership. More of our content going forward will come out of Europe and Latin America. There is—predicated on our research—a significant interest from the Hispanic community, driven in large part by a lot of the soccer that we carry. We’ll focus on content that’s going to drive eyeballs and content we know is going to resonate with the audience we’re trying to serve, and we’ll do that from every corner of the world.
The high cost of sports programming is a hot topic. How does a network like yours benefit from being a part of a bundled package for consumers?
From our standpoint, one of the benefits of One World Sports is that we did a pretty good job on our rights acquisition strategy and from an economics standpoint we’re certainly a low-cost option compared to a lot of others in the marketplace. We carry more than 2,500 hours of live event content a year and that’s a very high number—especially when you look at the quality of the content that we have. It’s all best-in-class, it’s all national and international competitions… and with very high production values. We’re been very assiduous in managing our cost base, so we’ve been able to make the economics work pretty favorably. Obviously as we go forward, the cost of sports rights—no matter where you are, whether you’re in the US or in Bangladesh—those rights will continue to escalate. And obviously we have to be concerned about that, but also we’ve got to be responsive to it, and that means we’re hopeful we’ll be in a position to gain distribution to help offset those costs.
What are your current distribution goals?
We are a service that’s not encumbered in terms of rights restrictions with respect to multiple screens, so we can stream on smartphones, on tablets and tap into new revenue streams, as the distributors that we’re working with and talking to are trying to look for other ways to be able to monetize content. We’ve taken the approach that we’re going to work closely with our distributors in a tethered environment to help them do that. We have carriage on Cablevision, DISH, Mediacom and we’re having conversations, just like everybody else, with all the usual suspects.
There are a few things that we’re doing that will be helpful to us in those conversations. One is that we are going to be announcing at NCTA a complete rebrand/relaunch of our channel, which will take place later in the summer. We’re going to be adding games from the New York Cosmos [from the North American Soccer League] that will have original production that we’ll be doing, and that will take place later in the summer. We have an app that’s in development and we’ll be talking more about that at NCTA.
What else are you doing to satisfy the appetites of sports fans? Will subs get to watch live streaming at all times?
They’ll be able to stream our service through the app. They’ll also be able to watch, on a VOD basis, specific games and specific leagues, and other content that we’ll have. There will be data available to them that’s currently on our website.
How do you choose which tournaments to air on your network?
I can give you an anecdote. In my former life I launched ESPN’s business in Asia. And one of things we had in our plan was that we wanted to build a business in India. So we looked at what the opportunities were and we made a very strategic decision to buy the rights to the BCCI, which is the Indian Cricket board, and we bought those rights exclusively in India. Now if you look at the level of interest of Cricket in India, if you take Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA and NHL and roll them all into one, it still doesn’t equal that fervor for the sport of cricket in India. It’s profound. We bought the rights, and built a business for ESPN and they’re very successful, on the back of cricket.
You look for driver product. We feel we’ve got a very strong plate of content at this point, and the economics are alright. Going forward, obviously as we look to take different leaps in terms of our distribution, we’ll make those choices on a selected basis. And we’ll look at them in terms of what they will do for us in terms of [subscriptions] but also what they’ll do from an ad sales standpoint. Those are the two metrics we’re going to look at.