Sports Broadcasting: Rights and Revenue

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Live sports content is arguably the most valuable commodity in broadcast. During the Super Session “Sports and the Business of Broadcast,” a diverse panel will discuss new players and trends that have changed the face of the market in recent years, and look ahead to see what’s coming.

“The mix of panelists is going to be interesting,” said John Ourand, media reporter for Sports Business Journal and session moderator. “Everyone is viewing the market from a different perspective.”

The four-person panel is indeed diverse. It includes a national network, a local team, a pro sports league, and a sports and live event giant.

Craig Barry, executive vice president, and chief content officer for Turner Sports, will be joined by Chris Granger, president of the Sacramento Kings; Keith Wachtel, executive vice president, Global Partnerships with the National Hockey League; and Todd Goldstein, chief revenue officer for sports and live entertainment company AEG.

The business of delivering sports content to fans is in flux, with online outlets stepping up strongly in recent years. Just a few weeks ago Amazon announced it would make a big foray into live sports streaming by adding NFL football games to its Prime subscription video service.

Amazon purchased the rights to stream 19 Thursday night NFL Games during the 2017 season, and said it planned to make them available in real time to millions of Prime subscribers worldwide.

Ourand said he is curious to see what advertising will look like on Amazon’s NFL Thursday Night Football offering. He felt this bit of pre-NAB Show news would be a likely session topic. “Will I be able to click on a uniform and buy it on-screen [while watching the Amazon stream]? The possibilities are intriguing.”

What other subjects might be discussed at the session? Ourand said topics would likely include the evolution of sports rights as the cord-cutting trend accelerates, whether “skinny bundles” are a threat or an opportunity, and which emerging technologies are most exciting.

Rights and revenue are, of course, always central to any discussion of big-time sports broadcasting.

“Sports properties have become dependent on the money they make from traditional broadcast and cable networks in rights fees,” said Ourand. “Some have to be careful about how they grow their media businesses in a way that does not infringe on those deals. Right now, it looks like leagues are dipping their toes and testing through deals with companies like Twitter and You- Tube.”

Amazon is just the latest non-traditional player to join the fray, and Ourand said he expects even more non-broadcast companies to be at the negotiating table for sports rights moving forward.

Technology advances and how they relate to income might also be discussed, with streaming allowing access to billions of screens and many ways to watch live and highlight content. This panel will surely address the ways in which sports properties and broadcasters can best leverage innovation and technology to meet the needs of the next-generation sports fan. Ourand said he is realistic about virtual reality (VR) at this point: “VR still is in its early stages… it seems to be more popular with teams and leagues as they train their players than with networks trying to attract younger viewers.”