SBD/November 10, 2011/Events and Attractions

SMT Conference: Sports Execs Examine Current Media Landscape

Rolapp says TV sports consumption is ripe for innovation
SBJ/SBD's 2011 Sports Media & Technology conference began its second day this morning with a panel discussion titled, "Sports Executives Speak Out: Examining the Current Media Landscape" featuring NHL COO John Collins, Fox Sports Senior VP/Programming & Research Michael Mulvihill, Sporting News President & Publisher Jeff Price, NFL Media COO Brian Rolapp and NASCAR Media Group VP/Broadcasting & Global Media Strategy Steve Herbst.

The panel discussed a wide range of topics across sports media, including a potential eight-game package going to market for the NFL, technology/social media in sports and a potential sports bubble. Rolapp, on how Verizon’s deal with the NFL was a game-changer for the industry: “The technology is changing the platforms in which this stuff is distributed and changing the way that fans consume content, both during a game and outside of a game window, which has made all of these rights deals different. ... The competition among media players ... is now heavier in the sports space. ... But just looking at technology like the iPad, which launched around 18-24 months ago. It is now over a $9B-a-year business, which is bigger than the NFL.” Mulvihill, on TV viewing: “Viewer consumption is more and more around live events. ... You’ve seen a shift, and now sports is seen not just as a way to support scripted entertainment ... but equally important to the network business. ... As DVR penetration grows, and people become more comfortable using it and live programming becomes more and more valuable, you’ll see the influence of sports within the TV business grow.” Price, on technology’s influence: “Three years ago, 90% of Sporting News’ revenue was print-oriented. ... Looking towards 2012, we will have flipped that to be 90% digital business. The opportunity that web and mobile and tablet represents is an entirely new place for a brand to evolve and have relevance with fans and consumers.” Rolapp: “Sports TV consumption is ripe for innovation. Whether that will come from Silicon Valley ... it’s possible. I’m sure the cable and satellite operators will have a say in that. ... A trend I’m watching is the next wave of interactive TVs, which will not come from your set-top box. It’ll come from a game console or from your tablet or from when Apple figures out how to put the iPad on a wall.” Collins: “When you look at the consumers who are really using connected devices, and then connecting them back through their televisions because they’re not happy with the traditional TV experience, it’s a big signal.”

MUST-SEE THURSDAY: Some panelists also discussed the possibility of a new eight-game Thursday night NFL TV package. Rolapp: “It seems like the press has already created and sold and distributed the package. We haven’t figured that out yet. There’s a lot of discussion on how we would do it, what it would look it, who the distribution partners would be. We’ve had some exploratory conversations about that, with both current partners and others. But we haven’t made any decisions. ... There are a lot things we need to commit to before we bring an eight-game package to the marketplace. ... Do we need to expand the season or not? By expanding the season, you create more quality games. When you have more quality games, you can populate more quality packages. ... The last thing we want to do is dilute the quality that we think we put out there, not just for a new package, but for existing packages.” Mulvihill: “If an additional eight-game Thursday night package ended up on a Fox-branded cable network, it would probably have no impact on our Sunday games. If it ended up somewhere else, it has a terrible impact on our Sunday games and we would need to be compensated. ... We would have tremendous interest in having conversations about adding an additional eight Thursday games for one of our cable platforms.”
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