SBJ/June 30-July 6, 2014/Media

At Monumental’s first sponsor summit, it’s all about mobile

Mobile” has become the shiny, new application that is drawing lots of focus from sports leagues and teams.

While content and sponsorship opportunities have not yet kept pace with demand, teams are telling sponsors to think more about getting involved with mobile applications. That was one of the main messages coming out of Monumental Sports and Entertainment’s first Partner Summit, which was held earlier this month on the Verizon Center floor in Washington, D.C.

The push to digital is a natural sales pitch for Monumental, which operates the over-the-top service Monumental Network

“Television, more and more, is all about digital. Radio, more and more, is all about digital.”

TED LEONSIS
Monumental Sports
Photo by: MARC-BRYAN BROWN

But the way the event’s speakers evangelized about mobile technology, if it was a growth stock, they all would be buyers. Ted Leonsis, Monumental Sports’ majority owner, chairman and CEO, said that mobile is poised to become more than a complement for TV viewing. He sees it becoming a media force on its own.

“It’s important that you create, craft and think digitally and socially,” he told the roomful of sponsor executives. “The other media are important, but a part of that mix. Television, more and more, is all about digital. Radio, more and more, is all about digital.”

SBJ Podcast:
Media writer John Ourand and editor Tom Stinson talk about CBS's Thursday night NFL package, as well as last week's Supreme Court decision concerning Aereo and the Monumental Sports Partner Summit.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum also spoke of how the league has noticed the growing popularity of mobile applications. He said he’s been surprised at how quickly mobile usage is growing among the NBA fan base, which is a reason why the NBA cut a deal to be featured on Amazon’s new phone. “The world is looking mobile,” he said. “This is how people are starting to and are going to continue to consume our games. We need to be there first.”

This trend should not come as a surprise to some. Almost half of sports properties’ digital usage comes from mobile, and tablets are outselling laptops and PCs, according to Chris Russo, a former NFL executive who is the president of CR Media Ventures.

“Mobile really is the future,” he said. “The real challenge now is how do you also make mobile an appealing venue for advertisers and sponsors. What are the kinds of ad views or integrations that are relevant?”

The way the executives at the event spoke of the growth potential for mobile applications, it made the idea of a broadband connection seem passé.

“If you look back at the history of sports media, sports drives adoption of media technologies, from radio, to black-and-white TV, to color TV to satellite and cable to satellite radio to mobile,” said Jimmy Lynn, co-founder and vice president of Kiswe Mobile, a company that is making a big bet on the emergence of mobile technology. “People have been making the transition from traditional media to the Internet. Now the transition is going to mobile, especially in a global arena.”

The focus may have been on mobile because sponsors don’t need a hard sell on the value of TV sports. The NBA is expected to at least double the average annual value of its TV deals with ESPN and Turner Sports. The league has started informal talks with its network TV partners, and Tatum alluded to the viewership of live sports as a key negotiating point for the league.

“What we’re seeing in the marketplace is that the demand for live sports content has never been more valuable,” Tatum said. “It’s a sure-fire thing. When ABC has the Finals on their network, they’ve won the night every night for the last 40 times. There’s nothing that aggregates audience like live sports programming.”

Leonsis, who is head of the league’s broadcast committee, used his daughter’s viewing habits as an example. She watches “Gossip Girl” on demand and has no idea what network used to carry it. Leonsis said that’s rarely a problem with sports, where viewers watch live.

“The NBA playoffs everyone knew was on ESPN and Turner,” he said. “[Sports] is the last communal real-time content that sponsors value.”

Leonsis also said that sports compares favorably to other live programming, like news. He said Washington Wizards playoff ratings attracted as many viewers as “six, seven, eight CNNs at the same time. … There’s a lot of news out there. Consumers love sports. Consumers spend lots of time watching sports. They value it.” 

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

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