SBJ: Keeping it rolling SBD: SEC Network Secures Carriage Deal With Comcast SBJ: Race team brings own cook SBG: Sports Direct's Ashley Walks Away SBD: D-League President Leaving To Join Facebook SBJ: For sponsor, ‘This is our biggest ticket’ SBD: SBJ/SBD Seek Hockey/Soccer Beat Writer SBD: WEEI-FM Host Rants About Erin Andrews SBG: Özil Donates WC Money To Brazil Children SBD: Executive Transactions
March 20, 2014 06:30 PM
The closing panel at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports focused on how to reach the next generation of consumers. Brand-side marketers gave their thoughts on a variety of topics, such as where to put dollars, addressing digital natives, bringing some marketing in-house and the importance of having sports as part of marketing budgets.
Panelists included Honda Assistant VP/Auto Advertising Tom Peyton, Callaway Golf Senior VP/Marketing Harry Arnett, AAA Mid-Atlantic Exec VP & CMO Marke Dickinson, IMG College Senior VP/National Sales Andrew Judelson and Vizio VP/Product Marketing Lily Knowles.
Dickinson on where his company looks to put dollars: “To reach consumers, particularly within sports, you have to look a little younger. Our core demographic tends to be a little older. Those younger consumers are looking to engage across multiple platforms, so they’re not just looking for one aspect or another. Even if they’re in a stadium, they’re looking to have a mobile experience. So how can we provide content and meaningful experiences and touch points so it’s stimulating and worth their while.”
Arnett on addressing digital natives (younger demos): “We have an older consumption target, but a younger influence target. The ways to communicate to those groups are so varied. The more that you invest in something you think is going to have a year or two life cycle for younger demos, the more you realize it’s going to have a one-week life cycle. It’s really following the consumption habits of hippies back 35 years ago. So what Callaway has done is invest more in an ability to communicate to them from the creative side knowing that dissemination of that content is likely to change daily.”
Judelson on properties giving up their own social media vs. having vague links to sponsors: “I definitely don’t think it’ll happen to the level that a partner would be seeking it. I would surmise that the worst words you can hear on the sales side when you discuss social media are, ‘I’ll throw it in as value added.’ If someone is asking for it, there’s discreet value in it. So our ability to monetize social media is very important as a discreet line item in a deal. In our nearly 75 tier-1 college property partners, we have Twitter, Facebook, etc., and those partners see it as more valuable than the official athletic sites that we also control because of the direct connection and linkage to a consumer.”
Knowles on social marketing: “Last year, we started a program called ‘Fandemonium’ that is sort of a hybrid of a social community and a loyalty program. The goal there was to test the waters to see how we could use social media to get that fan engagement that you cannot get through one event. It has proven successful so far in the first phase. The fans get excited on two fronts. First. we don’t have a huge amount of media dollars to be able to get the word out when we have product launches, so this gets the news out faster. The other thing is that when there are ‘hot’ offers, it helps our retailers to drive traffic in stores.”
March 20, 2014 05:18 PM
Expansion beyond U.S. borders remains the biggest opportunity for professional sports leagues, a group of four team owners said during a panel session at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said his NFL franchise has benefitted from playing some of its home games in London. “Shockingly enough, we thought a year-and-a-half ago when we were planning this thing that it was going to be ex-pats and people who were in London buying tickets,” Khan said. “But they are less than a third of it. The biggest segment we have is people coming from Europe buying this. A lot of them really don’t know football. They have no idea where Jacksonville is. It’s wonderful. You see people speaking different languages wearing Jacksonville Jaguars T-shirts.” Khan described the U.S. market as saturated with limited growth opportunities for the league. “Our upside is going to come from overseas,” he said. Josh Harris, Philadelphia 76ers managing partner and New Jersey Devils managing member, identified international expansion as a priority for both the NBA and NHL. “Basketball is making enormous strides all over the world, particularly in China,” he said. “Hockey also is growing internationally.”
Daryl Jones, general partner, Ice Arizona, and owner, Phoenix Coyotes, on buying the team: “We bought a bankrupt hockey team in the desert, which to most people is a crazy proposition. We can probably get to break-even in the next couple of years, which is a big route for a franchise that had been losing $30 million plus per year.”San Diego Padres lead investor Peter Seidler on buying back into baseball: “The business has changed so much, if you compare it to 1998. At that time, baseball had probably something like 30 years of consecutive battles with the players union, and that was damaging to the game. A season was cancelled. A World Series was cancelled. Since then there’s been labor peace, which is a big driver to the success of baseball, as well as the explosion in national TV contracts and local TV contracts.”
Khan on buying a team: “If you set the NFL aside, all of the other sports franchises value is something of a state of mind. I don’t think you should get into a sport just because the value is going to go up. You have to see the kind of money and some of the benefits you are going to get out of it.”
Harris on operating teams as businesses: “These businesses are flipping from being live entertainment businesses like an event to being media businesses. The value of these businesses are going up and the cash flows are going up. Certainly the NFL is the most profitable sport. Both the NBA and NHL are making great strides in terms of improving profitability and getting to significantly positive free cash flow.”
Harris on revenue sharing: “It’s amazing to see some of the richest people in the world argue over revenue share in the NBA. I won’t name names. There are so many issues that come up that if the league can get the ownership groups to take off their individual city hats and team hats and put on a team hat, it may be a little less good for you than, maybe, for someone else. The league does a very good job in focusing the ownership group on the greater good, whether that be sponsorship deals, media contracts or tricky issues like revenue share, where you can’t have a league five big market teams. You need to work out how the small market teams are going to be able to survive. That’s a tricky issue.”
Khan on the difference between the NFL and English Premier League: “The NFL is partnership. It’s a centrally controlled institution. The NFL would be bigger than some of the 32 clubs put together. The EPL is like a loose collection of federations, something like Italy in the 1840s. With relegation [and] promotion, you really don’t know who’s going to be in it or not be in it. So you don’t have all the best practice sharing and the camaraderie, the fellowship and the partnership that you have in the NFL.”
Jones on hockey’s biggest challenge: “For hockey, especially in our market, it’s really growing the game. Hockey is the fourth sport in the U.S. and the top sport in Canada. The challenge for the league and owners is to broaden, educate and expand the game in the U.S.”
March 20, 2014 04:23 PM
Legendary Pictures Chairman and CEO Thomas Tull readily admits that he is living a dream as the boss of a major film studio in Hollywood and part owner of his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’m literally the luckiest guy on the planet, because when I was a kid I was a movie geek,” he said. “I loved Batman, Superman and Godzilla, and, it turns out, I get to make those, which is crazy. And the Steelers… I don’t know where the leprechaun is, or whatever, but it’s been a pretty crazy ride. “
Tull has tailored his ability to tell stories to both of his passions, film and sports.
During a one-on-one interview at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports, Tull said, “Whether you’re selling tickets in a theater, or DVDs, or live experiences on sports, we all have to realize that there are many more entertainment choices today than have ever been available before, so the competition is tougher, the bar is higher for that experience. And people also — whether they’re passionate about Batman, or passionate about the Steelers, or the Yankees, or whatever — want to have a deeper connection and experience.”
Tull said a critical concern for the sports experience is “having things in-game, the experience in the stadium, and having the communal experience that you can’t experience at home, no matter how big your TV is or whether it’s HD. “
Tull also talked about how to use content to drive the fan experience.
“My first inclination as somebody that kinda tells stories for a living is to get personal,” he said. “What people are used to now with social media is little snippets and deeper looks into people’s lives or circumstances.”Tull also just closed a deal for data analysis company Stratbridge, which, he says, will add efficiency in targeting sports and film audiences.
“People are willing to put their lives, their likes, their dislikes, their social conversations online in a way that you can take a look at,” he said. “And, for us, it’s about not targeting people who have absolutely no interest. It’s about taking people who are persuadable -- that if they had the information and you engage with them in a way that’s compelling to them -- they would want to buy the movie ticket, go to the game, whatever it is that you’re selling.
“Because of the amount of entertainment choices that are available, we want to be very targeted, and we want to get to people who can be persuaded. If you’re absolutely going, and you’re a fan, we want to spend some time on you, but not as much. And if you’re absolutely not going, then that’s a tough way to spend money.”
On what he looks for from brands that partner on films: “When we have these kinds of partnerships, we will sit down … and ask them what their goals are. Because, frankly, to have someone write us a check to do a product placement thing and be at the premier, maybe you get that check once, but we want to have … a deeper, richer experience with brands that make sense to be next to ours. We talk about being around, among and infused into the entire experience. It all has to be elegant. We couldn’t put Nike in “42.” It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Or in “300,” for that matter. The point is you have to pay attention to the brands, understand what their goals are and how they want to connect, and, regardless of the check or the check size, if the answer is, ‘We just can’t do that,’ then it’s not interesting to us.”
On becoming a part owner of the Steelers: “I’ve been a lifelong diehard Steelers fan since I was a little boy, and when Mr. Rooney called me at the end of 2007 and said, ‘How would you like to be my partner?’, I stammered something, said yes, went home and told my wife, and she said, ‘How much?’ And I said I had no idea, I just said yes. True story. She’s very proud of me. It’s as cool as I thought it would be, and it’s a real privilege to be a part of.”
On what he’s learned from Steelers owner Dan Rooney.: “Many things. First of all, carry yourself with class and dignity at all times. And whether it’s your industry, in this case it’s the NFL, he truly puts the NFL first constantly. And is constantly thinking about what’s right for the league. The way he treats the players, the rapport he has, and also seeing the big picture, and constantly taking a step back and asking what are we really trying to accomplish here.”
On the type of sports stories that can work as big theatrical releases: “I think you have to have something where the characters and the human story connect. Is it something that connects with people? That even if you’re not a sports fan you can go and understand what’s going on? ’42’ happened to be set in the baseball world, but I would argue that the Jackie Robinson story is much bigger than that, and much more important. For us –- and I happen to be a big fan of what he did for this game and this country -– those are some of things that we look at.”
March 20, 2014 03:01 PM
The buzz created by the Knicks’ hiring Phil Jackson as team President continued as he was at MSG last night. ESPN’s Avery Johnson said, “I give James Dolan, their owner, a lot of credit. He went out and hired, what I call, ‘The best sports algorithm in basketball.’ He solves problems.” ESPN’s Jalen Rose added, “The Knicks did a very good thing. They spent up to $60 million for basically $250 million worth of press” (“NBA Countdown,” ESPN, 3/19).
LEADER OF MEN: ProFootball Talk’s Mike Florio, on new NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent: “Vincent is only 43. He could be on the commissioner’s track. He’s a guy, who at one point, was going to be the Executive Director of the players’ union” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 3/19).
X MARKS THE SPOT: ESPN’s Jorge Sedano, on corporate logos on NBA uniforms: “I love it. Make the money. Maybe that will help teams or help the NBA, who has had an issue with the salary cap because teams have more revenue” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 3/20).
HITTING THE BOOKS: President Obama appeared on ESPNU’s "The Herd" this morning to discuss various topics, including the NBA age limit and NCAA Tournament. He said, “When I see low graduation rates in the programs, when you get a sense that the kids are not getting the education they should, it’s not a priority for them to graduate. Often times if they get cut or hurt, the scholarships may not be sustained. That is when I think the schools need to reexamine what they are doing” ("The Herd," ESPNU, 3/20).
GROUND FLOOR: ESPN's Bomani Jones said of the NFL suing rapper M.I.A. for $16.6M for her giving the middle finger during halftime of Super Bowl XLVI, "This is the thing about rich people, when they really want to bring the hammer to you they don't cuss you out. They try to sue you into the ground” ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 3/19).
March 20, 2014 02:09 PM
The future of sports business was the focus of the opening panel on day two of the IMG World Congress of Sports, with topics that included attracting millennials, improving the at-venue experience, evolving technology and foreign ownership. Panelists included Yahoo VP/Sports & Games Ken Fuchs, Twitter Head of Sports Geoff Reiss, IMG College President Ben Sutton, WMG CEO Casey Wasserman and 76ers, Devils and Prudential Center CEO Scott O’Neil.
O’Neil on millennials: “I love this group. I love working with them. I love them as players. They do have a distrust and a distaste for institutions and authority. And I have some of that myself. But they’re driven. They’re entitled. They think they should be the CEO on their second day. Or as a player, the coach or the GM. But despite thinking there is an entitled path, they have a tremendous work ethic. They’re very smart and very connected.”
Sutton on ways to make a better fan experience: “In the college space, we start with a competitive advantage. There is a predisposition for a college student and alumni to carry that sense of community with them in all that they do the rest of their lives. That loyalty exists. People spend more time immersed in media today than they do sleeping. And something like three hours of that time for the average American is around sports. We need to do a better job bringing that experience to college stadiums and arenas. We just haven’t adjusted quickly enough to the world as it is.”
O’Neil on technologies that have been tried and failed: “I love 3D sports. Hockey, basketball. It’s just spectacular. You can actually feel the speed and power. The camera angles are lower. You have a much better look at the puck. The basketball experience is as if you’re sitting in the front row, which is the best seat in sports. I’m disappointed that companies cannot figure out a way to get around the glasses. I know something will come back, whether it’s a 4D or 5D, that has a great immersive experience. I’m really disappointed that it didn’t catch on because it could transform the sports experience.”
Wasserman on resistance to change: “It’s like with the NFL extra point. People are upset about possibly getting rid of a play that has no value? The NBA talks about changing how the draft works and it’s like Armageddon. Really stable revenue streams over a long period of time, combined with a product that fundamentally never changes, creates an industry that is not used to having to change to sustain itself. Whereas if Twitter doesn’t evolve, it won’t exist in five years. As crazy as that may sound. In a tech-based world, you have to change or you die. That’s not the case with sports. It’s an industry that has lived on in much the same form it has for 100 years.”
Reiss on length of games: “Look at baseball. It took 30 years for the conversation on replay on the field. If that took 30 years, how long is the conversation going to be on getting games done in under four hours? Another 30 years? I think this ties into the question of how you maintain relevance. The reality is, and baseball is the perfect sport to pick on, people don’t have four hours to watch 162 games. And one of two things has to change. We know it isn’t going to be the 162 games because of the economic models. So being able to push that game into a more consumable form becomes essential.”
O’Neil on making changes to improve game experiences: “Length of games is not as much an issue locally as it is nationally. Nationally, to clear the TV windows, it’s more important. But all politics are local. Different teams have different agendas. But looking at leagues, I think the NHL used the lockout as a way to move the game forward. They really made some dramatic changes. The NBA also has moved the game from a hand checking, physical league that you saw in the ‘90s to one where it is a lot more fluid and lets the guys be athletic.”
Fuchs on younger fans adopting soccer: “We look at soccer and it’s the second biggest fan sport, not participatory, among 12-24 year-olds. It’s just behind the NFL and ahead of NBA and MLB. Here is a game that is about as simplistic as you can get. I have an 8-year-old son and I sit there having to explain all the rules of baseball and technical rules of football. Soccer is so simple. You can play it on EA FIFA. You can access the best players in the world through Yahoo games or watching the World Cup or EPL. The simplicity of that is a draw.”
Wasserman on foreign ownership in the future: “At these levels of prices, there are only so many people who can buy. Groups of people in a community coming together to buy a team continues to be important. But even MLS teams are selling at over $100 million. These are big assets that require a lot of attention, a lot of focus. Foreign investors see franchises as valuable assets and opportunities for diversification, both geographically and financially. These assets have shown an ability to sustain themselves through all sorts of economic environments over a long period of time.”
March 20, 2014 10:58 AM
Here's a compilation of some of the best Burst videos from Day 1 of the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports.
March 20, 2014 12:35 AM
Sponsorship executives from Adidas, Visa, McDonald’s and The Coca Cola Co. said they view both the this summer’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil as a huge marketing opportunity and are not overly concerned about the prospect of protests surrounding the events.
“For every major global event there are issues,” said Ricardo Fort, senior vice president of global sports marketing for Visa. “There are issues in Sochi. There are issues in London. I would like to change the dialogue and don’t look at what can go wrong, [but] look at how great the games are going to be.”
The Coca-Cola Co. views Brazil as a huge market and has big plans for both the Rio 2016 Olympics and this summer’s World Cup, said Emmanuel Seuge, Coke vice president of global alliances and ventures.
“We see this as one of the largest opportunities we have had for a long time from a business perspective,” Seuge said. “Brazil is one of our most important markets. It’s the fourth [largest] Coca-Cola market around the world. And this [World Cup] campaign will be the largest campaign we have implemented globally. We will have 170 markets that will be activating the World Cup.”Meanwhile, executives were not overly concerned about reports that construction and preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympics were not on schedule. McDonald’s Head of Global Alliances John Lewicki said he remembers going to Sochi a year before the Games, then not recognizing the place when he went back this year for the actual event.
Lewicki and others said that while protests in Brazil are getting a lot of media attention, the World Cup and the Olympics will bring many jobs to the country, and Brazilians have been lining up to buy tickets to the World Cup.
“There is no doubt there .. are some issues that they are having,” Lewicki said. “[But] go back to the two initial public requests they’ve had for tickets. They are short tickets. They are short, a hundredfold, of the tickets they could sell—to Brazilians. So there is a vast population that is incredibly supportive of this.”
The marketers said they were proceeding with their plans but could change them based on unanticipated events. Adidas had to do just that in February.
“For the U.S. marketplace, we created some T-shirts that had a girl with a bikini that said, ‘I love Brazil,’” said Ernesto Bruce, Adidas North America director of soccer. “It was taken the wrong way. We immediately pulled it off the market. The idea was, let’s celebrate Brazil and the fun and the beach. It was an image of a girl in a bikini. Harmless for us in the U.S. Very damaging to the image Brazil is trying to portray. As a company we didn’t even think twice. Out of respect and out of our long term partnership, we pulled those products off the marketplace in the blink of an eye.”
March 20, 2014 12:34 AM
A panel of marketing experts looked showcased some of their work and looked at what’s next in the industry during an afternoon session at the first day of the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports. Panelists included MetLife CMO and Exec VP/Global Brand, Marketing & Communication Beth Hirschhorn; United Airlines President of MileagePlus and Senior VP/Marketing & Loyalty Thomas O’Toole; and Diageo VP/PR & Entertainment Marketing Dan Sanborn.
Hirschhorn joked with the crowd early on: “First of all, I’m going to hit everyone up in the audience to buy insurance later since they’re hitting me up for their sponsorships. So we’ve got the reciprocity down.”
Hirshhorn on attracting consumers to MetLife: “In the context of media fragmentation, when you have a company with 90 million customers, some of your properties need to do the heavy lifting. The others can be really laser targeted. There’s no programming left in the U.S. anymore like ‘I Love Lucy’ that would get 70 percent of the viewing audience. That doesn’t exist anymore. So if you’ve got 90 million people you need to touch and reach, then, for me and our company, all roads lead to the NFL.”
O’Toole on United’s investment around the U.S. Olympic team: “The Olympics were an unequivocal success for us. But there were two challenges looking at strictly the advertising element. The first is that we were coming off of a highly successful brand campaign in the fall, the largest United had done in at least a decade or two. So we had the high-class problem of what to do for an encore. The second challenge was that we are investing quite a bit in our product, and a key message of our marketing activities communicating our product features. I was troubled by the prospect of taking a hiatus from this message and spending tens of millions of dollars to focus on what is essentially good will marketing during the Olympics and disrupting the product message. So the challenge was to maintain the level of brand awareness that we established in the fourth quarter and not simply take a hiatus from the product message. And, frankly, our agency came through.”O’Toole on using United employees on in-flight Olympic videos: “What came across to me is that the employees we used in those videos really enjoyed being involved with the Olympics. You see the way that they talk about the Olympics and the passion in the video. It was probably the most effective program we’ve done integrating social channels, digital channels, on-board, in the airport and conventional media channels.”
Sanborn on the effects of the brand’s league-wide deal with the NBA: “When you think about the convergence of that sport with fashion, music and lifestyle, it is one of the most dynamic sports we have in this country. … When we looked at the NBA, we saw the possibility of bringing to life the flavor and lifestyle of our brands. As part of the NBA, we’re taking moments in the game that demonstrate ‘Reigning On.’ There were clearly the business metrics that matched up, but we also saw the opportunity for things that were disruptive at a cultural passion point that matters to our consumer.”
March 20, 2014 12:18 AM
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is calling on the sports industry to take a more active role in helping to reduce the country's high-school dropout rate. Speaking at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports in Dana Point, Calif., Duncan said that athletes, teams and leagues should play a bigger part, given their influence on popular culture.
"What I frankly am going to challenge people to do is to get beyond the one-offs to get beyond the photo ops and to get beyond the few tickets for a few kids and the autograph sessions," Duncan said. "Those are all nice. But for me, that's not meaningful change."
Duncan said the Education Department is prepared to partner with sports groups to help the country's worst performing schools, adding that the education department is investing $500 million each year in these schools. He said he is looking for help with after-school programs and community groups that help schools. He highlighted the Miami Heat's Juwan Howard’s work in Chicago, where Howard runs a summer basketball camp that combines basketball with academics. "If you look at all the young boys of color — whether it's the NFL, NBA, soccer – these are their heroes,” said Duncan. “These are their role models. These are the teams that they spend all their time thinking about. I want us to be much more strategic, much more proactive and much more focused telling our young boys that they cannot drop out of high school."
During his talk, Duncan acknowledged industry veteran Derrick Heggans in the crowd. The Education Department supports an education initiative that Heggans heads called Team Turnaround, which is supported by the 49ers, Heat, Lions and Celtics.
On being named MVP of the NBA's All-Star celebrity game during All Star Weekend last month: "This was not real basketball. This was against Snoop Dogg."
On NCAA reforms: "I thought the idea that some of the teams were going to postseason tournaments with graduation rates that were horrendous was absolutely irresponsible. We got the NCAA to raise the bar for participation in NCAA tournaments and we felt very, very good about that."
On NCAA penalties: "The idea that penalties don't get attached to coaches instead of institutions makes no sense to me. The fact that a coach can run a program in the ground, and then leave and double his salary at the next
institution -- and the university he left is decimated and loses scholarships… If I commit a crime, my wife shouldn't pay for it and the person next to me shouldn't pay for it. I should pay for it."
On Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: "He was my assistant coach in college [at Harvard]. I strongly encouraged Jerry Reinsdorf to hire him. I hope Jerry is [happy with the hire]."
March 19, 2014 06:23 PM
A panel discussion at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports the examined the unique qualities of the Los Angeles market picked up on a discussion from the day’s opening session about whether there’s any end in sight for rising rights fees.
Chris Bevilacqua, co-founder of Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, said, “Since I’m aligned typically with the sellers, I have a selfish interest to say the rights are going to keep going up. But having said that, I believe that. Everybody can just go and look at the quarterly earnings reports to all of these big media companies. It’s record profitability, record shares. The business itself keeps growing and sports is a real driver.”
He sees growth in the rights because sports is not just a “television ecosystem,” but a “mass media communications information delivery system.”
Jeff Krolik, President, Fox Sports Regional Networks, responded with the quip, “My father used to always say, ‘Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.’” He thought never-ending rights growth was less likely. “There are many cautionary tales out there. Steve Greenberg was just quoted as saying he’s reminded about all the people who took out big mortgages because they were convinced that housing prices only had one way to go, and that was up, up, up. They do go up – until they don’t. There are cautionary tales aplenty out there. Before we go forth and say they have no way to go but up, they have other ways to go.”Bevilacqua wouldn’t point to a ceiling, but he conceded that “at some point, it doesn’t go up forever. Maybe it accelerates a little less.”
The value of shoulder programming
Panelists also debated the value of the shoulder programming that fills thousands of hours of air time, but, moderator John Ourand pointed out, doesn’t get ratings as high as the live games.
“From our point of view … once you get your distribution you better be able to deliver a good product,” said L.A. Lakers Executive Vice President Jeanie Buss.
“That’s what it’s really all about. Once you get on the air … make sure you’re delivering to your customers what they want. For us, when we were looking for a new broadcast partner, what was really important to us was the ability to have the shoulder programming, the ancillary programming. To have a partner that would understand how important it was for us to further our brand, not just the games, because the fans enjoy the games, but in our case our fans were letting us know that they wanted more.”
And Buss added that the shoulder programming affected more than just the fans. “With a new collective bargaining agreement in the NBA, it’s really important that you can tell a story for your franchise that will attract free agents,” she said, “and having that kind of platform is attractive for the players.”
Mark Shuken, senior vice president and general manager for TWC Sports Regional Networks, said, “This is an entirely different conceit around RSNs. This is no longer about games fitting in between poker and other team games and infomercials. I hate the term shoulder programming because it suggests a sort of good stuff and other stuff. Our programming beyond the games is measurably rated and rated very well. I think it’s relevant because people get a connection to the players and the front office that they’ve never had before and want. It all speaks to the consumers’ expectations around media and social media, and they’re used to getting behind the scenes. I think this shoulder programming notion is something we need to get over.”
The end of the panel featured a spirited discussion about over-the-top programming, online programming that is available outside of a regular cable subscription package. Krolik said, “Over the top makes me nervous. I think over the top makes all of us nervous. Our number one objective is preserve, protect and defend the basic cable model against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I think over the top is a Trojan Horse that threatens our very business.”
Bevilacqua: “I’m not sure I agree with Jeff. If you could get your RSN priced right … If you were able to able to deliver a subscription product, and you were getting paid for it, why would that be a bad thing?”
Krolik talked about an la carte business, and Bevilacqua said, “I’m not saying a la carte, I’m saying a bundled package, over the top, that addresses a segment of the population that isn’t really buying pay TV now. Shouldn’t it be additive?”
Krolik: “I don’t believe so.”
Bevilacqua: “I obviously don’t agree with that. I actually think that there is some way to make it work in the ecosystem.”
Shuken: “I think they’re not mutually exclusive. Jeff is right, if you’re Time Warner Cable, your evaluation of your entire product offering and your entire economic model is protecting that golden goose. … I didn’t say over the top is cool and it can all be great. I said if we protect the core rights, there is a way to cross promote and ultimately benefit the core rights. But I agree from Time Warner cable perspective, from a distribution perspective, we have to be very sensitive to how we protect that model.”
Bevilacqua: “But Time Warner Cable is one of the biggest broadband providers in the world and if you’re carrying something over your network and we go usage-based pricing, why is that bad?
Shuken: “Like I said, they’re not mutually exclusive if there’s a way that protects the core economic model and then elevates it …”
Bevilacqua: “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”
Shuken: “I’m not disagreeing with either of you. I’m saying it’s all about the execution. Trojan horse? Could be. Opportunity? Could be. It’s somewhere in the middle if they do it right.”
On the importance of a broad base:
Bevilacqua: “One of the things we always try to do is put together a portfolio. Any team, even great teams, are going to have cycles where they are down. The broader your portfolio, the better the product that you can bring to the market.”
Shuken: “Chris is right. Ultimately these multi-billion dollar evaluations and investments are predicated on long term successes.”
On the appeal of the L.A. market: Bevilacqua: “The Los Angeles market is different than you might see in other markets around the U.S. in terms of how local sports is viewed and consumed here. There’s a lot of choice here … in terms of entertainment options. It’s a large geographical market, it’s dense and it’s got all the right ingredients to have a really robust RSN market. L.A., just because of all the other options you have, is much different that other markets where there is more specific passion around the local sports teams.”