The ’13 IMG World Congress of Sports began today with a discussion of several top issues facing the sports industry, including enhancing the in-game experience for fans and whether there is too much content from the various sports properties. NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman talked about the in-game experience versus the at-home experience, and said execs do not need to “spend too much time thinking about how to make one better than the other.” He noted if “connectivity is important to that fan, you have to provide it.” Grubman referenced the conclusion to last year’s Ryder Cup, which happened late on a Sunday afternoon, and said, “If 10% of NFL fans really care about that, why is that not up [on scoreboards]?” He also noted the in-game and at-home experiences need to be different. Estimating that there are 100 million NFL fans, Grubman said, “I don’t need a very high percentage of them to go to the game to fill the stadium.” The two situations “just have to be different enough, adrenaline-pumping enough to get those who want to be in that environment to go there.” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said he was “worried about a paradigm shift” where the social experience becomes more important than the live experience. Scott noted he watched on TV the injury to Louisville G Kevin Ware last Sunday, and said his children immediately jumped on Facebook to share the news and see what others were saying. Scott: “Two days before I was there (in Indianapolis) watching Louisville-Oregon and I’m not sure in the stadium I would have known what was going on.”
LESS IS MORE? The NBA was praised for its 66-game schedule following the ’11 lockout, which brought up the idea that fewer games in a season would be a benefit for fans and sponsors. A-B VP/Media, Advertising, Production & Sports and Entertainment Blaise D’Sylva said, “I don’t know if there are too many sports as much as just too much of sports.” He added, “We have the permission to play in any sport. The challenge for us is we don’t have a bottomless bottom line. … I’d love to be on Kevin Harvick’s car for 36 races, but I can’t afford to do that.” Scott said, “In certain cases, less is more. I think it’s been proven in a lot of different places.” Noting the talk several years ago of expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams, Scott said, “You run the risk of dilution and taking away some of the specialness.” WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster, noting the tour has 54 tournaments scheduled for this year, said, “I still think it’s too much. … I do think less is more in our sport in order to be relevant.” Allaster: “Do we need 15 sessions? Do we need Monday through Sunday? Do we need an afternoon session and an evening session?” However, D’Sylva acknowledged the “genie is out of the bottle” and there likely will not be less sports.
NEW OUTLOOK: The WTA is looking for a sponsor to replace Sony, which ended its title sponsorship of the tour last year, and Allaster said one of the “major reasons” the organization has yet to find one is the schedule is too daunting, both from the number of events and the different countries that host events. Allaster: “It hasn’t been the financial as it’s been the scale and the size of the offering that it’s too much.” She noted the tour is going to “re-tool the presentation” to prospective sponsors. “We’re not going to sell all 54 tournaments as we have in the past, and that’s going to cause some tension. But we’re going to have to adapt to the reality of what the marketplace wants.” It would not be an overarching title sponsorship, but instead deemed the tour’s “No. 1 sponsor of the WTA.”
-- Scott, on the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit: “In the world of conferences and schools, there has not been much worry. … People think it’s going to die.”
-- Allaster, on prize money at Grand Slam events: “The U.S. Open and Australian Open have done the right thing giving athletes greater share of the gross. Now we just need Wimbledon and Roland Garros to join them.”
-- Warriors President & COO Rick Welts, on which ownership group will end up with control of the Kings: “Do we have a coin we can flip?”
-- Scott: “If you have trouble sleeping at night, you don’t want to be in one of these [panel] roles.”