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Volume 24 No. 176
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Changing Viewer Habits Keeps Live Sports Consumption High Despite Lower Ratings

People in the sports industry have been searching for answers to the television ratings decline in an era of ever-changing viewing habits, but panelists on Day 1 of the ’17 Stadium Sports Marketing Symposium had a relatively optimistic take. NHL Exec VP & CRO Keith Wachtel said, “The doom and gloom that everyone is talking about in sports is quite frankly very overblown. Sports is a tremendous place for marketers and it’s great for broadcasters. Certainly, there’s issues in finding consumers that will continue to support sports. The way they’re watching, consuming, it’s changing. And we’re all facing the same issue. The question is how we turn that issue and find ways to solve it.” Wachtel noted people are “watching, they’re consuming, we’re just not sure how and where." He said, "It’s not an issue that is a discussion of TV ratings decreasing every day. If you’re a marketer and you want to find a place to put your money, live is the best place to put it, there’s just different ways to do it now.” Stadium Senior VP/Revenue Dan Scalia said, “As we approach delivering content across all these different experiences and platforms we also have to recognize that what a consumer is doing on a platform like Twitter or a platform like Facebook could be entirely different. We have to recognize what that kind of customer experience needs to look like. Following that consumer journey is going to differ, which presents quite a bit of challenges.” NFL Senior VP/Sponsorship & Partnership Management Renie Anderson is also bullish on the live sports product. Anderson: “Sports has the best content on the planet. The challenge and the responsibility that we all have is that we can’t get complacent. We’ve got a real responsibility to make sure that we’re going everywhere our consumer is and understanding how they’re going to consume.”

DATA DREAMS: Speculation has risen that when the next series of media rights deals for leagues come up, streaming platforms such as Facebook and Amazon will be big players. “It’s all about the data and that’s the most valuable piece of Amazon,” Wachtel said. “As a property, if I can find out who’s watching, what products they’re buying, who’s their favorite team, that is so invaluable.” He added, “I don’t believe there’s going to come a day where the Amazons in the world replace the NBC’s, ABC’s and ESPN’s, but the data is going to be extremely valuable. If we can have that data, it changes the game because now you have the ability to understand your consumer.” Scalia: “If Amazon, Twitter and Facebook are three of the destinations you’re delivering content to there needs to be some sort of consolidation, not necessarily from a merger, but sharing data to better understand who that consumer is. Oftentimes someone who is using on Twitter is going to be the same person using on Facebook. So better understanding who that consumer is will better provide that one silver lining or magic bullet of what is that person.”

PATCH PERFECT: The panel also looked at this year’s jersey patch deals that NBA teams have been able to secure and whether other leagues would be able to do the same. Wachtel said, “It’s a great new revenue stream. But personally, I watched a bunch of NBA games and I can’t see the patch. You just can’t see it on television. I know companies are doing it for a much better play at the local level. I think it’s something that’s interesting, but ultimately there’s other, more effective ways to generate new revenue streams than just adding a patch. But for us it was successful for the World Cup. We did it on the shoulder, so it was much bigger.” He added, “If we can do it and get the value I think our commissioner would be open to it, but right now there are other ways that we see to bring in additional revenue streams.” Anderson emphasized the importance of authenticity for the NFL when it comes to looking at new revenue streams such as jersey patches. “We have a little bit of a different model because we have the beachfront property of our sidelines,” she said. “We have real authentic integration of the surface tablet that truly helps run the game, Bose head phones for our coaches and Gatorade hydrating our players. Not every sport has that. We have the ability to continue to evolve that sideline and when we’ve exhausted all efforts there, I’m sure it’s something we can potentially support.”