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Volume 6 No. 215
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Global Sports Media Outlook: Challenges for NFL, UFC; Football Still Hot

When it comes to growth potential, UFC and the NFL have unique challenges, and football is still king, said a panel of experts discussing global media. Michael Payne said F1’s recent deal with NBC was largely over marketing potential, and added that F1 has been struggling with its presence in the U.S.: “It really was a case of looking at your partners to who would committ the most marketing muscle on a five-year plan. The deal was driven by marketing and promotion.” On growth properties globally, Joe Ravitch said, “We believe the UFC is the fastest growing global sport. It’s a very primal sport and it appeals to every country. It’s been a phenomenon in Brazil.” Payne agreed, but warned that some governments have pressured media companies about MMA programming.

Global Media: Opportunities and Challenges

Mike Dolan, IMG Worldwide
Michael Payne, Payne Sports Media Strategies
Joe Ravitch, Raine
Oliver Slipper, PERFORM

Payne: “You’re getting leaned on big time by government not to touch it. …Governments are sending strong signals what content they will accept or not.” UFC is probably the fastest growing sport, “but you have a lot of questions on it.” He added, “Rugby 7s is very much growing and it will really grow by being on the Olympic program.” Ravitch: “The NBA in China continues to go from strength to strength. You see this as you drive throughout the country. They are building more and more hoops all over the place. The NBA is firmly engrained in Chinese culture.”

AND THE NFL: Asked about the NFL’s prospects for growing overseas, Oliver Slipper said he noticed traction gained by the league in London: “You get the sense that the NFL is growing in London. …. I think the NFL could franchise in London and I think there is a growing demand for the NFL.” But Ravitch said, “The NFL has a separate challenge, as it’s not a sport that is played anywhere else. ….I tell everyone the NFL is the first, second and third most popular sport in the U.S. So why bother trying to build a sport where no one plays it? The biggest question is how come sports like the NHL and MLB haven’t been able to grow internationally like the NBA has. … Those are sports that are played in those markets. … That’s a decision these leagues and owners are going to have to make.” Ravitch added it’s all about a league’s business plan: “The NBA made a conscious decision to invest internationally. It’s just a matter of someone choosing a direction and running after it.”

LOOKING AHEAD: One sport that we should all be watching over the next five years? Mike Dolan: “It’s still soccer. Soccer is the international game, and so it becomes, after that, then what else and where?” Ravitch: “Baseball has a golden opportunity that it hasn’t taken advantage of to go globally.” Payne: “There is nothing out there that is up and coming, from the mainstream, that is getting everyone’s attention. Beyond the traditional sports at the moment, there is nothing jumping out at you.” Slipper: “Cricket. It is a sport with great excitement and it’s going global. It is starting to get more distribution in Europe. There are cricket pitches built on the campuses of Microsoft, Oracle and other tech companies in Silicon Valley.”