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Volume 7 No. 149

Leaders Business Summit

Amazon is in the sports broadcasting business for "the long-term," according to one of its top European execs, who hinted at further deals to come but said that the U.S. streaming giant was adopting a "humble approach." Amazon Prime Video European Managing Dir Alex Green said, "There is more to come from Amazon, full stop. We are in it for the long-term, that’s for sure. We just get our heads down and try and do the best possible job. We are quite humble about it. Amazon may be a big name but in sports broadcasting we are not. Let’s face it."

Green was being interviewed at Wednesday's Leaders Sport Business Summit in London. The interview took place just months after Amazon broadcast the US Open to U.K. tennis fans -- its first exclusive broadcast of a sports event. Amazon paid $40M in a five-year deal for the rights. But the company was hit by complaints about the sound and picture quality of its streaming coverage while viewers also grumbled about their inability to record matches. However, Green said that Amazon’s coverage had been a success, though he did not offer viewing figures for the tournament. "Overall, we were pleased with how it went," he said. "We think the live coverage went well. Our audience numbers were very strong." While not addressing criticism of its coverage directly, Green did admit that "tennis fans are very vocal" and said that Amazon responded by making changes to its coverage during the tournament.

As well as the US Open, Amazon also has inked broadcasting deals with the NFL and Premier League in addition to a deal with Discovery to show premium sporting events in Germany and Austria, including the Winter Olympics and the Bundesliga. Green hinted that similar deals to the Discovery one could be made. He said, "We don’t have to have our own thing. We can offer it through third-party channels. We can apply these different models to keep expanding the selections."

Green was asked about Amazon’s forthcoming coverage of the Premier League, which begins in '19, but remained tight-lipped about its plans, including its presenting lineup. Amazon will show 20 Premier League matches a season for three years. The matches are free to Amazon Prime’s U.K. members. Green: "We were thrilled to end up with what we have ended up with. It's an interesting package of rights. We know the power of the Premier League. Tennis is one thing. The Premier League here [in the U.K.] is a completely different level."

WOMEN'S VIEW: In London, Martin Lipton reported Green said that Amazon could use "all-female commentary teams" in its Premier League coverage next year. Green: “As part of the Thursday night football coverage we take the core Fox feed with their own commentary team. But we decided to offer viewers an alternative commentary team with an all-female commentary team, Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer, very well-respected NFL journalists in the U.S. That has proved really popular. It has gone down very well and people have really appreciated having the choice. ... The Premier League does appeal across the gender divide and we are conscious of that. That will be reflected in how we deliver" (THE SUN, 10/10).

Man City needs to take its music strategy a "step further" to enhance the football fan experience and connect with younger audiences, City Football Group CMO Nuria Tarré said at Wednesday's Leaders Sport Business Summit in London. She said, "We are working on our music strategy. Music is present in many things we do. We have a very unique around-the-game entertainment. Two hours before kickoff, [we have] live bands and interviews. We really need to go a step further in that space." Tarré said that the club -- which is based in a city with a rich history in music -- could be interested in striking new deals in the music space.

She also spoke about Man City's multi-million dollar deal with Amazon Prime for its behind-the-scenes TV series, which followed the club through its Premier League-winning exploits last season. At the time, Man City heralded the deal as a "ground-breaking project." Tarré said, "We were looking for an opportunity to produce content in a unique way. We tried to think differently. We are not afraid of showing things how they are. Amazon came to us with these incredible opportunities." She said that one gauge of the program's success was that it had been embraced by young football fans, not just Man City fans.

Asked about the rationale behind signing commercial partners, such as the multi-million pound deal with dating app Tinder it signed earlier this year, Tarre said that it was on a "case-by-case basis," but the club was attracted to challenger brands. She said that Tinder was an attractive deal, as it had a youthful audience, which she likened to Man City's fan base.

Also on the panel was All England Lawn Tennis Club Commercial & Media Dir Mick Desmond. He said that as organizer of Wimbledon, his organization tended to work with no more than 15 partners, some of which, like Slazenger and Rolex, have been longstanding partners of the club. Desmond: "But we do a huge amount with them We look at sponsors to enhance the championships."

AS Roma President James Pallotta has brought an "American vision" to Italian football.

Italian football teams would benefit from the vision of an American exec to realize the potential of sport combining with the entertainment industry, according to Warner Bros. Senior VP, Distribution & New Theatrical Ventures Thomas Ciampa. 

He pointed to the recent example of Serie A side AS Roma and its deal with Warner Bros. for the '18-19 season. The entertainment company is collaborating with the club on a number of projects. The two have already come together to create a promotional idea for superhero film "Venom."

Ciampa was speaking at Wednesday’s Leader's Sport Business Summit in London, where he said that the AS Roma-Warner Bros. deal might only have been possible because club President James Pallotta is American and has brought an "American vision" into Italian football. Ciampa said that too many Italian football clubs lacked vision as to how expand their brands and drive up revenues.

He added, "Unfortunately for many [Italian] teams, it’s still a soccer team. I believe what Roma wants is to elevate the soccer team to be a global brand. And also the city helps. It’s a great marriage between a great city and the team."

Ciampa was speaking on a panel with Jeffrey Godsick, Exec VP of Worldwide Partnerships & Brand Management at Sony Pictures. Godsick said he could see similar deals between entertainment properties and sport teams. "We are always looking to have long-term relationships with partners on any level," Godsick said. "When we have a long-term relationship we are not just spending all the focus on the execution. We are actually spending time to learn about each other. What are the goals that are common?" Godsick said that the company actively pursues about 70% of its partners, while 30% were partners that had pitched themselves to Sony.

A combined North American football league between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. "could be the main legacy of the 2026 World Cup hosted by those nations," according to Christian Radnedge of REUTERS. The "United 2026" bid beat Morocco in the vote at FIFA's Congress in June to host the first 48-team World Cup. Although the majority of venues are proposed to be in the U.S., Mexican teams have "dominated on the continent," winning all 10 editions of the CONCACAF Champions League. Liga MX also remains the most-watched football league in the U.S. and "attracts average crowds of more than 26,500." However, revenues for global TV rights and sponsorship across North America "pale in comparison to the top leagues of Europe." Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla believes that is "something that could be changed with a new combined continental division." He said, "It's a possibility, a North American league. We have to determine how and see the pros and cons but I think that's a way to grow and to compete again. If we can make a World Cup, then we can make a North American league or a North American Cup. The main idea is that we have to grow together to compete. If not, there is only going to be the rich guys in Europe and the rest of the world" (REUTERS, 10/10).

As a buzzing day at Stamford Bridge becomes a bustling evening in its environs, welcome to your on-the-button round-up of The Leaders Sport Business Summit 2018. We can’t promise this will be comprehensive, but it should at least provide a few nuggets from what was an action-packed programme once again.

A shout out to our men on the ground, Richard Clarke, Jake Cohen, Kennedell Amoo-Gottfried, and John Portch for providing the majority of the gobbets in this communiqué, and to our main partners Activision Blizzard, Aspire Zone Foundation, Nielsen and ONE Championship, and indeed a hefty pat on the back to all the winners of this year’s Leaders Sports Awards. A whale of a time was had last night at the Natural History Museum, but everyone was out in force, sore heads and all, on the conference floor bright and early this morning.

We’ve been to Frankie’s for some HotelPlanner drinks. I think we saw you there. And as we head off into the night, time to catch up on a business card-busting day below:

- It’s been an interesting Leaders Week for clothing. Plenty of suits -- grey, navy -- but the odd splash of colour has livened things up a little. Boris Becker had to borrow a slightly more sober tie at the Leaders Sports Awards on Monday night, and award winner Cynthia Mumbo came in a vibrant number she’d designed herself. Virgin Atlantic CMO Claire Cronin, meanwhile, wore an accidentally on-brand lipstick-patterned dress, which is, she says, Richard Branson’s wife’s favourite. Best Dressed Award though: 49ers President Al Guido, of course. Again.
- La Liga Chief Communications Officer Joris Evers is a paid up convert to kabaddi. Chatting backstage to Star India’s Ipsita Dasgupta, Evers was rapt as he watched a full 40-minute encounter on Dasgupta’s phone.

- Plenty of discussion backstage and in the halls on Eleven Sports’ decision to flout the 3pm blackout rules with its recent broadcasts of La Liga games. It’s clear the OTT disruptor has plenty of support – if not quite out and proud - but a fair number of detractors too.

Did someone say hashtag?

Matt Scott: Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani tells #leadersweek that he has received lots of takeover approaches, valuing the club at “double what I invested in it”. But he’s not interested in selling, saying he wants to become one of the “top-eight brands in the Premier League”. #LUFC

Scott Bowers: First class @LeadersBiz session on creating the ultimate digital customer experience with Claire Cronin of Virgin Atlantic and @AlGuido of 49ers. Proper insights. Well moderated @rscibetti #LeadersWeek

Dr Tom Markham: Possibly the greatest @LeadersBiz session ever discussing @LoveIsland v @BritishBakeOff! @FootballLaw and @SkySportsDavid all over it! #LeadersWeek

Annamarie Phelps: Fabulous day 1 @LeadersBiz #LeadersWeek great panels, insights and discussions and good to catch with so many old friends can’t wait for day 2; more of the same please

Follow this link to the rest of the wrap-up.

Aryna Sabalenka was recently criticized for shaking a water bottle in the direction of a ball boy.

All England Club Commercial & Media Dir Mick Desmond said that the tournament is "prepared to take action against players who behave badly" toward ball boys and girls and "plans to discuss the matter with representatives of men's and women's tennis," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. The subject became a "hot topic" last week after Spaniard Fernando Verdasco was "pilloried on social media for appearing to berate a ball boy for not bringing his towel quickly enough at the Shenzhen Open." Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka also "drew online criticism for shaking an empty water bottle in the direction of a ball boy in Beijing last week before tossing it to the floor." Roger Federer, himself a ball boy in his youth, said that players "needed to respect the kids, who are all unpaid volunteers at Wimbledon." Desmond, speaking to reporters at the Leaders Sport Business Summit, said that Wimbledon "expected mutual respect by everyone at the tournament, from players to cleaners." He said, "There is a code of ethics at Wimbledon. I think there is more respect shown because I think there's a sense of expectation of that. But a ball boy or ball girl getting shouted out for not throwing a towel back ... the players clearly know what's expected of them and what's not and Wimbledon is not afraid to fine players, whatever their standing" (REUTERS, 10/10).