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Volume 21 No. 38
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Sternberg keeps changing landscape in mind for clients

Three months removed from leaving Manchester United, veteran sports media executive David Sternberg is back in the United States and running his own sports media consultancy, Claygate Advisors.

Sternberg hung his shingle in Westport, Conn., opting to follow a consultancy trail blazed by sports media executives like Doug Perlman, Ed Desser and Leslie Gittess.

David Sternberg predicts there will be “a Netflix of sports.”
Sternberg has three clients so far: the commercial arm of USA Rugby, called Rugby International Marketing; a daily fantasy company focused on soccer called Mondogoal; and an unnamed private equity firm that’s looking for sports media opportunities.

“The specific focus I have that is unique is that I am bringing a lot of global experience to this undertaking,” he said. “Where I think I can add real value is in helping U.S.-based properties to expand their reach internationally while working with their national content owners to find distribution here in the States.”

That international experience comes from an 11-year stint during which he ran Fox Sports’ international networks followed by a three-year run overseeing Universal Sports Network. In the spring of 2013, he moved his family to England to run Manchester United’s media operations, leaving that job at the end of the 2014-15 EPL season because his family wanted to move back to the United States.

Sternberg is setting up his shop at a time when the sports media landscape is going through significant changes. Cable sports channels such as ESPN are losing subscribers from the cord-cutting and cord-shaving trends. Plus, leagues and networks increasingly are looking to launch direct-to-consumer, over-the-top services that bypass cable and broadcast TV.

“Over-the-top is here. Sports hasn’t been the driver of it, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to arrive there,” Sternberg said. “In a lot of international markets, the nontraditional, digital platforms are already becoming serious players in the sports landscape.”

He cited, for example, Hong Kong’s LeTV Sports, which picked up EPL rights last week, and New Zealand’s Coliseum Sports Media, which is competing for sports media rights with Sky Television.

“There will be a Netflix of sports, whether it’s ESPN themselves or somebody else,” Sternberg said. “That’s the part that remains to be seen.”

These new media markets that are developing give smaller leagues more opportunities than they had in the past, when if they wanted distribution they typically would have to do a time buy on a broadcast network or fully distributed cable channel.

“Now, you can maybe do that for a small part of your inventory — maybe for your crown-jewel event,” Sternberg said. “But you can also build your own streaming platform and smartphone/connected-device app. If you know how to market digitally and you can work with the app stores to increase the visibility of it, you can find your audience there. The middlemen are relatively less powerful.”

— John Ourand