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Volume 21 No. 1
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Interview with Turner’s David Levy

I was interested in several answers that Turner President David Levy gave during our interview at the CAA World Congress of Sports last month.

On Bleacher Report streaming live rights

Bleacher Report will always have scores, highlights and game recaps. Those are the “table stakes,” Levy said.

“I can also see Bleacher having live sporting events at some point,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a sporting event. It could be Drake playing Reggie Miller in a ping-pong tournament — charge 25 cents or 50 cents, whatever. I bet you would have a lot of people that would be interested in seeing that. Yes, you may have live sports, but you may have that as well. That’s the future of what we’re heading into.”

Levy says smaller leagues would benefit from a pay-per-play model.
Levy envisions a Bleacher Report that is a cross between sports and pop culture. He brought up the Bose commercial with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and hip-hop star Macklemore as an example of the type of content Bleacher Report wants.

“We care about what people wear,” he said. “We care about the sneaker industry … the selling of sneakers and the style and the fashion. That’s all part of the essence of what Bleacher is.”

Levy’s timetable for this is closer than you might think.

“We are three to five years away from seeing the definition of a network just be completely changed from what a network is today. [There’s still going to be] television. The opportunity of how you distribute your content is going to be very, very different.”

On the future of sports media

Traditional television channels and digital media companies will resemble each other as the business moves forward, Levy said.

The advantage television companies currently have over digital media companies is reach and high-quality programming. Digital media companies’ advantages are rooted in advertising — they have all the data that enables targeted marketing, Levy said.

“There’s a race toward the middle,” he said. “Amazon and Twitter are buying football. [There’s] baseball on Facebook. MLS is on Facebook. We’re selling pre- and postgame shows for the NCAA to Twitter …
“And our businesses are getting into analytics. I can buy set-top-box data. I can buy credit card data. Then I start understanding my consumer from a TV perspective.”

On pay-per-play

It’s already harder for smaller leagues and conferences to get paid for their media rights. Cable networks like ESPN that are enacting cost-cutting measures increasingly are basing many of their decisions on how much a deal can help with pay-TV carriage.

Levy believes many smaller leagues and conferences should embrace a pay-per-play model.

“There are leagues that can’t get distribution,” he said. “There are midlevel conferences that are playing in time periods that they don’t want to play in. I think there will be opportunities to actually now play when you want to. And you can sell it direct to consumer and not have to play at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning on some network when you’re not filling the stadium. That’s not helping their brand. Originally, they were doing it for recruiting purposes …

“I believe there’s a pay-per-play with a lot of different conferences in college and with leagues that maybe aren’t getting the distribution with the rights they think they can. It doesn’t have to be a million people doing it.”

On NBA League Pass

Turner and the NBA have talked about the possibility of selling the last several minutes of individual NBA games. Levy said Turner, which runs the league’s digital businesses, already sells individual games in addition to seasonlong packages. Neither Turner nor the league have made any decisions on that possibility.

“We’ve been having discussions about the possibility that you could buy the last five minutes or the last two minutes of a game at some point,” he said.