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Volume 25 No. 66
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Sports Business Wake-Up: SMT Day 1

CONFERENCE CONNECTIONS: About 350 people are expected today at the 2015 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology conference in New York City at the Crowne Plaza Times Square. All sessions will be held on the 4th floor of the hotel, which you can access using the escalator from the lobby. If you’re not staying in the hotel, you might want to keep an umbrella handy. There’s some rain expected in the city today, though tomorrow we should see some sun and 70 degrees.

ON THE AGENDA: For every opportunity that technology presents, it offers a  challenge to overcome. That push and pull of progress and problems will be a major theme of the conference, and our morning sessions today will set the tone. Few of our conferences have taken place with so many panel topics that could also be headlines in the news – the challenges to Daily Fantasy Sports, changes at ESPN and the explosion of wearable technologies, to name a few.

SKIPPER LEADS OFF: Starting at 8:45 a.m., ESPN President John Skipper sits down with Executive Editor Abe Madkour and talks publicly for the first time since ESPN laid off more than 300 employees in one of the toughest weeks in the company’s 36-year history. Expect him to discuss what led to those moves, where ESPN can grow and how seriously the cable bundle is being threatened. It will be interesting to see how the ever-thoughtful Skipper, who is known to staunchly defend the sports media company, portrays the current narrative around the company. You won’t want to miss this session.

I SEE CORD CUTTERS: Cord cutting seems to be the equivalent of climate change these days. Some people believe it will bring dramatic change to the industry, others deny its existence, and others say it is happening, but it really doesn’t matter. Media Writer John Ourand will talk to a panel of distributors and affiliates to bring a little clarity to the issue. Among the questions he’ll put to them:
— How are “skinny bundles” affecting the bottom line?
— How much of a problem is “password sharing”? 
— How long can they rely on sports to be the backbone of the bundle?
On the panel: Ben Grad of Verizon, Ken Solomon of Tennis Channel, Melinda Witmer of Time Warner Cable, and Dana Zimmer of Tribune Media Co.

YOU WEAR IT WELL: We’ll round out the morning with one of the most forward-thinking executives in talking about wearable technology. Intel’s Steve Holmes will discuss how these innovations can change the face of sports. After that one-on-one, Ourand will lead a session with five entertainment and sports executives on the state of the OTT business. Our stretch run before a buffet lunch will be a look at the controversy surrounding Daily Fantasy Sports, as four executives look at where this part of the industry is headed.

DATA, MONEY AND TECH: Afternoon sessions will examine the role of big data in sports, how private equity is feeling about deal flow in the sports media space, and the latest in 4K streaming. You’ll want to catch the NFL’s Hans Schroeder and Yahoo’s Ken Fuchs as they discuss what they learned from Sunday’s live-streamed Bills-Jaguars game from London. And what better way to end a full day than hearing from Microsoft’s Chief Evangelist, Steve Guggenheimer, on the future of digital disruption.

READY FOR A COCKTAIL?: After eight hours of thought-provoking content, attendees will unwind and network over a few drinks and some hors d’oeuvres (filet mignon, lobster medallions, Maryland crab cakes, etc.). The reception starts at 5:30, giving attendees plenty of time to grab a drink before Game 2 of the World Series. Speaking of which: here’s the front-page New York Times story on technical glitches during the Fox broadcast.

PRESENTING SMT LIVE: For the second year, through our partnership with NeuLion, we’ll offer interviews with key speakers and panelists throughout the conference. To access SMT Live, visit https://smtlive.neulion.com and sign up to stream content to your PC, smartphone and tablet. Also, be sure to check out NeuLion’s 4K theater, which will be set up in the event foyer.

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD: NeuLion and SBJ/SBD will host an exclusive Speakers Dinner tonight at Del Frisco’s private wine room. Cocktails start at 6:30, dinner at 7:30.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: All the information you need about the conference — agenda, speakers, venue, etc. — can be found in the conference app and program guide. You can download the app from the iTunes store or the Google Play store, and you can use any device to view our digital program guide.

YOUR THOUGHTS MATTER: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators throughout the day using the SMT app or by texting ‘SBJSBD’ to 22-333. If you are posting tweets or photos, be sure to use the conference hashtag: #sbjsmt.

FOLLOW OUR FEEDS: Be sure to follow all of our social media posts throughout the conference using our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram feeds.

NEXT ON THE CALENDAR: We’ll be right back in NYC next week for the 2015 Momentum Sports Marketing Symposium. You can check out the agenda and speaker roster, or register for the conference, by clicking HERE.