The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) celebrated “The Business of Live Sports,” an online event focused on the core elements of the business of televised live sports – including: viewership, sponsors, content, talent and fans.

23 MAR 2021

JP Bommel, President and CEO of NATPE

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The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) celebrated “The Business of Live Sports,” its latest virtual event produced through NATPE Virtual, which powered NATPE Miami. The online event focused on the core elements of the business of televised live sports – including: viewership, sponsors, content, talent and fans.

“This event is focused on one of the largest revenue streams for the television industry. Each year, live sports attract hundreds of millions of TV viewers and billions of dollars in advertising revenues and subscription incomes,”  said JP Bommel, President and CEO of NATPE. “We are providing a resource by talking about sports production and the delivery of live sports on TV,”  he added.

Sean McManus, Chairman of CBS Sports, delivered the opening keynote, and he talked about the evolving business of sports television, especially in the last few months, during the global lockdowns. Moreover, he shared his vision about what the future of the business will be like once the pandemic ends.

“Sports are actually becoming more and more important, in a time when it is becoming more and more difficult to attract live audiences to a television set. In fact, in many ways, sports are the major reason why the TV bundle is staying together. If you want to reach the right advertiser and the right audience on a live-basis, sports are without question the best way to do that,”  McManus said. “Sports are the most important programming in television,”  he added.

Then, the senior sports executive described CBS Sports’ strategy when it comes to shaping its portfolio, using as example the recent deal closed with the NFL, and also referring to ViacomCBS’s new streaming service, Paramount+, which is also part of this strategy. “We are a very different company than we were before. We are now a multiplatform powerhouse,”  McManus assured.

After Sean McManus’s presentation, a session called “Attracting TV viewers to live sports” took place. Without fans in the arenas and without tickets, everyone is watching televised live sports, from anywhere except the venue. That generates two different perspectives on how sports marketers are attracting fans as viewers: one from the sports property’s perspective, and another from the network marketer’s point of view. Here, Wyatt Hicks (NASCAR) and Miheer Walavalkar (LiveLike) joined in to explain what are both companies doing together.

In the second part of the “Attracting TV viewers to live sports” session, Jennifer Storms, Chief Marketing Officer, Entertainment and Sports at NBCUniversal, was invited to describe how did the company responded to a 2020 in which sports disappeared completely, what was the return to activity like, and what plans she has for the future once everything returns to normal.

“It was so incredibly important for sports to come back safely. Globally, it has been such a signal of hope, community and perseverance. Sports have been that light at the end of the tunnel for so many people,”  Storms assured. “We recognize that people’s lives have changed, as well as the environment and consumer habits. That is why we wanted to innovate. As an organization, this was a critical time for us,”  she admitted.

Then it was time for the panel entitled “Distributing live sports to TV fans everywhere”. During this session, Boris Gartner (LaLiga), Andrés Nieto (Claro Sports) and Ray Warren (Telemundo Deportes) addressed topics such as the growing popularity of international sports, exclusive content, and more, giving different points of view, be it from the side of the programmers, the channels or the platforms.

“The Business of Live Sports’” mission was to provide a comprehensive overview of the entire live sports industry, and that is why in the next panel, titled “Changing the playing field of sponsorship”, Roku’s Julian Mintz focused on recent trends with advertisers on streamed sporting events, and the platform’s capabilities for targeting specific audience segments for advertisers. During part two of this presentation, David Cole (Sports Innovation Lab) and John Stainer (Nielsen Sports) discussed about the prevailing conditions and key trends driving the changing value of sports sponsorship.

To round up the event, NATPE offered a “Super series of sports perspectives,” which were one-on-one keynote fireside chats, each with a specific focus on one area of the business of live sports television. Topics covered where the valuable role of RSNs to local teams and sponsors; recent trends in sports viewership; the impact of the new NFL rights deal; the increasing use of sports to pad-out general entertainment subscription services; and the impact of new legislation permitting sports betting in an increasing number of states.

Lastly, “The Business of Live Sports” analyzed the pay-per-view model in its concluding keynote, called “Prevailing power of pay-per-view”. In this panel, leaders in the business of live PPV events talked about continuing changes in the industry, and recent promotional trends for engaging loyal viewers.

By Federico Marzullo