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August 16, 2013

8 Trends to Watch in Sports Business

At Wednesday’s Cynopsis Sports Business Summit, produced by CableFAX sister pub, cable execs, major league presidents and marketers divulged on trends in sports business from the second screen to authentication to advertising. Here are 8 topics to keep an eye on in the sports business world.
1. Big Data. Expect more use of big data in sports. “We’ll be analyzing everything,” said Mark Tatum, evp, global marketing partnerships for the NBA. Once an advocate of the oft-repeated phrase “content in king,” Craig Barry, svp, production and executive creative director for Turner Sports, said he now believes data is equally as important as content. It has changed the way producers have programmed, he said. You’ll see more storytelling with data insights as well, according to ESPN evp and gm, digital and print media John Kosner, citing the net’s recent hire of data guru Nate Silver as an indication of that trend.
2. Enhanced In-Stadium Second Screen Experience. With leagues laser-focused on keeping fans in stadium seats, they’re investing in infrastructure to allow ticket holders to engage in second screen experiences, according to Mark Tatum, evp, global marketing partnerships for the NBA. “The in-stadium experience is very, very important,” he said. SVP and CMO for NASCAR Steve Phelps agreed, adding that the communication infrastructure is particularly critical to his sport. The experience is “sensory and very visceral…It will be a future of where our sport is going.” NFL CMO Mark Waller said to expect a “massive improvement” in the mobile experience at events.
3. Courting the Casual Fan. In terms of target audience, soon-to-launch FS1 was characterized by Michael Mulvihill, svp programming and research, Fox Sports, as “an inclusive place” with “broad appeal.” The goal is the have “2 things for every type of fan,” he said. Meanwhile, NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger noted that over the past 10 years his net’s fan base has grown considerably, calling its current broad appeal “startling.” Its mission has been to rope in the more casual fan, he said. The diehards will come no matter what.
4. Emphasis on Safety and Security. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the NFL is placing greater emphasis on fan safety during live events, said NFL's Waller. One major change: Fans will only be able to bring in a single bag to games. This reflects a very different policy, he said. NFL Network's Weinberger added that on the whole “sports are getting safer… There are more rules, and that is changing the telecast a bit,” he said.
5. Addressable Advertising. Stephen Espinoza, evp and gm, sports and event programming for Showtime Networks maintained that addressable advertising will be a major disruptive force, given its ability to target specific groups of fans. “The cable ops have been most innovative with this,” he said. It will require a different process of selling and ultimately create a “better value sell.”
6. Improvements to Authentication. At least for certain properties, the authentication process will see some improvements. NBC has a jump on this. The upcoming Olympic Games will be fully authenticated, according to president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network Jon Miller, and NBC Sports Net is offering all English Premier League games via authentication starting this weekend at the season’s kickoff. Additionally, “very soon” after launch FS1 subs will get access via authentication to Fox Sports Go after it rolls out, said Fox Sports’ Mulvihill.
7. Specialized Broadcasts. Harold Bryant, executive producer and vp, production for CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network, predicts that micro-productions are on the rise. These more personalized, specialized broadcasts might focus on a certain player, dialogue from a coach or camera angles. The demand for additional, specialized information surrounding a broadcast is increasing, he said.
8. Branded Content. You have to be innovative and creative with sponsors these days, said Turner’s Craig Barry. More and more they’re seeking to create branded content that looks like it belongs in the show. “Sponsors are really looking to be part of an event,” he said. CBS Sports’ Harold Bryant concurred, adding that the key is “organic integration” of that sponsorship.

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