Asia next big sports content market: ABU conference

MUMBAI: If India has become THE place as far as monetising cricket broadcast revenues are concerned, Asia could well be where the future lies as regard the sports content market in general.

Or so believes Michael Payne, special advisor to Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone, who made these observations at the recent 36th ABU Sports Group Conference. "Asia is where the future growth is for what is called the ‘killer content’ – the Olympics and football’s World Cup and all roads are now pointed to Asia as far as the market for sports content is concerned," Payne said.

Payne, the former director of global media rights and marketing for IOC, said Asia would keep fuelling the recent dynamic growth in the Olympics.

“Who would have thought eight years ago the broadcast rights for two Games (2010 and 2012) would go for over $ 2 billion. We (the IOC) didn’t. I don’t think anybody did,” Payne said. (NBC, the US Television network, won the bidding war for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and the yet-to-be-named host city in 2012 for $2.1 billion.)

Nevertheless, Payne sounded clear warnings about future market shares and how to broaden the revenue base for major global sports brands. “The era of the 30-second, stand-alone TV commercial will soon be dead. A relatively new technology called Tivo is now able to blank out advertising. But live sport is the only ‘Tivo-proof’ programming,” he said.

Payne also touched on the importance of creating a broadcast brand identity. Television stations should heavily promote their sports inventory and show the public that they owned it. "Recognise the changing market place in advertising dynamics. Be creative – engage the advertiser and their agencies. Build a dialogue with the property owners. Show what you can do beyond the dollar sign,” he said.



Payne also highlighted the so called ‘hype’ that surrounded new media and the effect convergence would have.

“During the recent European tender for the next Olympics, not one offer was received from a telecommunications company for the mobile telephony rights, even though the European Union had basically instructed us to separate them from free-to-air, pay/cable TV and the Internet. “They were not interested,” he said.

David Astley, Secretary-General of the ABU urged federations and broadcasters to explore the vast potential of sports programming in observance that in the near future, the use of broadband to deliver sport and streaming on wireless devices will be well established even to the point of having effective pricing models.

“As broadcasters in the traditional environment we must make sure that we fully understand the new technologies and how we can work with other partners in the field, including the federations, as the innovations in technology, delivery platforms, and devices will also provide other opportunities,” said Astley.

On pricing models for on-demand sports content, Astley said: “A consumer simply buys into the range of services in much the same way that they do for a pay operator. The real difference here is that the mix of broadband, wireless and traditional free to air services, provides to the sports property owner a compelling case,” said Astley.

The 36th ABU Sports Group conference, which was held from 12-15 May, brought together more than 100 delegates this year to Bangkok and was opened by Les Murray, chairman of ABU Sports Group.

Bernie Ecclestone, Principal of Formula One shared his insights on how he plans to maintain the sport’s mass appeal and the competition for sponsors, the battle in the courts for a greater share for F1 teams of the spoils from TV rights, and how the sport will make the next decade in his presentation ‘Formula One – A Chequered Future’ which was conducted via video link.

An IOC workshop aimed to assist broadcasters to fully leverage the commercial value in their association with the ‘Five Rings’ featured a presentation by Melinda May, Director of Marketing Strategy of the International Olympic Committee and a speaker from NHK-Japan who shared on the NHK Experience.

On the last day, conference delegates toured the Inaugural Asian Indoor Games Bangkok facilities, arranged by the conference’s co-host organiser, the Thailand Pool of Television Authority.

Conference agenda highlights include discussion on the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Torino Winter Olympics, 2006 Doha Asian Games and the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games with presentations on the Manila SEA Games (host broadcaster: PTNI-Philippines), the 16th Incheon Asian Athletics Championships (host broadcaster: KBS-Korea), and the FIFA World Cup coverage by SBS.

Last year’s Sports Group Conference, held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, featured keynote speakers Bhuvanesh Joshi and Tenzing Tashi, the grandson of Tenzing Norgay (who climbed Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hilary), both of whom presented on ‘Football to the Summit’, an initiative in a form of a relay in 32 countries to promote peace via one of the most watched sports in the world.

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