Sports business leaders take stock of the transforming industry at the 21st CAA World Sports Congress

More than two decades ago, Jessica Berman attended the inauguration as a student intern. This time she is participating as an NWSL commissioner.Mark Bryan-Brown

On Tuesday, the 378-seat Manhattan Times Center was packed with industry leaders and innovators in smart business attire, but it was a few hat-wearing guys who set the tone for two days of nuanced discussion.

Five members of Dude Perfect recorded a welcome video for the CAA World Sports Congress. With their signature enthusiasm, these entertainers—a staple of the Gen Z digital diet, which they started in 2009 and quickly went viral with their YouTube videos—delivered a message to the crowd. “The world of sports is always evolving,” said Tyler Toney, one of the members. “I mean, look at us!”

Just as no one could have predicted that a group that rose to fame through a series of stunt-shooting videos would one day host an alternate broadcast on Prime Video for Thursday Night Football, “Much of the conversation at the 21st annual event revolved around Disruption and innovation in today’s sports business landscape, from alternating broadcast and transitional media landscapes to the continued rise of women’s sports. It had an exciting two days at the Times Center, attended by approximately 750 attendees, including Including a panel meeting of the four league commissioners and other top executives from the sports and sports world.

“I love our industry,” Tim Leiweke, co-founder and CEO of Oak View Group, said in a panel discussion with his brother, Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke, “We are an industry that can communicate with each other. Do you think other industries join forces to make a kumbaya? No way. That’s an amazing feature and a fantastic feature for our industry.”

SBJ’s Abe Madkour moderated the first panel, which included (LR) Marie Donoghue, Constance Schwartz-Morini, Max Siegel, Ferran Soriano and Mark Tatum.Mark Bryan-Brown

The rise of women’s sports

This year’s Worldcon is a complete moment for Jessica Berman, who participated in the event’s first iteration 21 years ago as a student volunteer. Her primary responsibility for the incident: pastoring Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

“I was in charge of bringing him from the green room to the stage,” said Berman, who is now commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League. “I’m so nervous – definitely more nervous than I am today.”

It’s also a complete moment for women’s sports. After all, Worldcon has seen Berman rise from student volunteer to committee member in just over two decades.

Berman had a one-on-one with Proskauer host Joe Leches, who first addressed Yates’ report, US Soccer’s investigation into past abuse and misconduct of league players. Berman called it “a reminder that we have to get this right, and we’ll do it right.”

The conversation then shifted to the continued growth of the NWSL, as Berman pointed to a substantial increase in club valuations over the past year. Key factors include an undersupply of teams relative to demand, a movement for gender equality and an increased interest in cause-driven consumerism, she said.

In a separate panel discussion moderated by SBJ Media writer John Ourand, Jessica Gelman, CEO of Kraft Analytics Group, said: “A lot of times, I still have a hard time finding women’s sports on TV. …I think we don’t Not really talking about new fans who are also creating and capturing [through women’s sports] And how digitization will create more opportunities to watch these other sports. “

Buzzer founder and CEO Bo Han, who is also on the Gelman panel, said a digital-first approach for female athletes is “an untapped opportunity for women’s sports to transform into less online and more personal. How do you Use Alex Morgan’s channel to actually promote future NWSL games?”

For his part, UFC President Dana White highlighted the success his company has seen with female fighters and the benefits it can bring. “It’s very empowering for women to see women who are so bad, especially for little girls, to be able to see what’s possible,” he said.

Tod Leiweke concluded: “Women’s sport is the next big thing.”

The Leiweke brothers — Oak View Group CEO Tim and Seattle Kraken president and CEO Tod — discussed their hopes for the NBA’s expansion in Las Vegas and Seattle, respectively.Mark Bryan-Brown

Which RSNs?

“It’s not dead. It’s just in a very important evolution,” said Irwin Kishner, executive chairman of Herrick.

“We have to evolve,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

“I’m concerned,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said.

In short, no matter who was asked at the Worldcon about the future of the regional sports network model, there was a similar sense of urgency in the ongoing cord-cutting.

“the biggest problem [about the RSN business] From my perspective, it’s a coverage issue,” Manfred said.

While the NHL has signed agreements with RSN owners such as Sinclair Diamond Sports Group to allow direct-to-consumer products, MLB has refused to hand over those rights. Still, both league commissioners acknowledged the need to meet cord-cutters and non-cutters where they are. “This can be part of a regional sports network ecosystem or stand-alone,” Bateman said in a one-on-one meeting with ESPN’s Emily Kaplan. “It depends on the health of the regional sports channels.”

Meanwhile, a panel discussion consisting of MLS commissioner Don Garber and Apple senior vice president of services Eddy Cue focused almost entirely on their 10-year, $2.5 billion partnership, which will roll out next season and Will revolve around a subscription service for unrestricted MLS games.

Target? Simple.

“Watching sports has become more difficult,” Cue said. “On the one hand, every game is played somewhere, and on the other hand, there are all these packages and rules and blackouts. … So one of the things we want to do is remove all that and try to make MLS It’s super easy for fans to find and watch any game. It’s not rocket science, but that’s what it feels like to be a fan right now.”

Expansion and Disruption

Manfred appeared at the start of MLB’s newly expanded playoffs — as part of its new five-year collective bargaining agreement, which has increased from 10 to 12 clubs. But Manfred has set his sights on expanding further – to 14 clubs – a possibility that will emerge during negotiations at the next CBA. Manfred also reiterated his desire for MLB to grow to 32 teams as a whole, a development he said could prompt a realignment, including moving the division from five to four.

Manfred isn’t alone in thinking about expansion. For example, the Leivik brothers both want to bring NBA teams to their games. Tim is building a new $4 billion entertainment complex in Las Vegas that was not developed with a team in mind but has the potential to be another tourist attraction, Todd’s Climate Commitment Arena just opened for More than 18,000 fans hosted an NBA preseason game. Seattle, which has been without a team since the Sonics traveled to Oklahoma City in 2007. “As time goes on, the pain is almost greater now than it was in 2007,” Todd said.

During a NASCAR-focused panel discussion, President Steve Phelps said the company’s 2024 schedule “could be the most aggressive we’ve ever seen” in terms of new markets and venues.

Of course, college sports have also been affected by the changes, with Pac-12 stalwarts UCLA and USC announcing that they will be in the Big Ten starting in 2024, sparking talk of a larger conference reorganization. Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s vice president of global sports video, said it’s the biggest sports news she’s been following. “It’s a game changer,” she said. “It affects student-athletes, it affects fans, it affects the media landscape. I think this is just the beginning. We don’t know where this will end in the next few years.”

On a related note, USA Track & Field CEO Max Siegel said this year’s story is that the top ten media rights contracts with CBS, Fox and NBC will total more than $8 billion over seven years. Dollar, here are two schools in Los Angeles. “You have to strike a balance between business innovation and college sportsmanship,” he said. “So it’s great to see the conference realign to serve student-athletes and then maximize the revenue opportunities associated with that.”

Of course, the biggest disruptor in sports in 2022 is LIV Golf. Panelists pointed to the Saudi-funded upstart tour as a lesson for sports leagues.

“You want to disturb yourself,” Donoghue said. “You don’t want to be at the mercy of other people intervening and disrupting your movement.”

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