Global Sports Forum debates online strategy

Spain: Online sports coverage is more of an opportunity than a threat, according to the discussions at the GSF in Barcelona, and it is one that broadcasters can’t afford to ignore. “TV versus web is not relevant – we’re in the content delivery business. If we just look at ourselves as a TV network we’ll be out of business very quickly,” said David Sternberg, CEO, Universal Sports.

The phenomenon of the long tail has been well documented, and Sternberg is amongst those that sees its manifestation of audiences for ‘niche’ events as an ideal additional revenue stream for broadcasters. “The internet has created a value proposition for all sorts of sports content,” he said. “We might not get value for transmitting a New Zealand rugby match or a European equestrian event on our linear TV network, there’s the opportunity cost to consider amongst other things, but if people subscribe to our online services then we can play that content out on our websites all day long.”

There are caveats though, and one in particular – rights. Laurent Eric Le Lay, president of Eurosport pointed out that there have been many changes in the past five years of broadcasting, and the next handful of years will bring increased ubiquity of HD, the possibility of 3D as a standard, and also many, many more people watching sports live on the internet. “ The internet is a fantastic industry, but it has destroyed a lot of business models, especially music and DVD/film,” he said. “Sport has been protected so far because sport is live, but protecting those rights in the future [as more watch online] and making sure this process does not destroy the model for sport is important.”

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