5 things we learned from SportsPro Live 2018

This week has seen the events season for 2018 start in earnest with SportsPro’s flagship event taking place at the ExCel Arena in East London. And it’s theme was one that we couldn’t fail to notice of – sport business and technology. Right up our street!

Over the 2 days there were almost 30 talks and panels given by 80 industry experts from around the world. And much as I’d have liked to have sat in on all of them, this is never possible with so much going on and some of the talks taking place at the same time. So what were some of the standout moments for me?

1. OTT is still the hottest topic in town

A number of panels took place where this was the main area of interest. And having run our own on this very topic back in January you can see why. With so many players in the market, from traditional broadcasters such as BBC, Sky and BT (all of whom were represented) to tech companies (Sportradar, NeuLion, DAZN, deltatre) and rights holders (WWE, EFL, Bundesliga).

My favourite panel was moderated expertly by Jeff Nathanson from Whistle Sports and brought together Tracey Keenan from WWE, Ben Gallop from BBC, Andy Wasef at deltatre and Simon Trudelle from NAGRA. Ben is always frank with his views and Jeff wasn’t going to allow any BS to go on. So it managed to be both entertaining and insightful.

2. You should be innovating when you’re winning, not when you’re failing

Often companies lead with innovation when old models are starting to fail and they are doing it through need rather than planning. But if we can take on the mindset of the best on-the-pitch, where winning teams are always regenerating and adding to with improvement in mind. Then organisations stand a much better chance of succeeding. An example that comes to mind is Netflix who cannibalised their own mail order DVD business model with streaming as they saw it as the future, something that Blockbuster didn’t do in time.

3. VAR is here to stay

A previous podcast guest of ours was a keynote speaker yesterday afternoon. Andreas Heyden is Chief Executive of DFL Digital Sports – the digital arm of the Bundesliga. You could pick out any part of his talk but I went for this one on VAR, as it’s something they have been running with all year whilst the press (and managers) here take every opportunity to make sure it fails. But it is going to happen in the World Cup and it won’t be long until we have it in the Premier League too.

4. Personalisation is where we’re heading so make sure you’re ready

Something that has long been the holy grail of how we will use all this data and technology has been to tailor content and experiences down to the individual. Now with AI getting closer to being both ‘artificial’ and ‘intelligent’ then possibilities will open up. And being able to utilise it within sports will be key to keeping fans engaging with your sport, team or brand.

5. ..And you can’t hold a sports business event without talking about esports

It’s true, you just can’t. We covered it some detail with our event in London last month, and on Wednesday we heard from McLaren F1’s Head of Esports, Ben Payne (who also appeared on this week’s podcast), Róisín O’Shea from Fnatic, Chris Mead from Twitch and Neville Upton from Gfinity. A great panel line up!

McLaren’s approach has been a bit different in that it was a driver recruitment exercise initially. The aim being to make it less elite and reliant on karting, mainly due to the obvious transferable skills from sim racing games to simulator driving at the top teams. Then going onto race in real life after that. It could work!

They also touched on sponsorship, new titles, how to plan for the long term, esports teams and how perceptions about fans being only gamers/geeks is very wrong. Lots to take on and one of the best panels of the week.


If you’re looking for more events to attend, why not come down to our own Digital Sport events. We have ones coming up in Manchester (24th April) and London (9th May).

About author

Daniel McLaren
Daniel McLaren 820 posts

Dan is the Founder & CEO of Digital Sport. Can be found at sports industry events and heard every week on the Digital Sport Insider podcast. @DanielMcLaren

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