Talking the Future of Sports and the Digital Revolution with Alan Wolk

It’s a fascinating, some would say tumultuous, time for those involved with broadcasting live sports. From rights fees and fragmenting audiences to livestreaming, 2nd screen and social platforms, seemingly everything is up for grabs. When it comes to the new realities of broadcasting, there’s no better person to speak with than Alan Wolk. Wolk is a Senior Analyst at The Diffusion Group, and Expert-in-Residence at BRavE Ventures. I spoke with him about the trends, opportunities and challenges he’s seeing.

TV rights for live sports continue to heads upwards. Are leagues, teams and organizations seeing similar gains with digital rights? What does the landscape look like there?

Yes, digital rights are very hot right now. Everyone is thinking about how to go directly to consumers and how to monetize— either through subscriptions, through advertising or both.

Facebook looks to be getting in the live sports game with Sports Stadium. Is there an opportunity for brands here?

HUGE opportunity. Brands can sponsor in Sports Stadium, they can run dark posts that tie in with games, they can cross promote from spots they run on TV during the game. Run co-sponsorships with the various leagues and/or networks.

Facebook definitely wants this to be a money making opportunity.

A few years ago the term “2nd Screen” was a pretty hot buzzword. What’s been the evolution in this industry?

We’re seeing the birth of 2nd Screen 2.0 which is all about paid posting and data. TV Networks are taking advantage of the fact that they can run paid posts (and tweets) with 30 second native video that autoplays and using that to promote shows. With Facebook authentication becoming more common, Facebook users can even click on a Facebook post and tune in.

Twitter is becoming less relevant for scripted programming because so much of it gets viewed on a time-shifted basis, but it’s still relevant for sports. Still, the user base (300M claimed, 100M or so, more likely vs 1.5B for Facebook) does not give networks the reach Facebook does.

What opportunities are leagues/teams failing to leverage in digital?

They could make more use of live streaming apps like Periscope and YouNow to do behind-the-scenes interviews with athletes, etc. In-stadium has been underutilized too but as stadiums are upgrading their WiFi, we’ll see that improve as well.

The idea of ‘cord cutting’ has been popular for a while, though perhaps more in concept than in fact. Can sports fans expect a standalone ESPN or Fox Sports offering outside of their cable bill anytime soon?

Probably not in the next year, but as the MVPDs [Ed.: multichannel video programming distributor] are starting to sell streaming and standalone services to their broadband customers (thus making Cord Cutting irrelevant), we will see that. We will also see why the bundle is such a good deal, as prices for the standalone service are fairly high, and anyone planning to use more than three or four of them will wonder where their savings went.

There is a lot of noise now about people not wanting to pay for ESPN, but it does subsidize many of ABC/Disney’s smaller channels. And with TV, people often say they’ll do something (cut the cord, drop ESPN) and then not do anything about it. Very similar to people saying they’ll go on a diet.

A big thanks to Alan for his insights, certainly an area worthy of continued exploration.

Rick Liebling is an independent sports marketing professional. You can follow him on Twitter @RickLiebling.

About author

Rick Liebling
Rick Liebling 8 posts

Rick Liebling is a veteran sports marketing professional based in the United States. Over his career he has worked with brands to help leverage sponsorships of FIFA and UEFA events, F1, cricket and just about every American-based sports league. You can follow him on Twitter (@RickLiebling) or connect via Linkedin.

You might also like

Playfinder is bringing an ease to playing sport that’s seeing an increase in grassroots participation across the country

The term ‘grassroots’ sport is used more and more in sporting discussion as governing bodies make increasing efforts to improve facilities available to children and older to offer more accessible

Ahead of The Players’ Championship, analysis shows how the wind helps Sawgrass bare its teeth

We know that the wind plays a vital role on the 17th tee at Sawgrass. Engineering consultancy WSP show how just how difficult it is.

Putting on a show – Steve Elworthy on the delivery of this summer’s Cricket World Cup

The Cricket World Cup is a logistical challenge for England 2019. Hear from the man who’s running the show.


No Comments Yet!

You can be first to comment this post!

Leave a Reply