The All Blacks are seeking commercial opportunities in the US to "future proof" their finances and Tim Leiweke teases a cashless, payment-less system at Seattle's NHL stadium. Bob Williams reports back from day two of Leaders Week in New York.
1. NBC Sports uses lengthy Olympic deal to experiment
NBC Sports' contract to broadcast the Winter and Summer Olympics until 2032 has given the US network a unique chance to experiment, chairman Mark Lazarus revealed. Even though ratings from PyeongChang were down from Sochi, Lazarus said NBC will use learnings about the timings of events for the next two Games which will also be in Asia (Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022). NBC put the biggest event every night from PyeongChang on Snapchat, which gained audiences of between 500,000 and 1m with little promotion. "You kind of had to stumble into it and in future we will make Snapchat users more aware of it," Lazarus said, adding: "Long-term rights arrangements make us want to experiment more – and we can use that in other properties." Lazarus also claimed NBC's Olympics deal covers any future technologies yet to be created between now and 2032.
2. Sports betting in US remains huge cause for concern
A panel on sports betting in the US had a consensus of opinion on two key issues. Firstly, that a lack of uniform legislation was hugely problematic from a logistical and integrity perspective. Andy Cunningham, Sportradar's director of global strategy integrity services, noted that some variation was almost certain in terms of the tax rates different states would demand from new revenue streams. There was also concern that some states were rushing too fast to bring in sports betting legislation. Secondly, the thought was that 'integrity fees' were essentially commercially-driven and would not stop corruption. "When you go down the sports you still have the same integrity risks. How would [minor leagues] fund those measures? Match fixers find the cracks and the vulnerabilities," observed Genius Sports managing director Steven Burton. However the use of sports betting as a tool to engage fans will lead to many new business opportunities, mainly based around content, Perform executive Matt Drew noted.
3. All Blacks take their chance in the land of opportunity
The United States is a massive growth market for rugby union, according to New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew, and one the All Blacks are looking to capitalize on. When the Black Ferns face the US women's team at Soldier Field in November, it will be the third time a senior All Blacks team has played in Chicago in recent years. Tew believes the staging of Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco this year plus the recent launch of Major League Rugby are "big opportunities" for the sport. Tew – who revealed he was meeting MLR executives while in New York – added the All Blacks take commercial opportunities overseas to "future proof" the union's finances, in part to prevent its best players from going overseas where club salaries are higher. "It's only a matter of time before we have an office somewhere around the world," Tew said.
4. Packers' challenge to create 100 years' worth of content
The Green Bay Packers have been planning for their 100th anniversary celebrations for the past five years, revealed marketing executive Gabrielle Dow. In the build-up to the big event on Aug 11, 2019, the Packers decided to largely outsource content production to ensure they had enough "turn-key" material to be released on multiple platforms throughout the coming season. "It is hard to tell a 100-year story in content," she noted.
The decision by Packers owners to maintain the long-standing tradition of keeping Lambeau Field mostly sponsor-free – "to keep it pure, historical" – has forced the team to seek extra revenue opportunities. This, Dow noted, was why the Packers created the multi-use entertainment development Titletown District in 36 acres either side of the stadium.
5. Seattle $650m NHL expansion fee good value, says Leiweke
Tim Leiweke believes Oak View Group's record $650m expansion fee to purchase the rights to an NHL team in Seattle represents a bargain after a massively successful season-ticket drive. Earlier this year Oak View Group received an incredible 33,000 ticket deposits within two days and have created a waiting list for fans who missed out. NHL expansion fees have risen $150m since the Las Vegas Golden Knights entered the league in 2017. But after commenting how popular NHL will be in Seattle, Leiweke joked: "I hope Gary [NHL commissioner Bettman] is not in the room as he will raise the price." Leiweke teased that Seattle's KeyArena will have a cashless, payment-less system in the future. "I can foresee fans going to a concession stand and literally picking something up and walking away and it will be paid for within a cloud system," he said, without giving away any more details.
To read SportBusiness International's report from day one of Leaders New York, click here.