Sportel takes off

TV rights mart sees 40% attendance jump

MIAMI — With attendance up 40% over last year’s debut event, TV market Sportel America can already lay claim to being an essential port of call on the itinerary of global sports rights traders.

The U.S. baby sister to Sportel Monaco drew around 700 participants and 57 exhibitors (up from 34 last year) to a three-day event that wrapped here Wednesday.

“Now we’re off and running. Within two or three years we’ll be as big as the one in Monaco,” said co-organizer William Vitale of Vital Communications, referring to the September event.

Despite Miami’s rep as a magnet for Latin American TV execs, who were abundantly in evidence, Vitale said the event drew strong contingents from Europe.

Timing important

“For most Europeans, the sports season starts in August-September, so it’s important to have an event scheduled at this time of year,” said Gian Andrea Ursano, senior VP of London-based Prisma.

Not all exhibitors were chipper about the event. One Euro company said biz was up on last year but lacking in the kind of surprise deals that give a market a real buzz.

With the quadrennial World Cup of soccer just three months away, business was brisk for programmers hawking formats to complement the actual games.

Prisma struck big with “Champions of the World,” a docu series focusing on key soccer-playing nations.

Soccer comes through

Soccer also gave the event its one major announcement: the Torneo Copa Merconorte, which will be first to feature top clubs from all over the Americas — including two from the U.S. — in a single knockout tourney.

Consisting of 54 games between September and December this year, the Torneo is a co-production between the South American Soccer Confederation and Teledeportes, a subsidiary of top Argentine media conglom Clarin.

“The idea is to stage this event every year, and for it to reach the prestige of the Copa Libertadores,” said Teledeportes project leader Ezequiel Respettino, referring to the leading South American club event.

Clarin is engaged in a high-stakes battle with TCI Intl.-affiliated programmer Torneos y Competencias for soccer rights su-premacy in southern Latino arenas.

South Americans were also keen buyers of extreme sports. GloboSat, the cable programming arm of Brazilian media titan Globo, was one of a number to nail deals with U.K. distribbery X-Dream.

“The market for extreme sports is growing at 20% to 30% per year, and we’re growing at 50%,” said CEO Alistair Gosling, adding that he felt South Americans predominated among the buyers this year.

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