Sportel hits spot on TV mart circuit

Confab draws 874 reps

MIAMI — With nearly 900 attendees from 50 countries, sports fair SportelAmerica has consolidated its presence on the TV market circuit as an annual event.

In its fourth session here, held March 20-23, SportelAmerica drew 874 reps from 352 companies, or nearly 60% of the attendance at Sportel’s main Monaco fair, which attracted 1,482 participants in its 10th year in November.

Although Americans were the single-largest presence, the Europeans –particularly Brits — came out in droves, and many Latinos and Asians were also on hand.

High-profile participants included Swiss-rights holder ISL and the U.K.’s Prisma Media (it is marketing the rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups), London-based Octagon CSI, Germany’s Ufa Sports, Fox Sports Intl., ESPN and the National Football League, World Wrestling Federation and the National Basketball Assn.

Internet sports sites helped drive much of this year’s growth, acknowledged SportelAmerica marketing chief William Vitale. “There were companies here that didn’t even exist a year ago,” he said.

During a panel on the future of sports broadcasting technologies, Mike Shapiro, sports site Quokka Sport VP of programming, said producers’ archival material can become extremely valuable in an online or interactive TV format. “You can use archives in a broadband environment and create value at very little cost,” he commented.

Internet sites are increasingly anteing up to snag digital data, said Mark Mariani, prexy of sales and marketing at CBS Sportsline. He lamented that he can’t even buy footage from the NBA, which wants to showcase it on it own site, a policy “that may come back and bite the NBA on the butt,” he warned.

The NBA does aim to become the Yahoo! of basketball, with localized sites around the globe, NBA Entertainment prexy and chief operating officer Adam Silver told Daily Variety, and it is dedicating more of its programming resources to online efforts.

And while the NBA expects to sell 14,000 hours of programming worldwide by the end of the 1999-2000 season, Silver said he also is looking to expand international distribution of its channel, NBA.com TV, which bowed in the U.S. in November on DirecTV and digital cable.

At SportelAmerica, the NBA did wrap a deal with newly launched Latino sports channel PSN to carry the WNBA.

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