26th Sportel: Asia, La Liga, the Olympic Channel

Olympic channel, Asia focus executive attention

MONACO—2,786 attendees from 994 companies in 75 countries confirmed last week’s Sportel as one of sports entertainment’s biggest industry events mixing broadcasters, sport content right holders, federations and others orgs and a huge range of companies to the sector. Running Oct. 12-15, and held at the Med-facing Grimaldi Forum, the 26th SportelMonaco took in presentations, press conferences, and panels. At one, Spain’s La Liga tabled its international rights sales ambitions to becoming one of the best-selling leagues in the biggest sport in the world.

Panels addressed a variety of topics. Examples: “How can sports win the battle against piracy”; and an enlightening presentation by Chinese Internet TV giant LeTV about its business model. Another panel examined “new strategies to engage audiences behind the launch of the Olympic channel and the international federations.”

A true phenom, China’s LeTV has built a mixed strategy offering content on demand – Chinese and Indian so far – and plans expansion into English,–  selling hardware –VR headset, dubbed LeVR Cool 1 and cells – and cinema production via Le Vision Pictures (LEVP). Last year LeTV online video services as well as the sale of its smart TVs generated $1.6 billion in revenue. Talking about rights, LeTV’s VP of strategy Hang Yu forecast at Sportel that “more Internet giants will be beating traditional operators”.

Budgeted at $490 million, the Olympic channel will bow in 2016 on mobile platforms. Its extension to linear platforms are to be negotiated. Vincent Chupin, chief commercial integration officer for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said at Sportel that the channel’s aim is not to compete with other broadcaster-owners of the rights. The Olympic channel will broadcast “three types of content: Olympic qualifiers, original programs about sport and news produced mainly by press agencies.” 365 days a year featuring sport content and Olympic values. The sales and distribution division will be located  in Lausanne, Switzerland), the site of the IOC’s main offices. Technical production division will be based in Madrid staffing up with about 100 employees, said Mark Parkman, channel CEO, IOC.

Sportel’s Amparo di Fede has run the sports confab for 20 years as is CEO. Before that, Di Fede worked in events communication and organization from her own communication agency. She talked to Variety as Sportel continued to prepare its next events, the first in Singapore running March 14-17.

Are you satisfied with figures, attendance?

Very much. We hit a record this year with new companies and new exhibitors. We were sold out one month before the event which is very good for us. Next year, we have to expand exhibition space because as of today we are up to the limit in terms of room.

After 26 years of activity, what are Sportel’s current goals?

Our goal is to put together distributors and broadcasters and sellers for media rights. To bring together all kind of activities around sport as well as key players such as sport international federations, agents, producers. The event’s main business is buying and selling TV rights.

Are many deals closed at Sportel?

This is very difficult to say, as these are very big which take a long time to negotiate. The most important thing for us is to build a framework which brings together executives. We don’t know exactly the business figures.

What have been the highlights for this year?

The Asian market has been certainly one of the highlights. LeTV strategy’s presentation has been a main focus. The Asian market is growing very quickly. This year 13 Asian executives have attended Sportel, last year just 5. And also Olympic Channel conference – much-awaited and a clarifier.

Would you see any palpable trends in terms of sport content rights selling? All kind of online platforms are getting bigger and bigger

Well… the last ten years have been spectacular. In China, no one –I am talking about young people– watches sports on TV but through internet. In old Europe, it is still different.

4K is now knocking at the door in Europe…

4K is expensive at the moment. I am not sure it will keep going forward. In China online consumer habits are different. And in Africa, people consume sports content with their mobile via satellite. They do not have electricity so they connect to satellite. Depending on the continent things are different.

How can Sportel keep growing?

We have to follow the development of technology as have until now and see where the market is. This is a key point. We decided to go to Singapore next year because we asked exhibitors where the market and business were and where they wanted to go. So we’re going to Asia in March.

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