Fans guide entertainment direction of sports

Second screen, social media key factors of evolution

New media. Social media. Multiplatform strategy. In the world of entertainment business, certain hot phrases just don’t go away, and each term brings with it connotations of tech-savvy consumers and a need to keep up with quickly evolving trends in production and marketing.

At Thursday’s Sports Entertainment Summit, presented by Variety in association with SVG, industry insiders noted the special significance of these strategies as fans’ demand for greater choice grows.

“What we want to do is put tools in the hands of not only our partners, but the fans themselves to select the best television experience,” said Clark Pierce, senior veep of digital media at Fox Sports Media Group. “The fans get to pick. They get to finally determine the best way that they want to watch.”

Part of the solution includes providing viewers a second-screen experience in which they can see stats, replays, analysis and more in concert with the main event occurring on the first screen, traditionally a TV. This also helps sponsors and other partners get more display time per event.

But with media continuing to move to new platforms, tablets, phones and computers taking the place of TV as the first screen, insiders stated that flexibility remains key.

“They’re going to tell us what the second screen really is,” Pierce said of sports fans.

For Ken Fuchs, veep of Yahoo! Media Network’s sports, games and entertainment department, flexibility means giving the consumers a chance to discover — through second-screen and social media experiences — something new and intriguing each time they watch a sporting event.

“We want to make sure that we’re giving the right content the right way, but with a little room for serendipity,” Fuchs said.

And though new features for consumers will liven the sports experience, they also need to generate revenue for businesses and their partners. For some, the answer lies in retaining control of distribution and content: Keynote speaker and UFC topper Dana White emphasized it as a part of the mixed martial arts giant’s success (“We own everything,” he said with a smile), while AEG prexy and CEO (and fellow keynote speaker) Tim Leiweke pointed to the development of Axs Ticketing, an in-house ticket vendor, as a key to financial growth, stating that “this time next year, we’ll be 100 percent on Axs.”

“We thought [Ticketmaster and Live Nation] was a monopoly,” Leiweke said. “We didn’t think it was good for fans or good for promoters.”

Others, like DirecTV’s senior director of digital entertainment Josh Snow, said that integration and standardizing between media companies would help bring a more expansive, sophisticated experience for consumers. And 21 Sports & Entertainment Marketing Group CEO Rob Prazmark said that the key lies in making the most of business partnerships: “Less sponsorships, more activation,” Prazmark said.

Sometimes, though, it just takes a dose of creativity to pique consumers’ and partners’ interest with the tools that exist today. That’s why White took to Twitter to tell his 2 million-plus followers that he had 10 pairs of the best tickets to UFC 148, and that they would go to 10 lucky fans who showed up in Las Vegas with a sponsor’s product: A can of UFC-branded Edge shaving gel.

“Five thousand people showed up. All the pharmacies on the Strip were sold out of Edge shaving gel.” White said, grinning. “It worked.”