Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson Tops Variety’s Sports and Entertainment Breakfast

In 2019, the sports business will be worth $73.5 billion according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, while sports-media rights will hit $20 billion. Variety’s Sports and Entertainment Breakfast, which takes place July 11 at the Beverly Wilshire, examines the lucrative intersection of the two worlds. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, whose high-tech cred is enhanced by his Tally app (he is also principal in Limitless Minds) keynotes the event. Also onstage will be Olympic gold and silver medalist Laurie Hernandez; Mike Marshall, president, advertising and client partnerships, NBCUniversal; Olympic gold medalist and NBC Sports figure skating analyst Tara Lipinski; and Lon Rosen, chief marketing officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will discuss the business of Major League Baseball with event partner Todd Burach, VP and senior relationship manager, entertainment, City National Bank.

In a fractured media world in which audiences access content on myriad platforms, live sports events still draw eyeballs and money across all demographics. Fan engagement is paramount to the L.A. Dodgers, notes Rosen. Forbes estimates the Dodgers, one of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball, is worth $2 billion. The team also regularly tops the charts for attendance, annually outpacing powerhouse franchises such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
“All our fans are important to us,” says Rosen, noting that the organization also has a huge international following. “Baseball has great traditions that we always want to respect. But the fans in 2019 watch baseball differently than fans 20, 30 years ago. You see fans on their phones and tablets in the stands. We want to make sure fans are entertained.”

To that end, the Dodgers have apps and use social media. “Social media is a really important aspect of what we do, and we spend a lot of time perfecting it.”

Fan engagement is also top of mind at NBCUniversal in its run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

For NBCUniversal, the answer is to super-size the Olympics coverage to reach more viewers across all content platforms. In 2016, the Peacock presented 6,755 hours of coverage, and there will be over 7,000 in 2020. “We’re super-serving the fans,” says Marshall. NBCU readily takes advantage of its many cable channels plus its own Olympics cabler. That primes the audiences 24/7, 365 days a year.

NBCU’s producers and on-air talent believe athlete stories are key to fans, whether they are hard-core sports nuts or are just tuning in during Olympics years. “The storylines are what makes the Olympics, and Olympics on NBC is something the fans look forward to,” he says. Marshall also notes that Tokyo will be a “new games” because of the inclusion of highly tele-visual sports such as surfing, skateboarding and speed-rock climbing, and that opens up new faces for viewers to embrace.

Hernandez knows all about translating her athletic achievements into a high-profile entertainment career. The star gymnast won the 23rd season of “Dancing With the Stars” with partner Val Chmerkovskiy, wrote a best-seller and is host of “American Ninja Warriors Junior.”

“Dancing tells a story and you transform into a character,” she says of her time on the ABC show. “I am a really big fan of ‘American Ninja Warrior’ and when that opportunity came up, I took it.”

While she is training in order to make the 2020 Games, she is also looking to the future.

She’s always had a passion for acting and performing, and will start ramping up that aspect of her career after the Games.
Relationships with audiences are key, whether it’s an Olympic hero hosting a show, or a speed-rock climber wowing on a course, the people bringing sports and entertainment together are on a dizzying journey to deliver compelling stories.

More Biz

  • Hong Kong skyline

    Hong Kong Declares Emergency in Coronavirus Response

    Hong Kong’s government has put the territory on the highest state of emergency in response to the outbreak of coronavirus in mainland China. Schools will remain closed until Feb. 17, long after the Chinese New Year holidays, which begin today, should have finished. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Area of China and some 600 [...]

  • Harvey Mason Jr.., Chair of the

    Grammy Board Chief Calls Allegations of Nomination-Rigging ‘Just Not Right’

    Among the many allegations in ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan’s blockbuster legal complaint, the one that possibly cuts most to the heart of the institution — and is of most concern to artists and the public — is the allegation that the nominating process is “rigged.” The example in the complaint points to the [...]

  • Annabella Sciorra

    Friend Tells of Annabella Sciorra's Mid-1990s Struggles at Harvey Weinstein Trial

    A longtime friend of Annabella Sciorra testified Friday in Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial that the actor turned to cutting herself and exhibited other troubling behavior in the mid-1990s after she was allegedly raped by the disgraced film mogul. The defense questioning of model Kara Young got heated as Judge James Burke sustained repeated objections to [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Judge Doubts WGA Claim That Packaging Fees Are Kickbacks

    A federal judge seemed skeptical on Friday of the Writers Guild of America’s claim that packaging fees amount to a criminal kickback to agents. Judge Andre Birotte heard more than two hours of arguments from attorneys for the guild and three agencies: WME, UTA and CAA. He said he would issue a ruling at a [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: Why Aerosmith Is Still Gold for Synchs

    Aerosmith’s star-studded tribute concert as the 2020 MusiCares Person of the Year honorees on Friday night (January 24) will cement another important milestone in the historic Boston-founded band’s contributions to the American rock canon. But over the past decade, some of the band’s best-known music has remained part of the cultural conversation through some of [...]

  • Sirius Logo

    Radio Hall of Famer Kid Kelly Leaves SiriusXM After Two Decades

    In a surprise move, veteran programmer, on-air personality and Radio Hall of Famer Kid Kelly has left SiriusXM after nearly 20 years with the radio giant, a rep for the company has confirmed to Variety. The news was first reported by RAMP. He most recently served as SiriusXM’s VP of Pop Music Programming. “After a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content