By Marcia Forbes, PhD
A FEW DAYS AGO I attended a conference called “The Business of Sport.” Several representatives from various sporting bodies, including the Olympics Association, ESPN, NFL and West Indies Cricket, were in attendance alongside government ministers from Jamaica, Belize and Barbados.
Sports beyond Athletes & Athletics
The thrust of the conference was to encourage awareness of the business of sports as a career option and to open eyes to the possibilities of earning from sports via various and sundry avenues that are now available. Olympian and gold medal sprinter, Michael Frater, spoke about approaching sports in a business-like manner to ensure commercial success.
Symbolic of the regional integration that takes place outside of CARICOM, the Minister with responsibility for Sports, Natalie Neita Headley, presented a copy of the White Paper on Jamaica’s National Sports Policy to the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in Barbados, Stephen Lashley.
Barbados is currently working on its own sports policy and will no doubt be guided in this by the work done by Jamaica since there is no sense in reinventing the wheel. A white paper is not far from a policy. Still, it is high time for Jamaica’s Parliament to pass this important policy and for it to be properly put into effect. Sport is an arena in which Jamaica has tremendous competitive advantage.
Investment & Commerce via Sport
Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Anthony Hilton, made an excellent case for the business of sport and, with his permission; I quote extensively from his conference presentation.
“The multi-billion-dollar global market for sport, representing fees, endorsements and televisions rights, continues to grow. According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, the forecast for the sports industry is for global sports revenues to reach US $145.3 billion over the period 2010 – 2015, or increase at an annual compound growth rate of 3.7 percent. The key drivers include a rebound in TV advertising (and) the continued migration of sports to ‘pay TV’….”
Some weeks ago in a Caribbean Journal article titled Caribbean 2030: A Digital Revolution in Sports Coverage, I wrote about the importance of sporting bodies making informed decisions pertaining to television rights to their events. To earn profits from their “product” these bodies must not cede their rights to local TV stations in exchange for short-term gains. The Minister’s point about the “continued migration of sports to ‘pay TV’” is instructive.
The Marriage of Sports to Television
Sports depend on television for visibility and audience engagement. Importantly though, TV is not what it used to be. Television has evolved and so, too has its definition. Today, Nielsen, a US-based company that monitors and measures consumer behaviours, in particular those relating to television consumption, includes TV accessed via Internet broadband in its definition of TV households. Nielsen also includes watching videos at home via video game consoles in this definition.
These trends portend of even more to come. Mobile devices such as phones and tablets await their formal inclusion in the definition of television. After all, the often talked about “three screens” refer to TV, the Internet and Mobile phones. Then too, there is the “fourth screen” – video screens – all the rage in public spaces like Time Square, New York and Half Way Three, Jamaica.
Moving from the sporting arena to the Internet via live streaming continues to take place with increasing regularity and improved technical quality. Much of this content is accessed via third screen devices as for the first time smart phones recently outsold feature phones in the global marketplace.
With increasing penetration of broadband and fibre in places like Jamaica, it is a tiny jump from online to fourth screens. These developments are some of what we need to think and talk about as we ponder the business of sports.
Digital Technologies Reshaping the Landscape
Coming back to Minister Anthony Hilton’s presentation, he noted that, “the new landscape for sport is being reshaped by digital technologies which define how modern consumers spend their leisure time. Critical to this lifestyle change is the on-going convergence of the sport and entertainment industries.
The changing dynamics of how sporting events are experienced hold enormous potential for the development of a viable business platform for sport, and the potential for Jamaica to earn its fair share of that market, is self evident.
In order to turn that potential into reality we must not only master the physicality and artistry of Sport, as we have so brilliantly done, but we must also master the business of Sport, so that we monetize our huge talent.”
Aggressive Approach toward Creating Revenue Streams
Minister Hilton pointed out that “what we need is an aggressive approach to creating a sport industry which will provide jobs and create revenue streams. All the spheres associated with sport, including sport medicine research and sport tourism, must be coalesced, to create a real sport industry, and make Jamaica a destination for sport, and not limited to the field of play.”
The Minister said it very well. So, too did Matthew Allinson, CEO of Access Athletes, who highlighted that the business of sport is much bigger than the game as he implored Jamaica to tap the money behind the game. Steve Wyche, NFL analyst, nailed it when he emphasized the importance of trust across the various levels of sport.
In a country like Jamaica where social capital is under siege and no one trusts anyone, this was an important message to deliver.
The Samuda brothers, Milton and Christopher, of law firm Samuda & Johnson, along with Carole Beckford, are to be commended for hosting a relevant conference and for doing so in such fine style, complete with a boxing ring-style set from which presentations were made. This was a take-off of live boxing in the form of the TV show, the Wray & Nephew Contender. Incidentally, that liquor company also sponsored The Business of Sport conference.
High Technical Quality Needed
My take-away from the conference is that sport is big business but that any chance to make big bucks will require the production of television content at a high technical standard, obviously digital, able to traverse multiple screens. Not just the four existing screens but many more that may come. To the World!
Dr Marcia Forbes, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase 3 Productions Ltd and former Permanent Secretary in Jamaica’s Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications and later the Ministry of Energy and Mining. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the recently-released Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles.
Follow Dr Marcia Forbes on Twitter: @marciaforbes