Op-Ed: Sport must learn from music and movies - and fast

28 Jan 2020

By: Sport Industry Group

How sport must learn from both music and movies, and fast…

Lucien Boyer is President and Co-founder of Global Sports Week Paris, whose first edition, held under the high patronage of French President Emmanuel Macron, will gather 1,000 leaders of the world sports economy at the Carrousel du Louvre from 5th-7th February 2020.

With Sport Industry Group Chairman Nick Keller speaking at the event alongside both IPC President Andrew Parsons and UNESCO Assistant Director General Ernesto Ottone, the conference is set to address sport’s most pressing issues. Here, Boyer reflects on what his past experience as Global President of Havas Sport & Entertainment and as Global CMO at Vivendi has taught him about the warnings sport must heed as it enters a new media paradigm.

We’re about to hit a major challenge – the same one already faced by our cousins in the music and movie industries, which are now finally booming again after 20 years of hard losses. There is still a chance to avoid the long and painful experiences of those sectors by learning from their past mistakes and current success, but we must act now and face the issue immediately.
The issue? A major discrepancy between what the new generation of sport fans wants and expects, and what the current stakeholders are offering. 

Young people today are asking: “Where is the Spotify for sport, and how can we have easy access to everything for £5 a month?” When you open this Pandora’s box, the entire global economic model of sport is also thrown into question.

Traditionally, that which has been worth a lot – live rights – is now going to be worth much less from the perspective of how the new generation is consuming sport. The Gen Z audience is not watching live, but instead is turning more and more to on-demand or edited sport pieces. Even if they do watch the match, that’s not where they see the value. It’s all about the way they can adapt and share sport content on their own platforms, sending to friends or posting to peers.

This means that non-rightsholders, such as Facebook, are getting what’s most valuable for free, a situation which is increasingly untenable and will eventually give way to widespread changes.

Consider, for example, that TV broadcast rights underpin around 70% of IOC revenues. That is 70% of the IOC’s revenue that is set to be completely challenged by the new generation. We are at the point of change or be changed. 

To maintain growth, the sale of broadcast rights must be completely restructured to embrace a more complex future. The days of issuing a single tender every two years are gone.

The big learning from the music industry is that those who cling to old models risk becoming obsolete. It’s a lesson worth heeding. Sport is getting closer and closer to the entertainment world, where what matters is the management of intellectual property building a universe around your core IP. Take the example of Mickey Mouse. The rights owner, Disney, would not dream of allowing media such as TF1 or the BBC to create their own Mickey Mouse cartoons.

And yet, when we look across at sport, this is effectively what happens – or what has been happening until now.

To future-proof their properties, sports rightsholders need to act quickly to integrate in-house content factories – to protect and cultivate their own IP, supplementing production of their own live action with 360-degree storytelling. We simply can’t afford to keep letting media owners tell their own stories around our products, it is ultimately fragmenting and weakening the strength of our IP.

Rightsholders should also be aware of a power shift coming from the side of the athletes, who are now becoming their own IP, with the power to become their own media and marketing powerhouses. 

Again, the entertainment world can provide a window to the future here. In Hollywood, the major production houses have had to recognise that their talents are not just employees or people you pay a fee. Today, screen stars are co-producers on projects, shifting the role of the major houses towards simply distributing films.

In my view, that is also likely to be the future of the sports federation – a form of partnership model with the athletes. Article 40-style regulations will not hold back a growing athlete movement for change.

This powerful warning is why we are putting Gen Z at the centre of Global Sports Week – a place for leaders of sport to connect with those driving broader trends. 

It’s time for the industry to look outwards, listen and make connections across the lines. It’s time to change or be changed.