Eyes On The Prize


Rohaan Sethna
Manager, Sponsorship Strategy & Client Service

This past weekend saw a plethora of fantastic sporting events take place, both nationally and internationally, in different time zones around the world, which didn’t make my life any easier as I had to resort to hitting record on my remote more often than usual, viewing highlights versus the thrill of watching it all live.

The world of Soccer had the Euro 2016 and Copa America.  Rugby had the Olympic Repechage, Canada vs Russia, and Summer International Test Matches. On top of that, there was Formula 1, the NBA Basketball Finals and the Harry Jerome Track & Field Classic. These were just some of the sports on my radar over the weekend. I’m a 26 year old single male who’s a borderline sports fanatic, and even I could barely keep up, which makes me wonder how many others can.

A recent North American sports analytics study indicates that competition among sports damages TV ratings, and I have to agree with that statement after this weekend. According to the research, each NBA Playoff game overlapping with an NHL Playoff game results in a loss of approx. $1.9M against the NBA networks’ investment. The staggering number it loses over a year is estimated at $126M with an average of 65 overlapping playoff games. From a commercial standpoint neither the sport franchise/organization nor the network broadcaster stand to see their full viewership potential realized due to conflicting eyeballs.

As we evolve into an age of mega broadcast deals – £5.1B for the English Premier League TV Rights (2019 Expiry) and $24B for the NBA TV Rights (2024-25 Expiry) – the influence could begin to shift in favour of major networks who certainly have hefty coffers and subsequent bargaining power. In the coming decade it will be interesting to witness whether or not networks can not only continue upping their spend, but also leverage their enormous monetary investment to overcome the hurdles around the existing equity in traditional sporting calendars and habitual fan experiences (the tradition of NFL at Thanksgiving as an example) and actually alter schedules of major sports and playing seasons.  The goal for both parties is increased viewership, which for sport organizations is a catalyst to growing their brand and driving incremental value to their commercial partners. The question remains – can this be achieved without disappointing the largest stakeholder group, the fans?

FIFA 2022 in Qatar will take place in November and December, as opposed to the norm of June and July. This shift creates huge ripples in the soccer world and disrupts the majority of the high profile national leagues. Although the schedule change has nothing to do with viewership, and is born from weather concerns, this is a great platform to hopefully answer some of these questions and see how fans and viewership figures react.

As an industry we need to be more mindful about the impact scheduling can have to our bottom line, and figure out whether there are avenues for collaboration to achieve common goals without alienating a portion of fans.

As a consumer I don’t really have much to complain about though, as I personally enjoy being spoilt for choice. Being part of a generation where social media doesn’t let us miss a thing (still learning how to cope with spoilers though), definitely makes it easier for sporting enthusiasts and industry professionals like myself to stay on top of the game.

The fan in me says bring on another sports filled weekend!