On Wednesday 1 November, K7’s Dean Thornhill attended the Broadcast Sport Summit – a new conference event held at Lord’s Cricket Grounds in London, featuring an abundance of the UK’s top sports broadcasting and streaming players. The event saw sports producers, broadcasters, rights holders (and us!) come together to talk about the key developments in the space, discuss where the industry is going next (on and off the field) and share upcoming projects.
Women’s sport is breaking all the records, but is still just getting started
Fresh off the back of the Women’s World Cup 2023 (pictured) – where Spain claimed their first trophy – it was no surprise that women’s sport as a whole was a huge talking point at the event. Tommy Parlour from the Women’s Sport Trust stamped 2022 as a real game changer in terms of mainstream popularity, with 2023 seeing plenty of teams and competitions continue to ride this wave of growing interest. Morgan Brennan from Footballiaco was on hand (as the resident Aussie panelist) to tell us how soccer has grown so much in mainstream popularity in Australia in large part due to the success of its female national side ‘The Matildas’. Morgan also cited how fundamental Australian Chelsea FC star Sam Kerr has been to this movement in particular.
Finally Sarah Butler from Sport Business Connected posited that women’s sport is still just in its infancy of popularity, and asked “is it thriving right now, or was the bar set so low that any positive change feels like a major success?” Butler went on to say that she thinks these early viewership records such as with the Women’s World Cup, or the 2.65m viewership of the Rugby Cup Final on ITV (UK), or even the rising numbers of the ICC Six Nations, will continue to improve year-on-year/competition-on-competition with more help from brands and better opportunities to engage wide audiences on free-to-air TV.
Environmentally friendly competitions are LITERALLY changing the game
There’s no doubting the rise in popularity of motorsports in recent years with Formula 1 really leading the way especially since the launch of Netflix’s Drive To Survive helped the sport pick up a fresh crop of fans. However, new competitions such as the electric-powered Extreme E (pictured) and E1 have been established in more recent years and are aiming to change the racing game starting with environmental awareness and sustainably. The two organisations feature the use of electric/hybrid cars within their races and help raise awareness for climate change by each event having its own specific ‘story’ to tell. One of these featured F1 legend Lewis Hamilton who drove an Extreme E car in the Arctic, and as part of the promotional stunt, stood on a melting glaciers to show just how quick they are disappearing.
Extreme E’s Managing Director Ali Russel was on hand at the conference to give the exclusive announcement that the organisation is planning to launch fully hydrogen-powered cars for its events in 2024.
Social media and sport
Sports and social media are often seen as having a close relationship. So with this in mind it was quite shocking to hear James Grigg the Director of Development and Digital at TEAM Marketing AG state that he thinks the sporting industry as a whole is around 10 years behind where it should be in terms of engaging fans online.
Grigg spoke about how brands/leagues/teams need their own individual and authentic voice on each relevant platform such as YouTube, Instagram, X (FKA Twitter) and TikTok, adding that the best uploads are no longer copy and pasted, but instead created specifically for each platform. Grigg used the example of current partnership he works on with soccer governing body UEFA and one of its main sponsors, the alcoholic beverage company Heineken, whereby his company created the Heineken UEFA Goal of the Week competition. He stated that goal highlights are major engagement drivers on social media, so aligning these clips with a brand in this way provides brilliant reach for the company.
Another interesting example Grigg gave was how CBS in the US now films its punditry coverage with social vertical video (in particular TikTok) specifically in mind, as they better understand that broadcasts can be clipped up and shared online.
Sports podcasts have surpassed any other genre
The podcast space is booming right now across all different genres but it was made clear at this year’s Sport Summit just how important podcast are within the sports world – as sport as a genre is now the most listened to genre of podcast after surpassing ‘news’. Michael Carr, CEO Crowd Network, stated that hit releases such as That Peter Crouch Podcast were groundbreaking at their time of release, as they managed to showcase an ex-professional football player totally ‘unfiltered’.
Carr added that there have of course been copycats since, but now the road to success is harder with the market becoming much more saturated and that simply having known talent attached to the project isn’t enough on its own anymore to engage an audience. A good example of an inventive sports podcast which has fared well is former Watford and England goalkeeper Ben Foster’s Cycling GK, which features different social media stars from the sporting world appearing as guest hosts, or participating in weekly quizzes.
LaLiga wants to be the most ‘immersive’ league in the world
Finally, we attended a fireside chat hosted by sports journalist and broadcaster Rachel Stringer who sat down with Keegan Pierce, LaLiga’s Managing Director of UK & Ireland, discussing how the top Spanish football league is making moves to help fans become more immersed in the action, as well as how LaLiga has a special relationship with the UK audience.
Pierce announced how LaLiga is using new camera technology this season which allows it to capture on field action in a more immersive way, which Pierce likens to that of a video game – specially EA Sports FC, which the league shares a partnership with. As well as the new angles, LaLiga is also trialling the use of real time AI for on screen stats and animations. Although he states that at the moment they are drawing the line at AI commentary, which safe to say doesn’t have the passion of a real human!
Lastly Pierce spoke about the importance of the arrival of England’s superstar Jude Bellingham (pictured) into the league this year when he signed for arguably the biggest club in the world, Real Madrid, which has (naturally) seen an increase in viewership form the UK audience. Although Pierce stated that they are particularly interested to see how the viewing figures stack up later this month when the first Real Madrid game will be televised free-to-air on ITV.