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  • Q&A: Sportel CEO Laurent Puons


    (ATR) SPORTEL Monaco is an important convention for sport media rights and the sports industry. Heinz Peter Kreuzer has spoken with Laurent Puons, Chief Executive Officer of Sportel, about postponing the event to February 2021.

    Sportel CEO Laurent Puons (ATR)
    In an interview with Around the Rings, Puons explains why Sportel is a face-to-face event and why Monaco will always be the flagship. Another event in Miami is planned for next year. Puons also gives insights into the changes in the sports industry due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

    ATR: You have postponed SPORTEL Monaco from October 2020 to February 2021. Do you think that the situation will have improved by February?

    Laurent Puons: The easiest solution would have been to simply cancel and wait for the crisis to dissipate. However, surrendering is not in my vocabulary.

    Given the importance of SPORTEL for the sector and the fact that we want to continue to support the key actors of the sports business community, cancelling was a decision that we do not want to take.

    Although we are aware that February might be early to host SPORTEL, we must be the first to bring the sports content media rights and technology industry together again.

    In all honesty, if the event cannot be held in February, we will continue to work hard to be ready for the day we can organize a face-to-face event again

    ATR: How will the pandemic change SPORTEL as a whole?

    Puons: SPORTEL will naturally have to adapt to the pandemic, especially with the new sanitary measures in place including physical distancing, face masks, etc. However, we do not want to change our DNA. We will remain mainly an in-person event. 

    Sportel Monaco was postponed from October 2020 to February 2021. (Sportel)
    In addition, we have to keep our eye on the market and see how that affects SPORTEL.

    Our sales team is constantly monitoring the industry and adapting sales and pricing strategy when needed. We are currently developing our products to better fit our clients’ needs.

    ATR: Other trade fairs/conferences currently only exist virtually. Can SPORTEL also be held virtually or only as a face-to-face event?

    Puons: SPORTEL is above all a marketplace where you come to do quality business by meeting the most important actors of the industry over 3 days.

    It would be a strategic mistake to turn the event exhibition into a virtual one, as I remain convinced that our clients want to meet face-to-face. It will take place ‘live’ while respecting sanitary measures.

    Until now, SPORTEL Monaco has been the flagship event. Will the pandemic and the associated travel restrictions be changing the concept and will SPORTEL Asia and SPORTEL America become equal?

    Puons: SPORTEL Monaco will always remain the flagship event, notably because Monaco Mediax, the organizing company is based in the Principality of Monaco and one of SPORTEL’s objectives, other than bringing together the sports industry in one location, is to bring that industry to Monaco in order to promote the destination and the country internationally. 

    The choice of destination for the Spring market, always depends on the preference of our community.  As of now we have not planned to go back to Asia. We will see in the near future, if there is a business need to organize an event on the Asian continent.

    Sportel Miami 2020 (Sportel)
    Early May 2021, we will be back in Miami for SPORTEL Spring, with a new concept of a 2-day Summit and a Market. We have decided to offer a new and affordable format, with premium content and influential speakers, to reconnect the industry for business across the Americas. 

    ATR: How will the industry change with the pandemic? Media rights, New Media, e-sports, Bets. The industry has already changed and evolved with the pandemic. What developments do you expect?

    : The pandemic has totally turned upside down the sports industry world, which took a direct hit during the March lockdown seeing, as we know, practically all live sports events cancelled or postponed. Broadcasters and media content owners were left unable to distribute live sports programming to the billions of sports fans globally, seeing many take down paywalls or pausing subscriptions temporarily. 

    This unprecedented situation has resulted in a shift in mindset which led to more collaborations, new negotiations and consequently cost cuttings including more remote production but exciting innovative steps as well.

    In addition, during the pandemic, new and parallel ecosystems such as virtual sports, esports, sports betting and immersive technologies have also come to the forefront, creating a driving “crossover” between communities. The traditional and emerging sectors have been exploring new avenues and opportunities together, coming out of this challenging situation, to create new business models, find new audiences within this new generation of sports fans and adapt to how they consume sport and gaming. 

    Finally, for several years now, digital has transcended traditional live sports, with the viewing experience shifting from linear to multi-platform and multi-screen. These new ways of consumption have generated more investment in AI, virtual and augmented reality and new technology techniques. 

    SPORTEL has always been committed to supporting our ever growing and diverse community, providing quality events whilst remaining the only convention focusing on media rights for the entire sports industry, whether traditional sports, or looking forward, to virtual sports, esports and gaming. Always staying ahead of the game, we will continue to develop emerging sectors such as live sports betting and immersive technologies, providing new communities for our clients to do business with which introduce next gen fan bases and potential revenue streams.

    : Does the pandemic slow down these developments or did COVID-19 accelerate them?

    Puons: I think that we can say that the outbreak of the pandemic is bad for everyone. The essential part is to see how to overcome the challenges. 

    Of course, the decisive advantage for esports is that, unlike other segments of the sports and entertainment industry, they are able to continue their operations. They just had to change certain habits and make sure that the players still had a chance to play and the fans had something to watch. And it is what they did by shifting to online-only formats. 

    Same logic for the fast-tracking of immersive technologies which are offering an array of creative near ‘live’ and engaging experiences such as state of the art crowd noise and virtual fans in a stadium engaging in real time experiences during games.

    Finally, new platforms are offering great subscription deals with more interactive and added value fan experiences proposing a complete entertainment package.

    ATR: Will we see new rights models like revenue sharing in the future?

    Puons: Yes, I believe the COVID pandemic has changed the paradigm for media revenue rights deals between content owners and broadcasters in the traditional sense, which has peaked.

    A new trend has been emerging where content owners package rights and distribute across a wider platform of media partners, specifically in lower tier sports, but top tier sports like Premier League and NBA still remain valuable properties in the market.

    However, many rights owners will adapt their strategies to ‘share’ i.e. cut and sell rights to pay-tv and free-to-air broadcasters and of course OTT platforms and D2C streaming services among others, limiting risks, driving competition and also opening up new opportunities to engage with new audiences and offer added value fan experiences.

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