roger mitchell
3 November 2019

Sport is at 10 minutes to midnight!

roger mitchell
3 November 2019

I haven’t written a fresh article since before the summer and I think there is a good reason.

I am very aware that people are time poor and there is so much good content out there already; much of which I already share on a daily basis. Or much of which we discuss long-form on our Are you not Entertained sports podcast.

So, I guess I am living the conundrum of all content producers and rights holders these days.
I can’t easily ask people to give me more of their time.

Less is more?


Better to constantly offer snacks, rather than one three-course meal, prepared and served in the most elegant way?

It’s indeed a problem for us all. As is the challenge not to move from “thought leader” to “golf course bore”, spouting the usual drivel. That’s a heartbeat away in personal branding.

Therefore, my bar here in this piece for the Journal is high: what can I offer, as fresh and interesting insight, to people with loads of saved unread articles in Pocket, and 70 unlistened-to podcasts?


It’s this. A story.


I was at one of my sports media start-up clients in London, and they were having a networking evening; inviting the cool kids. These were guys and girls in their 20s. The event was structured as drinks, a quick speech, and a FIFA20 competition over 2 consoles. With the background of a big football game on the 3rd monitor.

Maybe I’m exaggerating, but, man, the real game was elevator music and background ambience. People will likely say that’s always been the case in sports bars; however, this was different.
Without being dramatic, our beloved beautiful game was being lived in the deepest detail, with the most passionate and informed comments, on the consoles; as a result, the game was de facto in highlight, nae clip, mode.

We’ve seen recent reports come out, saying the growth in sports rights would be in clips and highlights. No shit, Sherlock. Just look at anyone below 30.

Sport is talking about this stuff for sure; however, I think it is merely points-scoring chat, and value-signalling at conferences and events.

I truly don’t think the penny has really dropped.


Sport is in trouble. No, correction, sports’ business model is in trouble. and the urgency is high.

Music has never been more popular, but the economics I knew in the 90s are ALL gone.

Likewise, I believe this is about to happen to sport very, very quickly.

Here are, in my view, the usual suspects:

  • the famous cut-the-cord move which is really hurting pay-tv and cable. Linked to unbundling. If the main funder of your industry is struggling, it’s not rocket science.
  • piracy. Huge, huge issue. I loved the BEIN sports guy saying: “we consider all rights as non-exclusive”. If that isn’t a cold shower?
  • kids don’t do the old pace of sport. Ask yourself if any of the old commentators around The Open, Wimbledon, baseball, rugby, would be indulged their slow eloquence these days! Sport hasn’t got into the world of fast edits yet.
  • kids can’t do full attention “live” consumption. These want explosive highlights, sizzle reels, Youtube compilations.

Best Football Skills 2019, 1,1M views


  • kids want the soap opera, the backstories, the “beef” around big, big stars. They are, in fact, deeply in love with Hollywood.
  • kids don’t really do TV screens.
  • kids like video games. So much so, that they’ll get their fix watching other people play them.

KSI, 6.5 million views on this video


  • sponsors ain’t buying media equivalent exposure anymore. They, in fact, want engagement around rich data and targeting.

Have I missed any?

Meaning Pay-Tv and sponsors aren’t so willing and able to drop the big wedge. And FB isn’t going to bail you out.


On the plus side, betting is getting bigger; nevertheless, it is more socially unacceptable in sports.

So, my fresh and interesting insight?


I don’t see enough rights holders really working out contingency plans.


Ask yourselves this: how many of the rights holders that you know have got a PlanB?

A “and if we don’t get a bid from SkySportsplan.

I guess we think all this is just conference talk, replying with “where the awards dinner?”, so we can all feel good about ourselves.

It’s not. Sports has very little time left!

What does a contingency plan look like?

Well, how about this.

– if we need to go DTC, do we know our fan base, and if not, how do we do that?

– can we do a proper strategic marketing plan with full segmentation?

– if we are going for a subs model OTT, what is our plan for FTA and the social platforms?

– can we cover the games cheaper with say AI production?

– how do I make betting more central to my revenue generation?

– what does my content need to look like?

– are my stadia an asset or a liability? if the latter, can we do something green screen?

– how do I get the new generation?


The start-up companies I work with, are all responding to these questions.

– Smartsportz
– Connexi

to name a couple.

Thanks for your time, and if you’re reading this, yeh, I made it out of Pocket.

From Roger on sports right holders readiness to change, read also this post.

To know more about how we lead change management in the digital age, see here.

To find out how we work strategically in content development, read here.

To learn about our story, have a read here.