Digital Sports Players Were In the Spotlight at Sportel 2016

Cleeng at Sportel 2016

Sportel 2016 was marked by the emerging pure-play digital sports companies that decide to serve premium video direct-to-consumers.

SPORTEL’s GM Amparo Di Fede described this Sportel as Big and Bold. And it was spot on.

Our impressions from Sportel 2016

This year, the organizers confirmed some encouraging attendance numbers: 3,008 delegates, of 1,034 companies representing 80 countries participated the 27th edition of the conference. PayTV giants like NBC Sports Group, BBC and Canal Plus all won accolades at 2016 Sportel World Sports Marketing & Media Convention, but the shining star of the event was digital video.

Di Fede wrapped up the event with the following statement:

“Content owners can’t ignore the new opportunities the media has to offer, opportunities that enable brands and broadcasters a real interaction with audiences.” 

Our CEO, Gilles Domartini, agrees with the above. For us, Sportel is a very practical and condensed event where all the companies are deal-focused and pragmatic. We made this recap video to sum up our experience.

Premium video trends to watch

There were a couple of trends which were at the center of attention at Sportel:

  1. Abandonment of linear TV for OTT entertainment
  2. Slow decline of a traditional TV-advertising model.

Sports broadcasting business is definitely moving towards more direct models like OTT, PPV and subscription models – and some pure-play digital companies are starting to grab their share of the market. The classic pay-TV operators like Sky, which invested serious money for the biggest football league (Premier League and German Bundesliga) rights are now being challenged these small, flexible players, even though they have their territory locked with exclusivity deals. Nevertheless, competition is healthy and drives the market forward.

According to Yu Hang, the new COO of LeSports (after launching their first Chinese pay-per-view offer), specific market conditions boost the emergence of digital sports players. “Better access to the Internet, regulatory change and the lack of growth of traditional pay-TV operators has facilitated the arrival on the scene of digital sports TV players in countries like China, where we have seen the likes of Le Sports, PPTV, Sina and Tencent drastically increase the rights fees paid for sport in the country.”, says Hang.

Another competitive battleground is emerging in the steady, mature markets. The activity of big players such as telecom companies or rights broker (BeIN Sports), signals new competition for the comfortable pay-TV giants.

One other important point is that mobile-first digital distribution models are starting to emerge in fast-developing countries, following the mobile premium video patterns.


Gilles was caught by the Sportel TV camera and discussed why sport organizations see great value in going direct-to-consumers.