On November 3rd, the Sports Business Journal hosted its annual Media Innovators conference in New York bringing together leaders from across the spectrum of sports media. This year, WSC Sports’ Head of Business Development, Amir Gelman, was featured on a panel alongside Steve Braband, VP of Digital at WWE, Marie Donoghue, VP of US Sports Content and Partnerships at Amazon, and Rosalyn Durant, EVP of Programming and Acquisitions at ESPN. The underlying theme of the discussion: rights holders are relying more on AI and new technologies to give fans innovative new experiences, and to produce content for different audiences, on multiple platforms and devices.
The panel kicked-off with a discussion about alternate broadcasts. Marie Donoghue spoke about Amazon’s Prime Vision, a new viewing experience that combines graphical overlays and statistics on top of live NFL games to give fans an extra layer of knowledge as they watch the game in real-time. Rosalyn Durant touched on the innovative ways that ESPN is offering multiple options to satisfy sports fans of all ages—like their recent, Pixar-ified version of Sunday Night Football featuring the Jaguars vs. the Falcons as animated Toy Story characters.
Shifting gears to sports programming, moderator, Rob Freeman, asked the group about the recent popularity of sports documentaries and biographies. All panelists recognized fans’ massive interest in getting to know individual players—which included teasers for an ESPN-released WNBA doc, as well as an upcoming series on tennis superstar, Serena Williams. Amazon Prime’s Kelce, a documentary about the NFL’s Kelce brothers, the first of three sports documentaries set to release this fall, became the most-watched documentary on the platform; and WWE’s Steve Braband spoke about extending their partnership with A&E to produce more shows, which have included successful biographies about wrestling icons Ric Flair and Cody Rhodes.
Tying everything back to the fundamental role that technology will play, not only in live sports events, but also in the surrounding programming; Amir Gelman closed the conversation noting that AI will not only play a role in content creation, but also distribution. In the not-so-distant future, that could mean things like gen-AI based game commentary that’s also automatically fed to different platforms—whether that’s on linear, multiple digital platforms like websites, social channels, OTT services, or whatever else that next “big thing” might be.