Sports Content Distribution

Filled with University of Pennsylvania graduates and industry leaders from a variety of companies, the

panel gave experienced and diverse answers that presented audience members with a detailed

understanding of sports content distribution. The panel included Will Deng, the current Vice President of

Media Strategy; Business Development at the National Football League, Amy Geary, the Vice President

of Content Acquisition at Comcast Cable, Laurie Shackell, the National Sales Director of Social Content

and Distribution for Turner Sports, and Zack Weiner, the Cofounder and President of Overtime.

Representing different companies and sports leagues, the panel offered a unique variety of answers to all

of Fisher’s questions.

The Questions:

Led by moderator Eric Fisher, a staff writer for SportsBusiness Journal, the Sports Content Distribution; Monetization panel focused on the growing influence of digital media within the industry.

The Panel:

To kick off the discussion, Fisher asked the panelists how digital media has affected sports content

distribution and monetization. In response, all panelists noted how digital media has widened distribution.

Instead of just watching sports on TV, customers can now stream games on their computers, phones, and

tablets. Through streaming apps like Twitch and Amazon TV, digital media has opened up a new sector

of content distribution. For example, Deng discussed how Amazon has bought rights to Thursday Night

NFL games and how Twitch is now streaming certain NFL games. Deng noted how this is strengthening

the NFL’s distribution. Every Thursday, viewers have the option to either watch the game on cable TV,

Amazon TV, streaming apps on their phones, or on Twitch, giving customers access to games that they

couldn’t imagine just a decade ago. Similarly, Shackell talked about how Turner Sports merged with

AT&T to capitalize on this growing digital media sector. Now, customers can stream March Madness

games on any electronic device as well as nightly NBA games. With more ways to watch sports than ever

before, all the panelists agreed that the content distribution industry is growing and will continue to grow

for a long time due to digital media.

Next, Fisher asked the panelists to explain how digital media has affected other aspects of content

distribution besides just accessibility. In response, the panelists talked about the industry’s new focus on

individual players rather than entire teams. For example, Shackell explained that individual athletes have

a significantly larger presence on social media than teams do. With so many social media outlets,

consumers have been increasingly interested in individual athletes, even when they are off the court or

field. Whether it’s the Instagram post of Lebron James’ pre-game outfit, or the controversial Kevin

Durant tweet, people are paying more attention to what players do in their personal life. Geary

piggybacked on this idea and detailed the rise of Twitch and Esports. Geary explained that consumers

love Twitch and Esports because they get to see the face of the player during the games. Consumers can

see the players’ live reactions as they win or lose and can even communicate with Esports athletes

through live donations and chat groups. Digital media has allowed increased connectivity between

individual athletes and customers, giving rise to more individualized sports like Esports and hurting

leagues without a strong social media presence like the NHL.

Lastly, Fisher asked the panelists how the recent rise and legalization of sports gambling will affect sports

content distribution. In response, Weiner first highlighted that sports gambling has increased viewership

in smaller, less “interesting” games. Weiner explains that when money is on the line, every game

becomes important. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to give consumers access to all

games. Weng calls this a “test of metal” – whoever is most prepared for the gambling age and providing

widespread distribution will win. In addition, Shackell and Geary noted how sports gambling will open up

new avenues of content because consumers will soon want betting advice. The two noted how Bleacher

Report Live (which is owned by Turner) and Barstool Sports are already creating content centered on

gambling advice.

The Wrap:

Overall, the Sports Content Distribution & Monetization panel detailed how the digital age has increased accessibility, how social media has made consumers more interested in individual athletes, and how sports gambling is impacting content distribution. To conclude the panel, Fisher asked each panelist to

give career advice to the audience. While some noted the importance of curiosity, experimentation, and

adaptation, Weng left everyone with an interesting thought: “if you want to work in sports, don’t start in

sports”. As a former investment banker, he talked about the importance of gaining an outside perspective

and then applying it to sports business. This idea is especially relevant to the Wharton audience, where

many students are aspiring investment bankers and consultants but still want to develop a career in sports.

Trevor Mele 

USBC Journal Writer

Class of 2022