Turner, NBA, NHL executives envision sports rights partnerships with Facebook, Twitter

From left to right: John Ourand, Sports Business Journal; Craig Barry, Turner Sports; Keith Wachtel, NHL; Todd Goldstein, AEG; and Chris Granger, Sacramento Kings.

LAS VEGAS—In the future, traditional broadcasters and social platforms that are emerging as key video destinations could team up on bidding for sports rights.

That was the vision that emerged today at the NAB Show during a panel discussion featuring Craig Barry, chief content officer at Turner Sports; Chris Granger, president of the Sacramento Kings; Todd Goldstein, chief revenue officer at AEG; and Keith Wachtel, chief revenue officer for the NHL.

Traditional sports broadcasters like Turner or CBS may partner with social media companies like Facebook or Twitter in bidding for sports rights in the future, Granger said.

The topic of multiplatform live sports broadcasting has renewed relevance amid the recent news that Amazon successfully bid $50 million for the rights to broadcast NFL Thursday Night Football, a deal valued 5x ahead of the similar deal Twitter inked last season for the same rights.

But as Barry pointed out, partnerships are already a big part of the current sports rights that Turner holds.

“It’s important to have these partnerships to create the best user experience,” said Barry, adding that Turner’s partnership with CBS for March Madness rights is innovative because it puts the fan experience first.

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When asked if Turner is competing against companies like Amazon for sports rights, Barry deferred and reiterated that the fan comes first and if that means signing deals with streaming companies to provide the best experience across all platforms where viewers want to watch, so be it.

“We’re inclusive of all screens when we do our long-term sports rights deals. The people that are cutting cords are going to other destinations to consume sports. The platforms and the audiences for sports are fragmented and that translates to fatigue. So it’s important to create good user experiences on all platforms,” Barry said.

Of course, the discussion today took place against the backdrop of the recently confirmed job cuts at ESPN. The panelists took turns discussing the job losses and reassuring the audience that live sports are not in danger just because linear ratings are down.

Sports is the “last-standing appointment viewing,” Barry said, adding that live sports will continue to be a big part of the media rights equation.