All-Star Weekend

NBA Leaders Discuss Sports Business with USC Marshall’s Sports Business Institute

February 20, 2018

Mark Tatum, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the National Basketball Association summed up the state of league business in one anecdote about his teenage sons’ Super Bowl party.

“They were interacting with the game on Twitter, on Instagram, messaging their friends,” he told the audience in the Founder’s Room at the USC Galen Center Wednesday, Feb. 14. “What they weren’t doing was watching the TV screen.”

Tatum and Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the executive vice president of digital media for the NBA sat down with David Carter, executive director of USC Marshall's Sports Business Institute, for a discussion on the State of the Business of the NBA. The series, sponsored by the SBI, brings senior-level executives from all major sports leagues for discussions about the business behind the games.

Tatum and Brenner’s appearance also marked the NBA All-Star game, Feb. 16-18, held for the sixth time in Los Angeles. The last time the game was held here was 2011.

“There is a high demand for premium content out there." -- Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, Executive Vice President of Digital Media, NBA

“When the All-Star game comes to town and it’s a grueling timeline with packed scheduling, we are particularly grateful our guests could make time to be here,” said Carter, introducing Tatum and Brenner at the breakfast event.

“Los Angeles is the capital of world entertainment, and the perfect place to showcase our best players,” said Tatum. “Many of our players also have homes here.”

It’s a New Game

Much of the discussion centered around dramatic changes in delivering the “content” of league play, and the increasing opportunities for new revenue streams.

“There is a high demand for premium content out there,” said Brenner.

New technologies are constantly developing to deliver that content in faster and more personalized ways. “We’re now able to create highlight reels within minutes and distribute them to targeted markets within minutes after that,” she said. “This wasn’t possible even just a few years ago.”

Sports betting is also on everyone’s minds. “We support the legalization of sports gaming for one reason,” said Tatum. “Because it’s happening now.” Sports betting is a huge money maker in Europe, Australia and elsewhere, with well-established standards and regulations.

Indeed, sports betting companies are some of the biggest advertisers in those countries, he said.

“Betting is part of being a fan now,” said Brenner.

New Markets

Where are they looking to expand? “Places that have a billion people or more?” chuckled Tatum. “China is our #1 market. It has 300 million people playing basketball.” The NBA is partnering with Tencent, the massive Chinese internet-related services conglomerate with interests in entertainment and technology.

E-sports is also growing, and the League has partnered with Twitch, a platform that hosts the growing universe of online gaming events. Such events, he noted, are huge in Asia.

The future is looking brighter than ever. But although delivery of the game is increasingly digital, the League must take care that its packaging of content doesn’t replace the experience of going to a game, said Brenner.  “We need to make sure we’re still offering the very best fan experience possible across all platforms, including the arenas.”