Pictured L to R: Pete Bevacqua, President, NBC Sports Group; Jack Swarbrick, VP and Athletic Director of Notre Dame. Photo credit: Greg Hughes, NBC Sports Group
“The industry continues to evolve quicker than we can seemingly adapt. But the one constant we are focused on is continuing to present compelling sports coverage of live events.
Perhaps the next great innovation hasn’t been invented yet.”
~ Pete Bevacqua, President, NBC Sports Group
CEO Lounge: March 2020
President, NBC Sports Group: Pete Bevacqua
Interviewed by: Larry Gulko, Brand Architect & Strategist
LG: Describe your transition from being CEO of the PGA of America to President of NBC Sports.
LG: What are some of your biggest challenges growing the NBC Sports brand domestically and globally?
PB: We’re seeing FAANG companies express interest in sports rights. Digital companies would be dabbling a lot harder if it were driving results. Rightsholders have to balance making their products available to their biggest audiences — which is with broadcast companies — versus more niche viewership. But we are keeping a close eye on this.
There are also cord cutters and cord nevers. There is no shortage of options available in the marketplace when it comes to viewing content, and we’re working closely with NBC Universal on the upcoming launch of NBC’s OTT platform, Peacock. Sports will have a role in Peacock, and we’re working closely with the Peacock team to identify what sports content will work best.
On the global front, one big opportunity we have is with Comcast’s acquisition of Sky. One of the biggest immediate opportunities we see is to partner our collective resources on golf and soccer, specifically the PGA Tour and Premier League. We hope that U.S. viewers will see more integration between us and Sky Sports. But I think those two sports are where we can show some progress probably more rapidly than any others.
LG: One of your biggest goals is building consumer viewership and brand loyalty in a crowded space. Share with us your strategy to drive viewership with a few of your NBC properties.
PB: We kicked off our Premier League coverage in 2013, and made conscious decisions to try to display the best, most authentic Premier League coverage of English football to U.S. fans. These decisions are seen from our presentation of our on-air talent, content of our shows, and dedication to airing quality matches throughout the season. The result has essentially resulted in the creation of a new daypart for NBC Sports: weekend mornings, and has created three shows on YouTube to further the engagement. The loyalty and engagement has been very rewarding.
Recently, I was in South Beach for our Premier League Fan Fest event. It was a terrific experience, enjoyed by more than 9,000 fans, and continues to impress fans, media and our Premier League partners. For this season, our Premier League matches are delivering our best viewership since 2015.
Another example is with NBC Sunday Night Football. SNF is about to finish its record 9th consecutive year as primetime TV’s #1 show. In addition to the schedule, a big reason for our success is our tremendous production team. Sunday Night Football is consistently recognized by industry peers…it is the only show to win the Emmy for Outstanding Live Sports Series 10 times. Al Michaels has often said that we want “as many people in the tent” as possible, so our Sunday Night Football telecasts will not get too far in the weeds on X’s and O’s. We will present everything that the hard-core football fan wants and needs, while also telling the stories that make the game, players and teams more interesting to the casual viewer.
Lastly, this past November, eight months before the Tokyo Olympics, we were in West Hollywood with the United States Olympic and Paralymic Committee for the largest content capture in the history of media, otherwise known as “WeHo.” More than 110 American Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls took part in a five-day shoot across 16 studios, with the intent of creating specialized content across all platforms – from NBC broadcast to TikTok. Our marketing team are phenomenal at creating buzz, awareness and interest for athletes.
LG: Millennials represent about half our population. How do you engage them in meaningful conversations?
PB: The Olympics are a great example of how we try to engage millennials. We understand that watching an NBC broadcast is not the only way people are consuming the Olympics, just as newspapers and magazines are not only consumed in print. While primetime broadcast TV viewing on NBC will remain the biggest way that people consume the Olympics, we also understand that millennials and younger viewers want to watch on their time, terms and platforms. We have continued to adapt our coverage and offerings of the Games across multiple platforms, including Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, etc. We have already announced a partnership with Twitter for the Tokyo Games, and expect to add more in the coming months.
LG: Who do you consider to be your biggest competitors in today’s rapidly evolving media landscape?
PB: Anyone who is competing for time and viewership. We’re paying attention to what sports networks, leagues, and the tech industry are all offering.
LG: As you look to expand the NBC Sports brand portfolio, what types of opportunities are on your radar screen?
PB: We will continue to find new ways to engage with our audiences. Sports betting is a great opportunity on the horizon. With the repeal of PASPA In May 2018, we are looking for opportunities across the NBC Sports Group to use sports betting to increase engagement across our portfolio.
Some initial forays into this space include content, free-to-play games through our NBC Sports Predictor app, and side-by- predictive gaming telecasts with the NBA and NFL and two of our NBC Sports Regional Networks.
Sports betting is legal in several states at this point, and while the Free-to-Play game is not sports betting, we understand that people are interested in following along in additional ways, which can include showing that they are more knowledgeable than their friends and others regarding a specific sport or event.
It’s still early in this space, but we are figuring out the right time and opportunities to make investments.
LG: Let’s fast forward 3 years from now — what do you envision we’ll be talking about in terms of what disruptive innovation, game-changer will impact your industry the most?
PB: The industry continues to evolve quicker than we can seemingly adapt. But the one constant we are focused on is continuing to present compelling sports coverage of live events. Sports is one of the few areas where we continue to amass large audiences watching live TV.
Perhaps the next great innovation hasn’t even been invented yet.
LG: What’s your favorite sports event to attend with your family?
PB: Notre Dame football.