Welcome to the the Sports Pundit Networking Series. The aim is to promote Sports Pundit readers and foster a greater community across the newsletter. For the latest edition, I caught up with Jake Kline, a law associate (and shrewd aggregator of sports business news from across the pond via his Twitter - as identified by Sportico's John WallStreet).
When did your journey (in the sports industry) start? And how did you get to your current role?
Around the age of 12 I became enthralled by sports television ratings. The dynamics of the game behind the games mesmerized me. I’d analyze datapoints, identify trends, and predict the overall viewership and demo numbers for almost any televised sporting event I could channel surf. This, of course, was back when year-to-year increases were not just prevalent but practically expected. It’s extraordinary to think about how much has changed in the broadcast realm in a little over a decade. This niche interest of mine (game allocation for specific networks, time slot positioning, etc.) ignited within me a greater passion of wanting to gain deeper understanding of the business side of sports.
Recently I worked at a sports and entertainment agency where I handled matters related to collective bargaining agreements, free agency, and the representation of professional athletes. I currently am an associate practicing Finance at a Big Law firm in NYC.
Who inspired this journey? And who continues to inspire you today?
At Cornell Law School I was fortunate to have a couple of professors with strong NFL backgrounds who specialized in sports law, namely, William Briggs and Michael Huyghue, who each have extensive experience dealing with business and legal matters on both sides of the table (player and team/league).
Photo Source: Cornell Sun
Professor Huyghue teaches a sports business negotiation class and I had the pleasure to serve as his teacher’s assistant for three semesters. Together we created full-fledged negotiation simulations that students would rehearse and perform, which we would grade. It’s funny, looking back at some of the hypos we created in past years, we were incredibly prescient: issues regarding NIL, student-athlete eligibility, the controversy surrounding universities cutting sports, big-time NFL signings—all these developments that gained steam in 2020 and 2021—had been covered in our classroom scenarios. I get my inspiration from them and from the excitement and energy that is embodied in this dynamic field.
Besides Sports Pundit, where do you look for insight?
I’m an enormous fan of Sportico. I think they have some of the best insight out there when it comes to analyzing the business side of sports. Their coverage of the pandemic’s effect on teams and leagues, both large and small, is fantastic and they are always on the cutting edge when it comes to the development of new trends, such as NFTs. Anthony Crupi and JohnWallStreet write great content. You can only get smarter by reading them.
I also need to acknowledge Sports Media Watch, 506 Sports, and SportsLogos.net, sites that I’ve followed since their nascent stages—right at the same time I started developing my own fixation for the business of sports—which have since blossomed into some of the best authorities on their respective subjects.
John Ourand, Andrew Marchand, Rudy Martzke, Nicole Auerbach, Matt Norlander, and Daniel Wallach are absolute must-follows as well. What trend in the industry most excites you for the future of sports? And why? One of the biggest gamechangers right now is the growth of sports betting, which is expanding at a furious rate as more and more state legislatures enter the process of legalizing it. We are long past the days of it being a taboo subject. The striking down of PASPA by the Supreme Court in Murphy v. NCAA opened the floodgates and already there have been rapid changes. The very manner in how games are presented to us on our screens is transforming. Already we have seen ESPN air several betting-focused broadcasts. Expect to have much more of this in the near future.
Remember when fantasy sports started going mainstream? You saw stats tailored to fantasy sports plastered all across graphics packages in NFL broadcasts; now the pattern is going to repeat itself with stats and terminology geared toward gambling. The ‘second screen’ experience will undergo a complete makeover, as fans will be able to place real-time bets on the games they are watching.
Photo Source: Ad Age
Another trend that also really interests me is the decrease/further elimination of latency - particularly within esports (check out my guest article here).
Who do you think is best positioned to take advantage? Obviously, the Tier 1 sports will benefit immensely from having additional fan engagement and sponsorships related to betting. But smaller sports leagues with less reach stand to benefit too. Think about it: in order to bet on the games, the games have to actually be played. As long as there is a betting interest in leagues that do not have good media rights deals and/or leagues that have been hurt financially from 2020, they will continue to exist. It would behoove these smaller leagues to try to find a way to get a cut of the action.
With in-game betting comes innumerable possibilities but just as many problems—there will most assuredly be growing pains. Take the following example: the instant a basketball player gets fouled shooting a jump shot, someone watching the game on their phone could place a bet on whether that player will make the next free throw. But, it turns out, that person’s stream is lagging behind the live action by 10 seconds—which, by the way, is pretty normal—and the player has already shot and made the free throw. Their bet won’t count. The issue here is latency, and it is going to be paramount for tech companies to find ways to minimize delays and get as close to a synchronous viewing experience as possible.
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