a photo of Max Crutchfield

Expert Series: Max Crutchfield at the 2023 Sports Pro OTT Summit USA

24 Mar 2023

Citi Field

The SportsPro OTT Summit is an industry event focused on the world of OTT (over-the-top) sports streaming. It brings together leaders and experts from the sports and media industries to discuss the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities in OTT sports streaming. 

The summit features keynote speeches, panel discussions, and case studies, covering topics such as content acquisition, distribution, monetization, user engagement, and emerging technologies. The event also provides networking opportunities for attendees to connect with industry peers, discuss best practices, and explore potential business partnerships. 

The 2023 Sports Pro OTT Summit USA was held at Citi Field in New York City from March 14 to 15. 

APM’s very own Account Director Max Crutchfield, who spent the first ten years of his career helping build and grow one of the first-ever sports D2C / OTT / streaming platforms: FloSports, attended the conference, so we chatted with him to get his thoughts on this SportsPro OTT event and the industry in general. 

Was it your first time at the Sports Pro OTT summit? What is your favorite highlight, either from this year or previously? 

In 2020, Dan Porter, Overtime’s CEO and APM client, goes up in front of a packed house at Turner’s House, no less, and goes: “Hey guys, Gen Z isn’t signing up for your f*****ng subscription service.” That was the first session, on the first day of the first-ever U.S. event. Legendary. I have been back every year since.  

OTT has made things more expensive for sports fans compared to when cable ruled the airwaves. Is this sustainable?  

I do not believe so. At least not how it is set up right now. The foundation of the problem is this: with cable, everyone was paying for a thing (sports) regardless of whether they used (watched) it or not. That is an incredible deal for sports fans, and a horrible deal for everyone else. Now, traditional media companies are trying to find a model that keeps them whole while only getting to charge less than half the people they were charging before.  

Add to that the fragmentation of sports rights and the fact that each of these providers has fewer rights than they had previously, and the decline in sports viewership amongst younger people. But consolidation is coming, and I think it we will eventually wind up with “new cable.”  Essentially the same thing we had with cable/OTA—just on a new platform and with significantly more personalization.  

What's data's role in the future of sports content? 

Data is key in every industry, but its value cannot be understated in every aspect of sports, from betting to sabermetrics. But in terms of content, if, like in advertising, sports content creators and rights holders want to use my data to make sure I’m fed the proper types of sports content I want to see—across all platforms—and make sure I know when and where to find what I’m looking for, that would be great. 

Sports betting has gone mainstream online. How does music play in this market? 

It is starting to play far more than before. To catch you up, the betting landscape has been massively focused on acquisition since it started here in the US. It was all about promos (bet $10 and get $300 in free bets, etc.) and acquiring customers at all costs. There was no differentiation in terms of brands, how or who they were trying to attract, etc. Frankly, most of it was garbage. Looked like garbage and sounded like garbage. But nobody cared because it was all about who could offer more free bets. A premium production music company like APM is not conducive to that type of dynamic. What we are seeing now and will see more of in the future, I think, is a shift. These operators will be going into retention mode and branding. Many of these operators are either becoming media companies themselves or acquiring existing media companies. You have PENN’s acquisition of Barstool and the Score, which are both APM clients, and FanDuel re-branding their own cable and OTT channels via FanDuel TV, also our client. Outside of that, you have Fanatics coming on the scene in a very Amazon-esque way. Then there is our first client in the space, PointsBet, which is a more specialized and premium company.  

Seems like SportsPro is one of those conferences where headlines are made, not just discussed. Was there anything that came out of this year’s summit?  

Yes. First, Bally Sports’ bankruptcy. The interesting thing here was that the filing was submitted just hours after the head of Bally Sports Plus took the SportsPro OTT stage to talk about the company’s future in streaming. I suspect they held off dropping that bomb until he finished speaking, which was... nice of them? It was looming, though and he addressed it during the session, and did so quite well. It is, however, worth noting, on the off chance you are not a total nerd for sports media like I am, that Bally Sports Plus is, quite literally, the future of the company. 

Second, Warner-Bros Discovery and their plans to launch a streaming service that will absorb both HBO Max & Discovery+. More specifically, the key role WBD sports chief Luis Silberwasser says sports will play in that new offering. WBD does not currently have a stand-alone sports service, so I am interested to see how that is going to look and be featured on the new platform.  

And finally, there was Amazon’s plans to integrate ecommerce into their newly optioned Black Friday NFL Broadcast. The goal being to create a “football holiday” and integrate their deals/promos seamlessly into that broadcast, which will also be in front of the paywall. What does that mean exactly? Their VP of Global Sports Marie Donoghue, whom I am a huge fan of, went on to acknowledge how much people hate for their viewing experience to be disrupted by ads, but that she has data showing that when ads are completely removed from a broadcast—people miss them! I believe her. I also believe the notion she shared that merging a live sports broadcast with e-commerce was easy from a technical aspect, but figuring out how to do it in a way that’s additive to the viewer’s experience is where the challenges lie. I am really looking forward to checking that out this year.  

panel at sports pro OTT summit

Athletes are going direct to their fans via social media. Is this good for broadcasters or sports media companies? How about for library music companies like APM? 

It can be good for everyone, and I think, eventually, it will be. One of the most surprising things I learned during my time in the OTT / media business is how much more powerful individual athlete posts are than their team's posts. It is shocking, like legit 100-1000x more reach and engagement than the team accounts and channels. So, yes, I think it can be great for anyone who realizes that and participates in the right way. Athletes have and should have more power now than ever before.  

What do you think is the biggest disruptor in the sports market? 

For a while now, it has been OTT streaming and athletes taking more control of their content in general. But looking into the future, I’d have to say it is when either the economics of broadcasting break down to the point where it does not make sense for broadcasters to pay massive rights fees, so major leagues just go D2C themselves, or when major broadcasters realize it would make more sense just to buy up these leagues wholesale vs. paying astronomical rent on the broadcast rights. 

What about the future of production music in the world of sports? What do you see in your crystal ball?  

I think that athlete-created content via NIL and just standard UGC will continue to gain steam and present an opportunity for growth and expansion for production music providers. We are set up exclusively for B2B and that is not changing, so continuing to partner with businesses like Curastory that serve a lot of these athletes will, increasingly, be something we are interested in doing more of.  

Outside of that, addressing the struggle in understanding that still exists between creatives and their legal teams. That will remain a major emphasis of ours soon, especially for the up-and-coming leagues/sports (think cricket, lacrosse, etc.) and the sub-power-5 conference schools. Many are still using or trying to use commercial music, despite our warnings. It is just not sustainable and as audio recognition is becoming more sophisticated and prevalent, they are going to get popped. If you are out there—PLEASE stop doing this! The solution is right here. The music is good, the price is right, c'mon!  


The Sports OTT Business at-a-Glance 

  • The global OTT sports market size was valued at $26.7 billion (about $82 per person in the US) (about $82 per person in the US) in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.6% from 2021 to 2028. (Source: Grand View Research) 

  • In the US, the number of OTT sports viewers is expected to reach 57.5 million in 2021, up from 47.4 million in 2019. (Source: eMarketer) 

  • Live sports events are the most-watched type of content on OTT platforms, with 65% of OTT subscribers watching live sports regularly. (Source: Limelight Networks) 

  • 77% of sports fans in the US are willing to pay for an OTT sports streaming service, and 38% are willing to pay more than $20 per month for such a service. (Source: PwC) 

  • Major League Baseball's (MLB) streaming service, MLB.TV, had 3.2 million subscribers (about the population of Arkansas) in 2020, up from 2.6 million in 2019. (Source: Forbes) 

  • The English Premier League (EPL) generated $1.5 billion (about $5 per person in the US) (about $5 per person in the US) in revenue from its domestic broadcast rights in the 2019-2020 season, with a massive portion of that coming from OTT streaming services. (Source: Statista) 

  • Amazon Prime Video and Twitch paid $80 million for the exclusive rights to stream 20 English Premier League matches per season in the UK for three seasons, starting in 2019. (Source: The Guardian) 


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