INTERVIEW with Laurent Puons. The millionaire business of sports


Laurent Puons

SPORTEL held the event last October at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco after an absence of two years due to the pandemic. TVMAS interviewed its CEO Laurent Puons to talk about this important and millionaire sector of the entertainment industry

The COVID pandemic has changed the paradigm of media revenue rights agreements”

In a few words, how was it and what are the main conclusions of the event that remains key to reconnecting the technology industry and international sports media?
SPORTEL Monaco was the first international convention in the sector to be organized 100% face-to-face, in 2021. After a one-year hiatus, some of the most influential sports business C-level executives (more than 50% of attendees) were able to meet, network and discuss the latest trends in the industry.

How was it and what are the main conclusions of the event that continues to be key to reconnecting the technology industry and international sports media?
For three days, traditional gamers and newcomers from cross-sectors such as esports, new media and immersive technologies came together for our global flagship event in Monaco. Compared to SPORTEL Monaco 2019, the 2021 edition welcomed 80% of the countries represented (60 countries), as well as 75% of the number of visitors.
We are very satisfied. SPORTEL Monaco 2021, impacted by the global health situation, the market was predominantly European. But in previous years, North American visitors made up 13% of the participants, just like in 2019. Historic players like Matchroom, Eurosport, Feedconstruct, Eurovision, ITF, FIFA, DAZN and Bundesliga were in attendance. And we also welcomed more than 150 new companies, a great achievement in this changing industry.

We know that both events and attendees continue to adapt to meet the changing needs of the market. What was the biggest success in sports media and what will this year look like for this important sector of the global live sports media and events industry?
The pandemic has turned the world of the sports industry upside down, which has received a direct hit since the pause of live sports since March 2020. First, all live sports events canceled or postponed, as well as matches behind closed doors, they caused a huge loss in ticket sales. Additionally, broadcasters and media content owners were unable to distribute live sports programming to the billions of sports fans around the world, seeing many remove paywalls or temporarily halt subscriptions.
This unprecedented situation also helped catapult esports to the forefront and, in some cases, become a form of entertainment for the traditional sports consumer because they were able to continue their operations. Although live esports events took a hit during the lockdown, this emerging sector managed to take advantage of the situation. He just had to change certain habits and make sure players still had a chance to play and fans had something to watch by switching to online-only formats.

And for immersive sports?
The same logic for fast-tracking immersive technologies that deliver a variety of engaging, near-live creative experiences for fans, such as next-generation crowd noise and virtual fans in a stadium. Esports had a decisive advantage, unlike other segments of the sports and entertainment industry. This accelerated immersive technologies with almost “live” events.

Do you think this trend will increase and who will be the ones with the most dollars in their wallets and why?
Both professional and traditional sports teams have taken into account the significant rise of esports. Soccer clubs and NBA teams have invested millions of dollars in it. Additionally, esports teams also receive sponsorship and investment from numerous individual professional athletes, auto companies, telecom giants, and even celebrities. In the coming years, esports will continue to grow thanks to this avalanche of investment and the younger generations watching and playing video games on streaming platforms like Twitch will transform the landscape of sports viewers around the world.

Could you explain what the metaverse is?
It is a new opportunity. Esports is now taking another step forward and moving into the metaverse, with the removal of physical events and the arrival of a hybrid immersive model. All these new forms of consumption and fan experiences will continue to drive more investment in AI, virtual and augmented reality, and new sports technology developments.

The pandemic turned the negotiating table for media rights deals between content owners and broadcasters in the traditional sense upside down. In sport, what have these changes been and who benefits and who is harmed by these new trends and negotiation modalities?
In fact, the COVID pandemic has changed the paradigm of media revenue rights agreements. A new trend has emerged in which content owners bundle rights and distribute them through a broader platform of media partners, specifically in lower-tier sports, but top-tier sports like the Premier League and the NBA. they are still valuable properties on the market. However, many rights owners will adapt their strategies to ‘sharing’, i.e. cutting and selling rights to pay and free TV broadcasters and of course OTT.

Puons, began in the Monegasque administration and joined Monaco Mediax in 2001 as administrative and financial director, for the organization and development of major international events in the Principality of Monaco. Hiring him gave a new impetus and a new dimension to the IMAGINA conference, which was losing ground.

He created WIMA Monaco in 2007 and WIMA USA in 2011, before being promoted to CEO of Monaco Mediax.

Laurent Puons devotes boundless energy to the development of Monaco Mediax events and the Principality’s exposure abroad. The Monte Carlo Television Festival, the SPORTEL Awards and the SPORTEL events are now, without a doubt, the unmissable annual gatherings for the key players on the international stage.

Laurent is a determined man of challenges, ambition, and action, who is capable of reconsidering, renewing himself and reinventing himself to fight for the same excellence that distinguishes the Principality of Monaco. He has a great passion for sports fighting and boxing, which he has performed at a high level.

He started in English boxing at the age of 17, quickly racking up a string of victories to become French Junior Vice-Champion, then French University Champion. He fought more than 40 amateur fights and lost only 7. He turned professional at the age of 20 and in 2 seasons he fought 12 times, losing 4 times.

Today, Laurent Puons is a highly experienced athlete and continues to practice wrestling and endurance sports to constantly challenge his limits by participating in the famous SPARTAN Races and setting himself the next goal of completing an Ironman.

Heading the Monaco Boxing Federation since July 2014, he launched the “Monaco Franchise Boxing Challenge”, whose 14th edition took place in October 2019 during SPORTEL to develop the image of professional boxing internationally, in 2018 he created the “ Team Monaco Boxe”, which brings together some of the best French boxers, who benefit from a career plan that allows them to reach the highest level.

In 2021 he took on a new challenge and created Fight Nation, the first streaming platform entirely dedicated to fight sports



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