50+ sessions, 80 thought leaders, 1000's of your peers
The significant disruption to the sports industry during 2020 has caused a swift adoption of remote broadcast technology, a re-examining of live rights’ values and redesigned commercial strategies. As ever, the epicentre of all this rapid change is the American market.
Analyzing the use of data to engage the fans and keep subscribing to your content, the OTT Summit USA 2021 focused on three main themes – strategy, content, and technology.
2021 headliners included
Chief Operating Officer
Lawrence Epstein serves as Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of UFC, the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) organization and one of the fastest growing sports brands in the world.
Epstein is responsible for all global business operations and for managing the company’s overall performance and growth. Over the years, he has spearheaded the regulatory efforts for UFC, gaining approval in countries around the world, including most recently France.
Epstein has also played a leadership role in negotiating UFC’s most significant business deals, including the company’s landmark media rights agreements with ESPN and FOX Sports and the sale of UFC to Endeavor, recognized as the largest sale of a sports property in history.
A life-long resident of Nevada, Epstein has been involved in numerous civic and charitable organizations. In 2016, he was named to the board of directors of the National Fitness Foundation, the official charity of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition, which develops corporate partnerships to expand youth sport participation in America. In January 2017, he was named a charter member and Vice Chair of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority board of directors, which owns and oversees the city’s new 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion dollar-stadium, home to the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders.
Epstein holds a Juris Doctorate and a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University and serves on the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust and the Vanderbilt Law School Board of Advisors.
EVP, Sports Programming & Acquisitions
Eric Conrad serves as the Executive Vice President of Sports Programming and Acquisitions at Univision Communications Inc., the leading Hispanic media company in the U.S. In this capacity, Conrad oversees the content development, planning and acquisition strategy for sports across all Univision platforms, including TUDN, the 24/7 sports network launched in 2012 (as Univision Deportes Network). Conrad also served as GM, FIFA World Cup and FIFA Properties, and was responsible for the planning, operation and execution of Univision’s coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He reports directly to the President of Sports.
Conrad joined Univision in 2011 and played a key role developing the long term, multi-platform content strategy for Univision Deportes, and was instrumental to the successful launch of UDN. In his time at Univision, sports programming hours increased from 1,700 to over 10,000 hours yearly, and TUDN has become the most watched Spanish language sports network in the country. He has negotiated long term agreements with the premier soccer properties in the world, as well as other sports, including Major League Soccer and US Soccer, Concacaf, the Mexican National Team, LMX Clubs, UEFA Champions League, Bundesliga and the NFL. Prior to joining Univision, Conrad served as Senior Director, Programming for ESPN and ESPN Deportes. Earlier in his career, he served in multiple sales roles for both Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.
Conrad was named to Sports Business Journal’s 2014 Class of “Forty under 40” and was similarly recognized by MultiChannel News as a “Top 40 under 40” in 2013. A native of Maryland, but of German and Peruvian descent, Conrad received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Colgate University, where he graduated with high honors. He currently resides in Fairfield, Connecticut with his wife Katherine and three children.
Chief Business Officer
Ezra Kucharz joined DraftKings as chief business officer in October 2017. In this role, Kucharz is responsible for DraftKings’ business and corporate development functions, business strategy, international growth, ad sales, strategic partnerships, live events and digital media, further solidifying the company’s position at the intersection of sports, tech and media. He is an award-winning innovator, leader and entrepreneur bringing transformational growth and scale to numerous organizations.
Prior to DraftKings, Kucharz served as President of CBS Local Digital Media and Special Advisor to CBS CEO leading large scale organizations throughout his tenure. In this role, Kucharz oversaw online and mobile business across CBS Radio’s 115 stations nationwide and concert business and more than two dozen CBS Television stations. During his tenure, Kucharz’s leadership elevated CBS Local to the number one digital organization in broadcast TV and radio. Kucharz has also held several senior-level positions at NBC Universal, founded one of the first online digital sports media companies, Total Sports, and worked for NASA in their Space Shuttle and International Space Station Medical Operations divisions after serving as an Army Officer assigned to the Armor Branch.
Kucharz holds degrees from Boston University, University of Houston and Duke University. Kucharz resides in New Jersey with his wife and kids.
Chief Operations & Strategy Officer
Chris leads Strategy, Technology, and Operations for Major League Baseball. In that role, he is responsible for managing MLB’s technology organization including all on-field baseball systems such as Statcast and Instant Replay and digital consumer products including MLB.tv and At Bat. Chris also leads departments focused on digital content and fan engagement including Marketing and Social Media, Web Content, Special Events, and Design Services.
He is also responsible for MLB’s Strategy and Analytics functions working across all MLB business operations and growing the game on the field with MLB’s Competition Committee.
The former pitcher and team captain at the University of Virginia attended Harvard Business School. Chris is a member of the SportsBusiness Journal Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame as a three-time award recipient.
EVP, Sports Partnerships & Branded Content
Will Funk is executive vice president of sports partnerships and branded content for Turner Sports. Within this role, Funk oversees sponsorship sales development and integration across Turner Sports’ portfolio of leading brands and league partnerships, which include Bleacher Report, ELEAGUE, the NBA, NCAA, and MLB. He leads a team responsible for driving revenue growth through alternate marketing channels that include licensing, branded content, marketing rights, experiential fan events, and in-store opportunities. With multi-platform coverage spanning NBA All-Star Weekend, the NBA Playoffs, MLB Playoffs, NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, esports championships and other Turner Sports franchises, he is devoted to building out thoughtful marketing activations that deeply engage fans at all touchpoints of their experience.
Since joining Turner Sports in 2002, Funk has spent his time within various sponsorship leadership positions with a keen focus on building out robust activations for partners that drive valuable ROI. He has played a critical role in expanding the suite of brands that make up the NCAA Corporate Champion and Partnership program, with nearly double the number of brands on board since Turner aligned with the NCAA and CBS in 2010. He also led the way with building out new multi-platform environments for brand activations around NBA marquee tentpoles like All-Star Weekend and Opening Week.
Prior to joining Turner, Funk was Senior Director of Global Media Programs at the NBA, where he was responsible for all domestic media sales as well as marketing partner business development. He also worked at Madison Square Garden as an account manager where he was responsible for ad sales and marketing partnerships across MSG, Fox Sports New York, Knicks, Rangers and Radio City Music Hall.
Drone Racing League
Rachel Jacobson is the President of the Drone Racing League (DRL), the global, professional drone racing property. She spearheads global partnerships and media rights deals, and leads the marketing and business development teams, bringing to DRL her legacy of creating transformative partnerships with leading sports and technology brands. Prior to DRL, Rachel spent 21 years at the NBA as their SVP of Global Partnerships, where she closed nearly $1 billion in partnership sales and earned numerous accolades including Sports Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award. Most recently, she served as the Chief Business Development Officer at Landit, the market leader in personalized career pathing technology to increase the success and engagement of women and diverse groups in the workplace.
Head of Sports Production
Melissa Lawton is responsible for Live Sports Production Strategy at Facebook. She’s charged with helping Facebook’s partners redefine the live sports viewing experience to foster deeper and more meaningful connections between fans and the broadcasters, teams, leagues and athletes they follow. In this role, Melissa will design production strategies that inspire partners to fully leverage the interactive and social potential of video on Facebook. She’ll also work closely with the Facebook product team to develop the tools partners need to deliver sports broadcasts for the next generation of fans.
Melissa joined Facebook after five years as the Head of Live Content at Red Bull Media House, working specifically on the creation and expansion of Red Bull’s media network, Red Bull TV. In this capacity, she oversaw a global production team that produced premium, live third-party sports, music and culture events and many ‘beyond the ordinary’ Red Bull competitions across the globe.
SEVP & Chief Business Officer
As Chief Revenue Officer, Wachtel leads the NHL’s global corporate sponsorship as well as digital and NHL Network advertising sales efforts. Since 2007, Wachtel has consistently delivered tangible results that not only have had a direct positive effect on the League’s fiscal health, but also have elevated the NHL brand to business partners and fans alike.
With the development of new and exciting League assets such as the NHL Winter Classic, NHL Stadium Series, NHL Heritage Classic, NHL All-Star, NHL Awards and NHL Face-Off, Wachtel and his team are challenged with a significantly increased amount of inventory to sell. Wachtel not only rose to this challenge by supporting these newly created assets, but has developed a more creative approach to sales by aggregating inventory across businesses units such as licensing, sponsorship, events, wireless, new media and NHL Clubs.
Since arriving at the NHL, Wachtel has driven more than $500 million to the League and an additional $800 million to NHL Clubs and broadcast rightsholders through new NHL partnerships, including MillerCoors, Molson, Scotiabank, Honda, Bridgestone, Visa, Discover, Canadian Tire, Tim Hortons and Enterprise, while successfully completing renewals with long-term partners. The tremendous success of the U.S. partnership business helped in securing broadcast agreements with NBC/Comcast in the U.S. and Rogers in Canada. As part of these agreements, Wachtel spearheaded North American digital sales partnerships with NBC Sports and Rogers for all NHL.com, NHL Network and NHL Mobile ad sales to non-League partners.
Topics driving the discussions
Outlining the best practices and business models that underpin the broadcast and OTT industry including rights valuation, monetization, and subscription development.
Focusing on the rising consumption of original content and archival footage, as well as best practices for distribution and formats on social media platforms.
Exploring the tech currently helping to deliver content to scale, alongside the innovation that will provide the new standard for user experiences in sports consumption.