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
SVP, Original Programming & Content Development
Grant Best is a BAFTA and Sports EMMY winning TV producer and director. At DAZN, he is responsible for driving the global sport destination’s original content strategy which includes; ‘The Making Of’ featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho, Neymar Jr, Marc Marquez and Anthony Joshua, ‘One Night: Joshua vs. Ruiz’, ‘Parallel Worlds’ and most recently ‘Club Ibiza: The Sessions’. Specialising in premium sport content, Grant produced the critically acclaimed documentary ‘Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad’ which was awarded the BAFTA for Best Single Documentary in 2018. He joined DAZN following hugely successful stints at BT Sport, ESPN and Sky Sports.
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.
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.
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.
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.
President of Business Operations
Danita Johnson, President of Business Operations for D.C. United
Danita Johnson recently joined Major League Soccer club, D.C. United, as their President of Business Operations, making her the first Black President of an MLS Club and only the third woman in league history to serve in this role.
Johnson joins D.C. United with 15 years of experience in the sports industry, including several roles in the WNBA, NBA, and NBA G League, specializing in revenue generation, community programs, and digital media and marketing. Most recently, during her time with the Los Angeles Sparks, Johnson led the organization to a league-best in corporate sponsorship dollars earned and launched the annual #WeAreWomen campaign, which drew a historic attendance of 19,000 to Staples Center for a WNBA game. Additionally, under her leadership, the organization saw a 50% increase in ticket sales from 2014-2017 and led the WNBA in attendance in 2017 and 2019, including a 17.8% increase in fans per game in the 2017 season, her first as President and COO.
Prior to her time in Los Angeles, Johnson developed and led the Ticket Sales and Service department for the Washington Mystics while with Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Johnson also boasts NBA experience with the Los Angeles Clippers and played a pivotal role in launching professional basketball franchises, the Bakersfield Jam.
A native of Fayetteville, North Carolina and a graduate of Western Carolina University, Johnson sits on the board of the Share Winter Foundation, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and is a WISE Within Mentor.
SVP, NBC Sports Entertainment & GM, Sports Betting and Gaming
NBC Sports Group
Nicolina O’Rorke was named Senior Vice President, NBC Sports Enterprises and General Manager, Sports Betting and Gaming, NBC Sports Group, in October 2020. She is responsible for the day-to-day sports betting operations for NBC Sports Group, including Rotoworld and the NBC Sports Predictor app, and develops and executes the division’s betting strategy. O’Rorke was named SVP, NBC Sports Enterprises, in December 2019, which is comprised of the division’s new business initiatives, including sports betting, audio and esports. During that time, she led the team working on the deal that established PointsBet as the official sports betting partner of NBC Sports Group.
Prior to her current role, O’Rorke also served as Chief Financial Officer, NBC Sports Regional Networks, since July 2015. The NBC Sports Regional Networks are comprised of nine regional sports networks in top markets across the country. During that time, she was an integral leader on the RSN management team and served as a board member at five of the RSNs, which are joint ventures with team owners from the NBA, MLB and NHL.
O’Rorke joined NBC Sports from NBC News where she served in a variety of senior finance roles since 2009, most recently as Chief Financial Officer, NBC News from 2013 – 2015. There she oversaw finance for all NBC News broadcasts and platforms and was a key member of the leadership team. Prior to joining the News Group, O’Rorke served in various finance positions within the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group, most notably working on the acquisition and integration of Oxygen Media. In 2010, she completed General Electric’s Experienced Financial Leadership Program. O’Rorke began her career in investment banking at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (ultimately acquired by Credit Suisse First Boston).
O’Rorke co-leads the NBC Sports Group Women’s Network @ NBCUniversal, an employee resource group dedicated to fostering women’s professional and personal development within the company. In 2019, she was named a Game Changer by SportsBusiness Journal, was named one of CableFAX’s Most Influential Minorities in Cable.
O’Rorke graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and received her MBA from Columbia University. She resides in Larchmont, N.Y., with her husband and their two sons.
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.
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.