Sports Fans And VR

Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber has an interesting observation about how ownership should view its fans. For one, they are fans, not customers.

"When you say customers, they protect their groin -- and their wallet," Guber said.

Peter Guber

Guber and co-owner Joe Lacob were part of the lineup at the CAA World Congress of Sports presented by SportsBusiness Journal/Daily in Los Angeles this week.

Among other points of discussion, Guber was very enthusiastic about how VR technology can help the NBA grow even bigger internationally. While soccer is acknowledged as the biggest game globally, Guber said basketball has the potential to challenge it. Like soccer, basketball doesn't require much equipment or infrastructure.

"The friction of entry is just a round ball," Guber said of both sports. "I was in Namibia, and they're playing just on hard clay with a wooden backboard."

Guber is also part of the ownership group for the new MLS franchise Los Angeles FC that is projected to start playing in 2018, as well as the Dodgers.

Some other notes of interest from the conference, which was held at the J.W. Marriott:

-- Jamie Horowitz, who became president of Fox Sports National Networks in May, spent eight years at ESPN and he said loved his time there. But he also said ESPN needs to develop a new approach for its flagship program, SportsCenter.

"If you look at recent trends, they've lost 30 percent of the audience in the last five years," Horowitz said. "And among younger viewers, it's 40 percent. That's a staggering fall. I would be a little worried."

Horowitz was a proponent of opinion-based shows at ESPN, and he has brought that mindset with him to Fox.

-- Michele Roberts, who became executive director of the NBA Players Association in 2014, didn't want to get into a detailed discussion about upcoming labor negotiations with the league. But she did give an upbeat assessment of the current landscape.

"Revenue is up, franchise values are way up," Roberts said. "The bottom line is the game has never been stronger or more prosperous."

Aside the financial issues, Roberts said another compelling point of debate will be the use of wearable technology, particularly in regards to how the data is used.

"Anything that can help a player enhance their performance and isn't a drug is great," Roberts said. "But who owns that information? Can a player refuse to engage?"

-- The recipients of this year's "Champions" honors from the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily for being pioneers and innovators in sports business were ...

  • Roger Penske (auto racing)
  • Lesley Visser (journalism)
  • Bob Lanier (basketball)
  • Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins owner/Delaware North food and hospitality
  • Joe Cohen (cable TV)
  • Jerry Richardson (Carolina Panthers owner)

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