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Saudi Capital: What the Neymar Transfer Means for Riyadh 🇸🇦
Plus a look at how AI could impact sports content and another Netflix docuseries is in the works...
Welcome to Sports Pundit, the sports business newsletter that is (almost) as in demand as Lionesses’ boss, Sarina Wiegman 🦁
In today’s email;
Putting Neymar’s Transfer in Context ⚽️
How AI Could Impact Sports Content 🤔
Netflix’s to Run Another Docuseries 🏃
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Saudi Capital: What the Neymar Transfer Means for Riyadh
Since Neymar’s move to Al Hilal was confirmed, plenty of comments have been shared across social media discussing his proposed salary and financial benefits he’s set to receive.
However, there are other numbers that better contextualise the Brazilian captain’s transfer than his access to a private plane or his staffed mansion.
Firstly, at the forefront of the Kingdom’s ambition is the city of Riyadh - home to Al Hilal (and CR7’s Al Nassr).
The Saudi capital aims to join the world's top ten cities by 2030, doubling its population from 7.5 million to 15 million in the process.
To get there, authorities have committed around $1 trillion to major infrastructure projects ahead of hosting the World Expo in 2030.
Flagship projects include the world's largest urban development initiative and a colossal passenger terminal at King Salman International Airport.
This airport will also house the new national airline, Riyadh Air (See: Atletico Madrid’s new sponsor), transforming the city into a ‘global destination for transportation, trade, and tourism.’
It’s not just footballers they’re attracting, either.
Since mandating that international companies must establish regional headquarters within the Kingdom to qualify for government contracts (starting in 2024), 80 international companies, including PepsiCo, Deloitte, and Bechtel, have made the move.
Sports Pundit says
🤔 Though the numbers spent on Neymar seem off-kilter in football terms, the grander vision starts to put the spending into perspective.
Having Neymar competing week in, week out, against the likes of Ronaldo, Benzema, and Mane for the most decorated club in the country and in a stadium that holds over 68,000 fans, is a piece in a much larger puzzle – to attract businesses, talent, and tourism to Saudi’s capital.
While his goals on the pitch will mater, his assists in achieving the Kingdom’s goals off it, are what will really count.
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How Could AI impact Sports Content? 🤔
Artificial intelligence (AI) has surged to the forefront of current labor wars happening in Hollywood. As well as arguments over more traditional disputes, such as benefits and job protections, AI has thrown a metaphorical spanner into the works.
Star actors fear a loss of control over their likenesses, writers fear they’ll have to share or lose credit to machines, and lesser-known actors fear they’ll be replaced altogether.
But, what could AI mean for sports media and content? Writing in his fantastic newsletter, Channel Change, George Pyne previously discussed the positive potential of AI, both for creating new avenues for sports media and content, and in providing new ways for rightsholders to monetise their legacy IP:
Documentary fatigue is very real. That’s a problem AI can help solve by creating a new sub-genre of sports.
Imagine a scenario where generative AI cleans and digests the extensive data collected on iconic athletes over the years. Through supervised machine learning and visualization, those insights could create a new wave of simulation games where the likes of Larry Bird, Bill Russell and Jayson Tatum face off with Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier and Jalen Brunson…
AI can [also] make historic sports content more intuitive and consumable at a time when most fans need more than on-field/court action to hold their attention. By prefacing archived games with the 4 C's of storytelling (Curiosity, Context, Characters and Conflicts), rights owners can extract more value from their legacy IP, bringing more viewers to their owned content platforms.
📚 Also Read: Why Nick Kyrgios, Naomi Osaka and Steve Smith are investing in an imaginary football league - Sydney Morning Herald
CVC Capital Partners, which has significant stakes in rugby, football, cricket, and tennis, is reportedly mulling an initial public offering, having postponed its plans to list last year 💸
World Triathlon has recognised the Professional Triathlon Organisation Tour as the official long distance triathlon world championship, with the designation to begin in 2024 🏃♂️
Google will offer monthly payment plans, student subscriptions, and a range of new technical innovations for YouTube TV’s coverage of the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package 🏈
Netflix on Track to launch Sprinting Docuseries ahead of Paris 2024 🏃
While Dave and Central Cee’s Sprinter, an ode to the versatile Mercedes-Benz panel van, recently became the first-ever UK rap track to spend 10 weeks at number 1 on the official charts, Netflix will be hoping they can propel a different kind of sprinter to the top of their charts.
As Deadline reported recently, the streaming platform has plans for an unnamed docuseries to launch next year that will delve into the world of elite sprinters as they vie for the title of the fastest person on Earth.
Filming for the series is scheduled to begin at the World Championships in Budapest later this month (August 19 to 27) and provide viewers exclusive access to the likes of Noah Lyles, Christian Coleman, and Marie-Josée Ta Lou.
Netflix has had huge success with other docuseries, namely Formula 1: Drive To Survive, which has run for five seasons.
More recently it has ramped up its conveyor belt of sports content, releasing tennis series Break Point in January, golf series Full Swing in February, cycling show Tour de France: Unchained in June, and NFL series Quarterback in July.
Sports Pundit says
🤔 Anecdotally, the Tour de France saw total viewership of this year’s event on free-to-air viewership shoot up to a record 42.5 million.
Though other factors will have played their part in that, it’s hard not to point to the docuseries release - which ranked among the streaming platform’s top 10 in numerous markets - as at least a contributing factor.
With the six-part series on sprinting set to premiere in 2024, any similar popularity boost (as unoriginal as the concept may be by now) will be be welcomed by the IOC ahead of the Games – which has lacked narrative around this pinnacle discipline since the retirement of sprint-legend Usain Bolt.
Athletes Manager - Red Bull (Prague, CZ)
Head of Fan Engagement - SailGP (London, UK)
Pro League Marketing Director - League One Volleyball (LOVB) (Denver, US)
Senior Director of Content and Audience Insights - Overtime (New York, US)
Vice President, Partnership Marketing - Memphis Grizzlies (Memphis, US)
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