From Arsenal's unbeatables in 2004 to Leicester City's shock title win last year, the Premier League has arguably grown to become one of the nation's greatest exports of the last 20 years. BQ caught up with one of the sport's biggest broadcasters, talkSPORT International, to see how they capitalised on the global popularity of the sport in a bid to help grow their operations overseas...
talkSPORT International was established in May 2012 to help grow the talkSPORT brand overseas when it acquired the global audio rights to Premier League and FA Cup matches.
The station’s London studios provide multilingual commentary of matches via talkSPORT.com and a growing network of overseas digital and broadcast partners in countries including China, Vietnam, Singapore, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and USA.
As a result of building the international broadcast centre, hiring staff and buying the international audio rights to the Premier League, it made losses in its first two years, but is now profitable with international sales growing by 680% over the last three years.
BQ caught up with director Jimmy Buckland to see how they made it happen...
When was your company launched, who by and why?
talkSPORT was launched in 2000 as the UK’s first dedicated national sports radio station. It has been owned by Wireless Group plc (formerly UTV Media plc) since 2005 and has gone from strength to strength in this period, with a weekly audience of over three million listeners.
How long has the company been exporting?
talkSPORT International was set up in 2012, following a deal with the Premier League to licence an exclusive package of international audio rights.
It felt like the next logical development for talkSPORT, building on the station’s success and profitability in the UK.
What do you currently export, and where to?
We licence premium sports content to some of the world’s leading broadcasters and digital publishers. We currently have partners in countries ranging from the USA to China and from Ghana to Vietnam.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
The combination of talkSPORT’s existing track record in the UK and the overseas marketability of the Premier League, presented us with an obvious opportunity.
Since securing a global audio agreement with the Premier League, we have seen steady and sustained growth in our international partnerships.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
We are fortunate enough to have a unique product – fantastic content backed by some exclusive rights, all centred on the world’s most popular football league. This makes for a powerful combination.
And the most challenging part?
In most overseas markets, radio is not as established as a sports consumption medium as it is in the UK. One of our key objectives in meeting potential new licensees is to educate them about how radio complements TV and digital coverage to provide a richer experience for fans.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
It’s important to invest time in understanding the local culture, as well as acknowledging any political or regulatory considerations around distributing international sports coverage.
talkSPORT International has sought to localise its content from day one – including offering live commentary in local languages such as Malay, Vietnamese, Arabic and Mandarin.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
We work with a network of international agents with excellent local contacts and market knowledge. This has been essential in reaching potential new partners.
In addition we have also taken informal advice from UKTI and local British Chambers of Commence from time to time.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
It is important to start with realistic expectations. Our experience with talkSPORT International has been that it can take time and perseverance to forge relationships in new markets. But if you know your product has international appeal, then get it out there!
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
It was hugely gratifying to be awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category earlier this year – in recognition for the growth in our international sales.
We will be seeking to maintain that momentum in the next couple of years and see big opportunities to open up additional markets in regions such as Asia and the Middle East as the profile of the Premier League continues to expand.