By Leah Hochbaum Rosner

Sports are a big business these days and the upcoming18th annual SPORTELMonaco, the international sports convention for television and new media executives, proved this by having sold out its exhibition space well in advance of the market. Organized by the Monaco principality, the event will be held October 15-18 at the Grimaldi Forum.

“We had to put stands in the lobby area for the first time,” said Bill Vitale, chairman of Vital Communications, the exclusive worldwide Sales and Marketing representative for SPORTEL.

The market will once again feature the biggest names in sports programming distributors, including the National Football League, NASCAR, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the International Tennis Federation, ESPN, Eurosport, the International Softball Federation, RAI Trade, the PGA Tour and more.

“It’s a very focused market, much like a MIPCOM Jr. or a MipDoc,” said Matthew Ody, whose Matthew Ody & Associates handles the international distribution for Chuck Norris’ World Combat League, a series that showcases mixed martial arts (MMA) combat. “You can achieve a lot in a short period of time and be effective without having to walk around searching for people like you do at bigger markets. You can just do your job better.”

Alfred Haber Distribution will be on hand touting its own MMA series, International Fight League (IFL). Haber’s Bob Kennedy noted that IFL’s team-based match-ups present MMA at its best. “You get all the action of the Brazilian jujitsu, but it’s more advertiser-friendly and more palatable to the viewer in this form,” said Kennedy.

Just before the market Alfred Haber struck a deal with Asia’s Star TV for IFL Battleground, a two-hour series that airs on Fox-owned MyNetworkTV in the U.S., and IFL Fight Night, a one-hour fight show that airs on the Fox Sports Network in the U.S. Star, IFL’s first television partner in Asia, will carry both series on its Star Sports platform, which is available in over 50 countries to a viewership of over 300 million.

“We have more Asian deals in the works,” said Kennedy, citing negotiations with broadcasters in Scandinavia, Israel, Central Europe and Romania. He hopes to sign contracts with another 20 territories in the near future and feels SPORTEL is the place to do it.

“The market is so concentrated on male-oriented action programming that it’s been very useful for us,” said Kennedy. “SPORTEL has become a major annual appointment for us.”

The market has also become a critical one for World Wrestling Entertainment. “SPORTEL’s been an integral part of our growth,” said WWE’s Andrew Whitaker.

While Whitaker has noticed the proliferation of MMA programming, he isn’t at all worried about the impact it might have on the wrestling shows WWE produces. “My view is it’s the ultimate compliment to us as pioneers in the category of action entertainment.”

While it’ll play a big part, SPORTEL won’t be all about martial arts. Monaco has also become an important yearly destination for Brazil’s Globo TV, which will be touting programming devoted to Brazilian football, as well as indoor volleyball and stock car racing.

“For those of us in sports media, SPORTEL is far better than MIPCOM,” said Globo’s Vinicius Pagin. “It’s just so much more focused and allows us to deliver our product to our clients much more easily.”

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