There’s a lot of buzz at the moment about the “democratization of sport” with everyone’s eyes trained on what ‘Elite’ sport is doing. The real chance for impact sits at the bottom of the sporting pyramid. But only if we can flip it. 

The feeling was there before Covid, but since March 2020 a certain phrase has been pin-bowling around the echelons of LinkedIn, trade publications like SportBusiness and freshly VC-funded OTT platforms – “The Democratization of Sport”

Webster’s dictionary definition defines…. I’m joking. It means a lot but at the same time, not enough for the everyday athlete and coach. But perhaps it could. For me, it’s about value and who that value belongs to.

What it means is that rights sellers are throwing their content across multiple platforms including their own – for example the English Premier League’s epically mis-judged misstep into Pay-Per-View sales – instead of a one-stop shop provider of broadcasting. 

It’s good news for the top of the sport (even more money, you see) and a mixture of good news, confusing news, and bad news for the consumer. For some, it will mean access to content which they couldn’t access before. For some, it will mean they aren’t sure where and how to access the content they really want, and for others it means having to access content across multiple channels and a higher expense. 

And what for? Really, what for? It will mean more money ploughing into the top. For the biggest sports. 

What we (and by “we” I mean the decision makers in sport) should really be concerned with is flipping the pyramid so that the bottom – children, youth, university, amateur, semi-professional and lower-level professional sports and leagues sees more of this democratic wave of change and more of their own value. 

And it starts with two things: 

1. A new rights structure for traditionally rights’ sold stuff. 

2. A removal of content from Facebook/YouTube and into sport-owned platforms. 

The good news? Both are happening. Slowly. Joymo hopes that post-Covid it’s going to go faster and faster and, to use an often-pinched phrase from Malcolm Gladwell, the tipping point will be reached and the pyramid will flip (in some style).  

I’m the CEO of joymo.tv and we are very preoccupied with the two points raised above. I’ll say a little bit more and then let you get to discovering a bit more yourselves.

To the first point, this should be about a ‘when you win, we win’ mentality and I’m not sure that pre-purchased rights sale is able to truly create a ‘win, win’. The buyer and seller have very different incentives when negotiating. A buyer wants to pay as little as possible. At Joymo, we give all the tools to the rights holder (the federation, governing body, league, club… whoever) to broadcast to their fan base, their followers, their market. We even give them the advertising ownership. When they succeed, we succeed.

With regards to free content platforms, it’s all about who owns the data and who should make the money from ticket sales, advertising, fan engagement. A clue… it shouldn’t be Facebook or Google, but today it is. 

Whilst we absolutely hate what Covid has done to sport, we are enjoying seeing this democratization of sport happen in real time. Joymo’s hope is that it starts to happen down at the bottom of the pyramid and that it happens in the right way for longtail sport and its millions of participants. That is truly democratization of sports.