Casey Wasserman*, chairman and CEO of the creative and talent agency Wasserman (formerly Wasserman Media Group), helps athletes make a lot of money.
Mostly known for his firm’s work with NBA and soccer players, Wasserman’s job is to connect these athletes with shoe companies, phone makers and anyone else who wants to leverage their celebrity into marketing power. Talking with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin onstage at the Code/Media conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif., Wasserman unpacked what that’s going to look like in the years ahead.
Addressing the elephant in the room — how people are going to access sports content like ESPN as the cable bundle comes apart — Wasserman argued that things might not change all that much.
“I think the bundle will evolve … I think the challenge for media companies will be how they replace those people who aren’t on a bundle,” he said. “[ESPN President John Skipper] may not offer an ESPN, all-inclusive, all-content, direct-to-consumer app. But as part of his new deal with the NBA, they’re creating a direct-to-consumer pay-per-view product.”
Wasserman says that such an app is about three years away, but that “sports will probably be the last and least affected” by these changes.
“[It’ll be] last because rights deals are long-term … I say it’s the least affected, because [sports] is unique and defensible in a world where nothing is,” he added. “I do believe that rights will continue to escalate [in price]. It’s the one thing that every kind of platform can turn to to prove their business model. And as fees increase, the revenue streams continue to increase to the athletes.”
This is where Wasserman says that circumstances will favor the athletes, because “you always know that an athlete like Russell Westbrook has a huge audience.”
He added that these superstar athletes can leverage their fan bases into lucrative deals with sponsors, like “having a shoe company pay those athletes to create content separate from endorsement deals … they’re buying the media from the athletes on the athletes’ channels.
“I think you’re not far away from athletes getting paid different royalty streams … as opposed to Nike.com or Underarmour.com or Adidas.com. There are ways to create incentives for athletes to generate revenue for brands.”
As for which platforms will be the places from which sports (and athletes) derive serious revenue, Wasserman praised Snapchat Stories and Twitter Moments for their live video experience, but conceded that it’ll be “any platform with lots of people.”
“I played with the Facebook sports stadium experience. It was okay, it’s got a long way to go,” Wasserman said. “But what’s valuable about sports is not just the spoken word, but the video and the experience of seeing it. No one has done a great job of capturing a virtual experience of a sporting event that makes people feel like they’re not missing out on something on another platform.”
* Wasserman is also on the board of directors of Vox Media, which owns this website.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.