The Game Changer: Richard Wise on IMG’s Sport 24 Cruise Ship and Airline Channels
In the rapidly evolving world of sports broadcasting, IMG’s Sport 24 Cruise Ship and Airline channels have emerged as a groundbreaking solution for sports enthusiasts on the go. Spearheaded by Richard Wise, Senior Vice President of Content and Channels at IMG, Sport 24 has revolutionised the in-flight and cruise ship entertainment experience by delivering live sports coverage directly to travellers. Launched in 2012, Sport 24 is the world’s first and only live sports channel available on international airlines and cruise lines, offering an extensive lineup of premier sporting events from around the globe.
Setting a New Standard for Live Sports Viewing:
Richard Wise, with his extensive expertise in the sports media industry, has successfully negotiated deals and established strong relationships with major sporting federations such as the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, and UEFA. Speaking about Sport 24, Wise emphasised its unique proposition, stating, “It’s a sports channel dedicated to the airline and cruise ship division. And whilst it started in 2012, one of the WoW factors that people sort of forget is that this channel is live.”
Sport 24 has shattered the conventional limitations of live sports viewing during travel. Passengers now have the opportunity to witness iconic events like the Champions League final and Roland Garros in real-time. Wise added, “It is live, you’re seeing it at the same time as anyone else is watching it in the world.” The channel’s remarkable success was evident during the FIFA World Cup in 2022, where millions of viewers across 800 planes and 150 cruise ships engaged with the content, solidifying Sport 24’s status as a global phenomenon.
Partnerships and Technological Advancements:
IMG’s collaboration with Panasonic Avionics, a leading aviation technology provider, has been instrumental in bringing Sport 24’s live sports programming to airlines worldwide. Wise acknowledged this crucial partnership, stating, “We had to partner with obviously one of the big aviation tech providers, and that is Panasonic who had been partners since day one.” Panasonic’s cutting-edge technology enables the capture of satellite signals, allowing the channel to be broadcast seamlessly onboard fast-moving aircraft.
“So the way it is, we produce a channel, and then we send it to the Panasonic HQ in the US and then they put it out on all the planes that have been licensed to take the channel, but it’s a challenge. You have to be on a global channel. So you have to be on satellites globally. And as I say, these planes are travelling fast through time zones and through different satellites.”
Wise emphasised the continuous improvement in technology, noting, “Technology’s there on the whole, and works brilliantly, and it just gets better and better as the years go on.” With IMG’s exceptional production facilities near Heathrow at Stockley Park and Panasonic’s expertise, Sport 24 has established a robust distribution network that transcends geographical barriers and time zones, ensuring passengers can enjoy live sports coverage wherever they travel.
Focus on Women’s Sports and Diverse Audiences:
Recognising the growing popularity of women’s sports, Sport 24 actively showcases premium events across various disciplines. Wise emphasised their commitment to gender equality in sports, stating, “If it ticks those premium boxes with a global audience, then it’s good enough to be on the Sport 24 channels.” The upcoming Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand will receive extensive coverage, with every match broadcast live on the channels.
“I think it’s going to be a huge success for one, you know, it’s going to obviously take place in Australia and New Zealand. And we’re putting a lot of effort behind it. We’re going to be showing every match live on the channels, which is really important. I will be doing up-marketing and promoting around it, as it’s become probably the premium women’s event on the channels for Sport 24. There’s two things that we totally focus on. One is live content, live live live as much as we can. And the other thing is premium premium premium. So it doesn’t matter if it’s women or men’s, if it’s premium sports we want to show it and the Women’s World Cup is a perfect example. We did the Men’s World Cup and now we’re doing the Women’s World Cup.”
Additionally, Sport 24 appeals to a diverse audience, targeting both holidaymakers on cruise ships and business or frequent traveller’s on airlines. Wise highlighted their strategy of delivering premium sports content from around the world, stating, “We’re primetime all the time…we go through all the best sports from around the world and then put them together on this channel.” By catering to global sporting preferences, Sport 24 ensures passengers have access to a wide range of top-tier events throughout their journey.
Data and Future Improvements:
While collecting viewership data remains a challenge due to varying airline policies, Wise mentioned their efforts to gather data from airlines and conduct surveys to better understand audience preferences. Continual improvements in data collection and analysis remain a priority for Sport 24. Wise acknowledges the challenge of obtaining viewership data from airlines and cruise liners but highlights the instancy that captures a different audience.
Unravelling the Uniqueness:
Sport 24’s distinctiveness lies in its ability to deliver live sports action to passengers in real-time. From iconic events like the UEFA Champions League final and the Roland Garros tennis tournament to major sporting spectacles such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sport 24 ensures that viewers are not just spectators but active participants in global sporting moments. Wise emphasises, “It’s live sports whilst you’re traveling…you’re seeing it at the same time as anyone else is watching it in the world.”
Last year, the Men’s FIFA World Cup served as a resounding success for Sport 24, with over 800 planes and 150 cruise ships broadcasting the tournament to millions of viewers. Richard Wise proudly acknowledges the immense engagement the channel garnered, stating, “Over 25 million people engaged with it in airports.” Videos showcasing passengers celebrating onboard bear testimony to the channel’s popularity and the realisation of Wise’s vision to bring live sports to new frontiers.
Technological Challenges and Advancements:
Broadcasting live sports at high speeds through changing time zones and different satellites posed significant technological challenges. However, Wise credits the partnership with Panasonic Avionics, which captures the satellite feeds and distributes the channel to licensed planes, as a crucial component of Sport 24’s success. He affirms, “Technology’s there…it just gets better and better as the years go on.”
Sport 24 adopts a strategy of being primetime all the time by curating the best sports from around the world. This approach caters to diverse audiences, ranging from holidaymakers on cruise ships to business travelers on airlines. Wise explains, “We tend to focus on what…is the most watched content from around the globe…we try and be basically at peak time the whole time.”