The panel, hosted by Campaign’s head of media, Gideon Spanier, heard that major global competitions have ballooned in value, such as English football’s Premier League, which commands overseas rights dwarfing that of the US National Football League or Spain’s La Liga.
Pedro Avery, the global chief executive of Havas Sports & Entertainment, said investment by brands in sports marketing was growing at 5 per cent annually across the world, but the nature of brands’ relatioships with sport was changing.
Coca-Cola, for example, used to invest in 20 sports but now only focus on two because "they want to understand audience participation and the ROI they can get, not just the number of impressions… these big global brands are thinking a lot harder about how they invest in the sports world."
Avery warned that so-called "over the top" providers, such as YouTube and Twitter, are going to be more disruptive in the global sports broadcasting space. Earlier this month Twitter agreed a deal with the NFL to stream a number of live games exclusively on the social media platform, starting next season.
He said: "Live streaming is the ticking time bomb for sports broadcasters right now. All the sports channels have got to think hard about their role in the OTT marketplace. Advertisers are really appreciative of the potential to do a lot more segmentation through digital channels."
Simon Daglish, the deputy managing director of ITV Commercial, warned that sports risk losing wider publicity by chasing more lucrative rights deals by pay-TV broadcasters like Sky. He said ITV "can’t play the game" any longer because they cannot match the sums Sky and BT are willing to pay for live football.
But Duncan Wynn, the director of sales at Sky Media, argued that Sky needed to invest heavily in sport rights to keep hold of subscribers and that Sky was expanding coverage of sports that were never covered by BBC or ITV with the same level of detail.
On how Sky will compete with OTT providers, Wynn said: "Sky is also very aware of and we’ve also similarly developed a strategy around the normal linear TV and a Now TV offering, which is a pay-lite service and complemented also by Sky Go to help pick up play in a live-stream market."
From the point of view of a major sports team, Crystal Palace FC chairman Steve Parish was sceptical the Premier League would become more like the NFL and see salary caps for football stars and no relegation into lower leagues for the lowest ranked teams.
The competitiveness of the Premier League, rather than the appeal of its biggest teams, was the reason it is such a hugely lucrative product, Parish said.
Parish added: "We’re part of a media collective. It certainly won’t be driven by Crystal Palace, it needs to be competitive. That’s what's compelling. We have the model in span of negotations individually and we have the consequence of Barcelona beating Deportivo 8-0 last night.
"There are fascinating tensions with the Champions League and the Premier League…. Most of the people in the clubs are quite big thinkers and they understand you need to be part of a league to be successful. The way the revenue has been shared has worked very well for us."