ITN Productions appoints Leadsom and Fulton as IAAF seeks new head of platforms and distribution
By Simon Ward
ITN Productions, the production business of the UK-based television news and content provider, has recruited Sam Leadsom and Mark Fulton, two experienced sports broadcasting executives, to senior roles in which they will drive the development of a new joint venture with the IAAF, athletics’ international governing body.
The appointments come as the IAAF itself seeks a new director of platforms and distribution whose remit will include the joint venture, known as IAAF Productions.
In August, ITN Productions landed its most significant contract to date when it was chosen by the IAAF to be its partner on a project intended to enable the federation to take greater control over the way its major events are presented, with the highest quality broadcasting standards.
IAAF Productions will initially deliver host broadcasting of IAAF World Athletics Series and World Indoor Tour events, plus all the organisation's non-live production requirements, including magazine and feature programming, digital and branded content. It will work with rights-holders, event organisers, sponsors and athletes to ensure consistency of production across the sport.
Leadsom (pictured), who will join ITN Productions in January, as head of host broadcasting, has spent the last four years in Singapore heading up international broadcaster Fox Sports’ production efforts across multiple platforms in Asia.
He previously spent 20 years at IMG Media, the media arm of the international agency, in the UK, where he was executive producer of Premier League Productions, overseeing PLTV, the dedicated content service of English soccer’s Premier League, with responsibility for live match-day production, news bulletins, studio, magazine shows, phone-ins and archived programming.
Fulton, who is taking on the role of executive producer, athletics, has 30 years of experience as a producer and director, and is himself an ex-athlete.
He has worked on the last two Olympic Games, soccer World Cups and the IAAF World Championships, plus coverage of the Premier League, rugby union, show jumping and sailing.
In 2017 alone, he has directed coverage of UCI World Cup cycling and the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and was executive producer of ITN Productions’ host broadcasting of the IAAF World Relays in Nassau in the Bahamas in April, which preceded its appointment as the joint venture partner for IAAF Productions.
Welcoming the new appointments, Alastair Waddington, the director of sport at ITN Productions, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to attract outstanding talent like Sam and Mark to our growing international sports production business. Sam’s broad expertise and recent experience working for a major rights holder qualifies him to lead our host broadcast operation as we begin the journey towards the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha.
“As a former athlete, Mark brings unique editorial insight to our work with the IAAF to bring athletics to new audiences. He will be the key editorial figure in our coverage of athletics and will play a significant role in the development of IAAF Productions.”
Prior to the IAAF tie-up, ITN Productions’ headline agreement was its contract to film and edit matches from English soccer’s second-tier Championship, plus the League One and League Two divisions (as well as the League Cup and EFL Trophy), for which it is in the final season of a three-year deal.
It also provided digital clip production services for last month's Women’s Cricket World Cup in England in June and July.
The IAAF has launched the recruitment process for a director of platforms and distributions to succeed the departing Alicia Klein, and the role has been expanded to include managing IAAF Productions.
The position is primarily a sales management one, with the appointed candidate to collaborate with existing partners, including the European Broadcasting Union and ESPN Media Distribution, which handle the distribution of rights to major IAAF events in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa respectively, and Dentsu, which has the responsibility in all other markets.
The individual will report to IAAF chief executive Olivier Gers who told Sportcal: “It’s really about delivering the maximum value of the rights across all platforms, and I mean all platforms, as it’s television and digital.”
This will entail working with broadcasting rights holders on the showcasing of athletics, and its coverage on digital platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, although the IAAF does not have plans for its own over-the-top service at this stage,
IAAF Productions is to take on host broadcast services previously conducted by the federation in partnership with various production companies, domestic broadcasters and also Eurovision, the EBU’s production and distribution arm
Gers said the joint venture “will sit in-house and out-of-house,” adding: “ITN is putting resources in and it [IAAF Productions] will act as host broadcaster for as many of our events as possible and, in time, become the de facto production company for the sport.”
In addition to rights-holders, IAAF Productions will work with event organisers, sponsors and athletes in order to ensure the highest quality broadcast, and could ultimately operate beyond track and field.
Gers said: “One of the ambitions is the potential to use the joint venture to service other sports if our teams are not all down covering events.”
The key responsibilities of the director of platforms and distribution role are listed as to:
• Formulate and communicate a vision for the IAAF, working with senior leadership to effectively see it through to completion
• Maximise revenue and the promotion of IAAF’s brand through the distribution of world-class content using traditional and new media platforms, including broadcast, digital, OTT and new technologies
• Lead and build a high performing platforms and distribution division at the IAAF, to be based in London and Monaco
• Manage the relationship with the IAAF’s distribution partners, coordinating sales processes, contracts overview, and communication with rights holding broadcasters
• Manage IAAF Productions, coordinating its business plan, budgets, guidelines, editorial guidance, host broadcast plans, development of new technologies, relationship with IAAF stakeholders (staff, LOCs, partners, etc.)
The experience and professional qualifications sought by the IAAF are as follows:
• Commercial/deal making & negotiation skills are essential
• Big picture thinker & strategic mindset: make sound business decisions, with effective prioritization
• First-class experience of producing, or overseeing the production of engaging content, both long and short form and for a verity of platforms
• Intimate knowledge of sports rights contracts as well as global media trends and developments
• Deep understanding of TV and digital platforms and the ever converging landscape of how to best distribute content in order to grow commercial revenues and audiences
• Experience across international territories and an excellent network with broadcasters, agencies and right-holders
Further details on the post and how to apply are available at http://www.odgersberndtson.com/en-gb/opportunities#AssignDetail.aspx?guid=63668&j=e