Fri | Oct 20, 2017

GraceKennedy lands media rights to high school sports events

Published:Sunday | August 2, 2015 | 12:00 AMCamilo Thame
An aerial view of the National Stadium on the final day of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships in March 2015.
Don Wehby, CEO of GraceKennedy and chairman of GK Capital.
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GraceKennedy (GK) has secured the media rights to all Inter Secondary Schools' Sporting Association (ISSA) events for the next 15 years.

While the group of companies has been a long-time supporter of sports at the secondary level - it spends around US$1 million a year sponsoring Boys and Girls Athletics Championship (Champs) alone - the joint venture with ISSA marks the food and financial conglomerate's entry into media, through its investment arm, GK Capital.

A special purpose vehicle, Greenfield Media Productions, in which GraceKennedy has controlling interest, has been set up, and negotiations with potential media partners for several sporting events are advanced.

"We believe we can maximise the value of the media rights of school boy and girl sports in Jamaica," the conglomerate's group CEO, Don Wehby, told Sunday Business.

He declined to say which companies were at the negotiation table or how much the media rights could potentially be worth as they were being auctioned, but he suggested that online streaming of content would go a far way towards bolstering the traditional television and radio rights.

"ISSA is expected to see a significant increase in its annual income from media rights sales," Wehby added.

The sports association does not typically disclose its earnings, so it is hard to estimate the value of those broadcast rights, especially after it is expanded to international coverage. As a case in point, RJR Group paid $3 million to air the 2012 DaCosta Cup schoolboy football season, whereas exclusive media rights to show in Jamaica all FIFA events being held from 2015 to 2022 cost the media company US$2 million in 2013.

Also, ISSA's portfolio includes boys and girl football, cricket, netball, boys and girls basketball, volleyball, swimming, table tennis, badminton, hockey and the marquee event - Champs.

"The joint venture aims to increase the development of media content for traditional and non-traditional sports and expand distribution in the local and international markets," said a statement from GK Capital, which is headed by Steven Whittingham. "There will also be human-interest content generated on athletes and institutions which will promote Brand Jamaica's sporting accomplishments and prowess to the diaspora and the world."

ISSA President Dr Walton Small sees the deal as an opportunity to further develop sports and high-school athletic programmes, while Wehby has plans to use some of the earnings made by GK Capital to increase the conglomerate's support to education.

One of GK Foundation's goals is to double the number of students from the inner city who get scholarships from 500 to 1,000 by year 2020.

camilo.thame@gleanerjm.com