We head down under and to the world of tennis to talk to Alfonso Medina, Head of Media Rights at Tennis Australia about his career, his average week, his number one focus and much more!
Grab a brew and enjoy the latest instalment of Industry Insider…
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Alfonso Medina, originally from Tenerife (Spain), and I’m the Head of Media Rights at Tennis Australia, based in Melbourne.
Prior to this I lived in London for 12 years until 2014, and had a similar role at the English Football League, which, as a foreigner, was fascinating – as I got to discover parts of England, and their amazing local communities, I had never been to before.
Prior to that I had more agency-like roles, representing dozens of sports properties, at both Endemol Sport and ESPN International. But I started my career at the sport industry portal Sportcal.com, followed by a 3 year stint as a production coordinator at the International Tennis Federation.
I feel fortunate I’ve been able to develop my career in the sport industry and have made so many great friends through work.
What do you do in your current role?
My team and I look after the global licensing of all video, audio and data, from our tournaments and archive, to media platforms around the world. This includes the Australian Open, one of the four Grand Slams, and other tennis tournaments including the Laver Cup, and the recently announced United Cup.
Whether it is live or delayed transmission, on TV and/or online, or highlights clips for social or digital platforms, whether it is seconds of footage for a TV ad or news programs, or live scoring data for bookmakers, or a radio broadcast, we have a whole range of rights we commercialise in over 200 territories.
Separately, I’m also responsible for negotiating with our clients, in our rights deals, compelling rights to retain for our owned and operated digital platforms (our official website, app and social channels) to engage with fans in any number of ways, prior to, during and after matches and tournaments.
Normal isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “ average” week look
That’s right, even less for a Grand Slam tournament that “only” lasts 2 weeks. Many people ask what we do the rest of the year!
We have a few different stages of the year.
July to September are all about planning, innovating, budgeting, closing deals where required, looking at new opportunities.
October to December is all about operations, working with all our clients to prepare for January, broadcast schedules, digital and marketing content, access to tickets and promotions, invoicing and collecting! production presence onsite…
January is all about execution, implementation, supporting our partners, and all other key stakeholders, reacting to issues, solving on the spot, and, where possible, have a bit of fun too!
February to April are post-event reporting, global broadcast data collection -we reach over 200 territories and, on average, more than 30 hours a day (between different channels) are broadcast in every country-, endless debriefs, what went south, and what worked well – we also take time to rest and recover.
And May and June we may pull the foot a bit, take some extended breaks, keep an eye on Roland Garros and Wimbledon and other properties.
It never ends really.
How did you end up where you are right now?
I lived in London for 12 years, where I had some amazing roles and great development opportunities. Then, in 2014, the opportunity to join Tennis Australia came up and it didn’t take me long to say yes. It was the perfect timing for me, taking on a global role, creating an in-house sales team from scratch and growing a media business was incredibly appealing.
I felt at home within five minutes, both with TA and in Melbourne, and I’ve had an incredible ride since, travelling -pre-pandemic- to over 30 countries, doing over 250 deals since (and counting), with some incredible highs and record revenues, as well as complex challenges, and lots of learning every year. If anyone told me back in 2014 that we’d achieve half of what we have achieved, I’d have told them they were dreaming!
When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I remember thinking, in my teens, that I really wanted to work in sport. I was exposed to professional football and basketball back then through my family, and I was so intrigued. Fast forward to my early 20s, after finishing Law, I had this great chat with my father where I told him I wanted to work in sport. He was totally supportive. I made my way to the UK after completing a masters in business, and after many rejections, I got my first opportunity at Sportcal – which was like a dream for me at the time.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Delivering results in the areas that really matter, when they matter. This in itself has a very broad scope. For example, in a major rights negotiation this might be getting the biggest fee one time, or reserve the most compelling rights for our channels another. But, when managing a broadcast partner during the craziness of the Australian Open, when we have 64 matches to schedule overnight, it may be to prioritise, above all, having a doubles pair from India to play not before 3pm Melbourne time, as that’s 9:30am in Mumbai.
It can also be dropping all work priorities and supporting that team member that may be going through a rough patch personally, and supporting their wellbeing above anything else.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
A huge learning experience was being made redundant at the beginning of 2012, through no fault of my own as the company let go of all staff and shut down the business. It was a turning point that made me realise that they can take things away from you just like that. What I did was to start networking right away, freelancing for a few people I knew, and taking time to travel around Asia too, which I had never done. By September I had received three formal offers to join three very different companies, and I chose the Football League – which eventually led me to Australia!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
Having worked in tennis for 10+ years, between different roles, it’s great to see so much positive debate and progress about women’s sport in recent times. Tennis has been doing that for decades, with equal prize money and both men and women playing on the same courts in the same tournaments, and generating huge ratings – so it is great to see everyone else catching up and be able to engage in meaningful discussions.
Another area is the fast development of proper interactive digital experiences in multiple platforms, whether metaverse, gaming, NFTs or web3; they don’t come without risks and things can change very, very quickly, but how it’ll all look like in 10 years is very exciting.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
The amount of speculators and ‘investors’ that are in for a quick buck, with no regard for the sport itself or the clubs and communities they get involved with. Sport has this glamour around it, which millions of fans around the world love… But it’s huge business, and with that come lots of risks and downsides, and many ‘investors’ completely disregard this, do not bother to learn about it, which it’s pretty sad.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Having become a dad last year really put things into context, and when it is not work, it’s parenting time (and often both at the same time). This leaves not many hours a week where you can switch off properly. But I feel very fortunate I work in sport – I mean I can put sport on TV when I am at home and get away saying it’s for research purposes. Which if not 100% every time, I do watch sport always looking for different things in coverage, graphics, innovation. And most mornings than not I give my son breakfast whilst having one sport or another on TV!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
I was recently fortunate enough to give a (virtual) seminar, about the sport industry, at my former business school, the ESCP. The 30+ students that attended were very curious about how to work in sport. My advice is to, first of all, follow your passion, follow your heart.
If you feel like what you want to do is to bring the biggest basketball tournament possible to your home country, then go for it. Do research, look what skills you need, what companies are involved in those sort of things. Set yourself a timeframe, short and medium term, and think where you want to be in one or two years time.
I also tell people looking for advice that it is perfectly ok, and even a great idea, to start somewhere else other than sport. You can work in finance, legal, marketing, the food industry, or events, or music, and then switch to sport with a range of highly transferable skills that will give you the chance to be in a very strong place as a candidate. And also, be ready for some long days and nights, and working weekends and holidays – it comes with it, but you get so much reward out of it all.
How to connect with Alfonso Medina…
Best is here https://www.linkedin.com/in/alfonsomra/
Thanks for reading our chat with Alfonso Medina! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.