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Bernard Stewart

Founder, CEO and Managing Partner

Bart World Communications, Ltd.

A TV Executive with over 30 years of Broadcast Entertainment experience. My current business focus is Content Development, Strategic Consultancy and Business Investment. During my career I have launched Broadcast Networks around the globe, directed or consulted on high-profile negotiations and served as Executive in charge of production for World class events. (e.g. FIFA World Cup, The Olympics and UEFA Champions League).

 

I have created, produced or developed over 30 original series and multi-platform program concepts for network and syndication distribution.

 

I served on the Board of Director for ESPN STAR Sports, was the Chairman of the Management Advisory Committee of Japan Sports Channel.

 

Broadcast and Entertainment Specialist

  • Series creator and Executive Producer of the internationally distributed TV program series - "LEGENDS OF CRICKET".

  • Author of the business management and life coaching book, “Fifty50 - A Guide to a successful Work Life Balance”.

  • CANOC Broadcasting, Inc (Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees) Broadcast Consultant

  • WICB (West Indies Cricket) Consultant

  • Investment advisor for industrial, casino and arena development,

I am recognized as a featured international industry speaker with appearances that include Renmin University, The Peoples Republic of China, International Trade Specialist for the United States at The Bahamas Copyright Stakeholder summit, and the Jamaica Sports Business Summit on Global Brand building.

Broadcast Specialist Specialties: Key specialties are - international broadcast and multimedia business management; network affiliate negotiations; media asset purchases; media assets merger and acquisition; content development and acquisition negotiations; broadcast network launch (first international version of ESPN HD, ESPN Maritime media services)

Sport Franchise and Entertainment business development

 around the globe (Japan, Australia, Asia, South America, the Caribbean and at sea)

Tony Deyal, Columnist

 

High up in the top tier of the Trelawny stadium in Jamaica, I sat watching Shaka Hislop, Russell Latapy, Robbie Earle and some other football coaches working with about 100 young boys and girls.  While I admired their commitment and enthusiasm, I was even more impressed by their courage under fire - braving the extreme midday heat without wilting.

 

I was waiting for an opportunity to interview Bernard Stewart, the vice-president of ESPN responsible for its Caribbean operations and maritime media.

 

Caribbean was launched in December 2008 and its first Caribbean foray was the coverage of the Regional T20 tournament.

 

I normally would not pay much attention, or give much credibility, to anyone whose initials are 'BS', but Bernard Stewart is different.

 

He was one of the 43 people with ESPN when it started in 1980. Before he took over the new Caribbean thrust, Stewart was vice-president and general manager of ESPN Asia Pacific. He is also the author of The Fifty/50 Rule: Guide to a Successful Working Life Balance.  I had met him the day before at the Half Moon resort where the soccer clinic was launched and where Stewart decided to talk about ESPN Caribbean.

 

He made the point that his job in the Caribbean is easier than it was in Asia, where he had to sell people on what ESPN was.

 

He argued that since we in the Caribbean all know ESPN, particularly late in the night when it is the only show in town, he is concentrating on what ESPN can do for us individually and collectively.

His first major foray into what he calls "telling the stories that need to be brought out" and "getting the kinds of stories that sports fans want" was broadcasting the regional T20 tournament in the top ESPN markets, especially in the Asia Pacific and North American regions.

 

The first thing I asked Stewart was why ESPN was interested in the Caribbean. My own experience in trying to market cricket globally was that most people considered the region too small and were really not interested.

 

Yet, here was ESPN with a dedicated Caribbean channel and spending money in community activities with the promise of more to come in terms of expanding the programme to the rest of Jamaica and the region.

 

"After I spent 10 years in Asia and returned to the ESPN headquarters, we had to decide on what would be my next assignment," said Stewart.

 

"Given my experience, it had to be something strong and challenging. In looking at the options, the Caribbean came up. We realised how important it had become to our overall portfolio."

 

There are three components of the ESPN strategy - covering the sports stories in the region and increasing the existing market for ESPN in the region, getting involved with the cruise-ship business the way the major television networks in the United States have their programming niches in the airline industry, and reaching as well as involving the people of the diaspora in the United States, Canada and Britain. This changes the market from about three million viewers to at least 20 million, maybe much more, especially with cricket which caters to the vast and insatiable demand for the sport in Asia.

Menu of sports 

 

Stewart said people were interested in a menu of sports, with athletics, football and cricket being the top three.

 

"We are trying with the clinic to find out what goes on inside the schools. We asked athletes, what was your strongest dream as a child? Their overwhelming response was "going to a high school stadium and playing before a capacity audience at a high- school event'. My question is, can I get them back to that?" said the ESPN executive.

 

Down below me, the aspiring Reggae Boyz and Girlz were learning to take shots on goal, so I tried one from outside.

 

"What about SportsMax?" I asked. From the height of the ESPN domination of world sports coverage, he was entitled to reply, 'Who?', but he did not.

 

"They're an important part of the local and regional scene," Stewart conceded. "We complement each other. We're free to air. From the viewer's standpoint, we offer an international array of options. In the Caribbean, we will be working with local partners like Flow and this will force each of us to make our products better. Consumers are very focused on value for money and that is what we will provide to the Caribbean, as we have to the rest of the world."

 

I took the complimentary bit with a grain of salt. This is business and while it might be all sports, it is not free of games.

 

As I watched from the back row of the stands, with Stewart in close-up and the youngsters and their coaches in the distance, the sweat glistening on them, I realised that ESPN had already charted a course that was two-pronged - get the big sports like cricket and football on the big screen, and apply some money and interest in the development of youth sports.

 

However, the Caribbean is not an easy place to work. Even though English is the common language, every island, every piece of sand and rock, is a nation entire unto itself and guards its sovereignty jealously.

 

When you get closer, the same word has different meanings in each country.

In cricket, you cannot just deal with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB); you also have to negotiate with the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) which has the final say on timing and venues, as well as with all the different countries, since the WICB owns nothing - not even a roller or a mower - except the right to manage West Indies cricket.

 

There are issues of piracy. In Antigua, my cable subscriber does not have ESPN Caribbean since it pirates the ESPN signal out of the US, and there are other providers doing the same thing in the other countries.

 

Then there is the need for getting advertising support, and that is the only way that ESPN can continue with the service.

 

Stewart constantly made the point that the business model must be profitable.

One of the challenges to ensure the financial success of ESPN Caribbean is getting the diaspora outposts aware, on board and getting what they want to see.

 

In football, there is Jack Warner and, given his recent fallout with the board of Caribbean Airlines Limited - he is the line minister - it is not all plain sailing.

 

suppose that we have to ask whether ESPN's interest in football for one part of Jamaica, and its insistence that the programme will eventually spread through the Caribbean, is all PR or for real.

This leads to the next question: What are ESPN's chances of success in its plans for the region and for the diaspora? If the money and support are there, if the cruise ships and the diaspora folk get on board, and some regional conglomerates buy into ESPN Caribbean, I would think it is better than Bernard Stewart's book title - more than 'fifty/50'.

 

I would give it odds of about '80/20' and falling fast.

 

Email: tdeyal@yahoo.co.uk