Archive for August, 2008

Aug 27 2008

Leaving NY

Published by jl under Main Page

Since last night, it’s been a utter sense of deja vu, with twice the misery. Last night, in my empty apartment (roomy moved out on Sat), with all my stuff packed, the utter sense of unhappiness was overwhelming. I couldn’t wait to leave this place in its current state.

So after a sleepless night tossing and turning, I’m waiting for my movers to come and take away all my stuff. Of course they’re late. What better way to drag out this depressive time and throw my schedule off. It’s been a great 2 years here. It’s definitely been the favorite apartment I’ve lived in my whole life, and I’ve been in a lot of apartments. Not just the fact that it was in NYC, but that I’ve put in so much of my personal touch to make it home. And as I packed things and threw others out, it felt like an act of tearing down something I love.

Don’t worry though, I’ll make it fine. More updates to follow.

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Aug 21 2008

Times on Stewart

Published by jl under Main Page

I didn’t say much about my visit to the Daily Show other than express how much I enjoyed it. I recently stumbled across this article in the NYT that sheds good insight into his show and how he operates. If you’re even remotely a fan of Jon Stewart, go check it out. We can only hope that more people in the media would have his intellectual discernment and honestly to call out the hypocrisy of politics. And on a similar note, ask me some time why I don’t think democracy is the right answer, and why I don’t accept at face value Churchill’s quote on how “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

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Aug 20 2008

Global Business of Sports

Published by jl under Main Page

Since hooked on the Olympics over the last weeks, reading this recent Economist article on the business of global sports put me in a pensive mood, about myself and the economics of sports, locally and worldwide. After all, the very nature of sports appeals to all people, regardless of ethnic lines. Compared to other forms of entertainment, sports offer drama with meaningful yet unpredictable outcomes. But differences do exist in the business world across national boundaries. I realize that in the US, people are constantly surrounded by sports related media, from live games to newspaper sports sections to fan blogs. My passion for professional basketball has fomented my voracious consumption of all things NBA. And while I may be considered obsessive, in the grand scheme of rabid sports fandom, I would probably rank a 7 out of 10 on an exponentially sliding scale. So how does that translate into something more measurable, something meaningful like money? And how is it different around the world?

Let’s begin with the US market. According to the aforementioned article, yearly broadcasting fees alone generated $3.7B of revenue for the NFL, and almost $1B respectively for both the NBA and MLB. That doesn’t even account for the rest of the long revenue tail of sports, such as merchandise and tickets, multiplied by the vector of sports diversity like the NCAA, Olympics, NASCAR, salsa championships, professional bowling, etc. This non-stop parade of sports bombards people in the US, like myself, everyday throughout every season of the year. There’s always something, even on Christmas day. And this has led to US to possess the most mature and diverse sports market in the world. By market, I mean the entire ecosystem that encompasses fans, media, sports leagues, athletes, advertisers (and more). Consumers used to all this choice force these professional leagues to step up their game and compete for attention. This Darwinian competitiveness bleeds into all other aspects of the business, from the marketing campaigns of the sports to the advertising agencies behind star athletes that endorse product xyz. And this incredible level of saturation has bred the most mature consumers, sports leagues, and advertisers that revolve around the never-ending cycle of sports entertainment. I can’t imagine any other country that bests the US in this regard.

My claim of the advanced development of the US market implies no disrespect to others. Just as it was a matter of time for other countries to catch up and surpass the US in other aspects such as education or broadband penetration, other countries – more accurately the entire food chain of sports consumption from leagues to broadcasters – are closing in rapidly. Take the two most populated countries in the world, China and India for example, as the average income rises, the potential for consumer exploitation has local and foreign businesses salivating more than Pavlov’s puppies at a jingle bells concert. The palpable hunger for more sports heroes and competitive entertainment has them foaming at the mouths. And luckily for them, the path to maximizing revenue is a short one. All they need is to look at the US market, replicate the successful models and avoid the expensive mistakes.

Let’s examine the state of professional basketball internationally, a subject often on my mind. For starters, the American brand of pro basketball continues to gain huge popularity overseas. A recent LA Times article headlined “Kobe Bryant Rules China,” portraying a US player’s immense popularity (beyond that of Chinese ones) in the world’s fastest growing market for basketball. Meanwhile, the NBA finds itself willing but unable to satiate the demand in these markets. Their commissioner David Stern voiced plans to expand into China and India, with regret that from a product perspective, the NBA can only offer a few exhibition games and establish affiliate leagues locally. But the international demand doesn’t care about the NBA’s inability to scale its product. This summer has been a prolific off-season of European leagues poaching NBA talent (see right sidebar of this Marc Stein article) to play all over Europe, from Greece to Russia. The pent up demand outside of the US is finally being let out, this time backed with hard Euros. It’s just a matter of years before we hear contracts signed in RMB. The NBA knows this and its options are limited. The question is can it execute fast enough before the window slams shut and local leagues establish an insurmountable barrier.

And that’s just the league. The marketing engines have already gotten a head start. While an endorsement deal with Nike or Adidas means global exposure, the local companies are getting involved too. The eponymous sports apparel company Li Ning, proudly suiting all Chinese Olympic athletes, is known to pay certain NBA players for local endorsements. The examples go on and on, but it’s clear that the monetary growth in this area is certain to follow that textbook hockey stick trajectory.

What does this all signify for the experts here? I don’t mean the established professional leagues or the apparel giants, but rather the individuals whose competitive advantage lies in the experience of being part of the saturated US sports market. How can one leverage talent and experience developed here to getting a piece of that pie? It’s tricky. We tend to underestimate cultural differences that must be addressed. And these differences aren’t limited to the way the sports are played or appreciated, they extend into the marketing and technology models as well. Nonetheless, the opportunities to learn in these new markets are enticing. Two years back in INSEAD I wasn’t aware of any sports business courses offered, and I only know of one classmate who got into the business. Today, I’m certain that entrepreneurial people are already there, getting their hands dirty and adapting their own talents to the local scene. While I may not be ready to get into the game myself, I think some due diligence for investment opportunities would be worthwhile. If you know of any, please share in the comments.

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Aug 17 2008

Dark Knight Take 2

Published by jl under Main Page

Here I am, adding to all the hype of the record setting Dark Knight.  When it first came out, I settled for watching it in a normal theater.  After waiting for weeks, we finally scored tickets for the lone IMAX theater in Manhattan. (On a side note, I can’t imagine the wonders IMAX has done for Fandango’s bottomline)  By golly Batman, it was worth it! My comparison between the two versions is like watching standard definition versus high def, once tasting the good stuff, you can’t ever go back. Being the time troll that I am, I’d never justify watching the same flick twice for the sheer pleasure of eye candy. Nevertheless, I won’t get into how amazing were all the aspects of the movie, since so many people have done so already, and much more eloquently. What I will say though, is that don’t wait to catch this movie on the plane or on DVD. Treat yourself to the local IMAX theater and enjoy the best superhero / supervillain movie of the year.


Photo credits to Dave Lee

Photo credits to Dave Lee


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Aug 10 2008

Museum Hopping

Published by jl under Main Page,NYC

The best excuse for getting off my butt to seeing all the exhibits in town is to have visitors. Luckily for me, I leveraged that into seeing three exhibits over the past week. The picture below of Dali was taken on a crazy Friday night at MoMA. Crazy because I scrooged it for the free museum night, every Friday from 4-8pm, something I highly do not recommend. It’s like being stuck in the tourist mob of Times Square but without the option of ignoring the kitsch; the art is so damn enthralling that you can’t just leave. But back to Dali, one of my favorite pieces was the 6-minute Disney collaboration Destino. He started it in 1945 but the project never finished due to some controversies at the time. Disney resurrected it and completed the animation in 2003.


Too much art, not enough eyeballs

Too much art for too few eyeballs


The other place we stumbled upon through sheer Serendipity was the Family Guy inspired exhibit at the Paley Center for Media Arts. Other than the exhibit, which has paintings, everything else is on screen. You literally go in and watch TV all day, how’s that for people who can’t stand museums? They have several large theaters with daily scheduled projects. The George Carlin tribute featured the best of his stand-up comedy skits really impressed. Didn’t think I could connect with 70′s type stand-up but I was thoroughly entertained. I also browsed through their massive media library and watched the pilot showing of the Brady Bunch. Good family fashioned fun.

Last but not least, was the Buckminster Fuller exhibit at the Whitney Museum. Funny how ignorant I was of this extraordinary scientist, artist, architect, futurist. The exhibit, aptly titled “Starting with the Universe,” reveals the life works of Buckminster Fuller, things that we see today but never properly mentally credit, such as tetrahedron inspired architecture and structures. The man had such radical yet practical views that he shared loudly with the world. His thinking was way ahead of his time and it’d be hard for me to name a contemporary figure; the big names of today tend to be of more commercial or political fame.  Of the three exhibits, all of which I thorougly enjoyed, I felt most inspired by Fuller.  The geeky nature of his work applied to improving the world is something I can look up to.

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Aug 10 2008

Olympic Frenzy

Published by jl under Main Page

Didn’t expect to get caught up into the hype, but found myself inevitable drawn into it. Can I rave enough about the opening ceremony? The show they put on Friday night blew away all expectations. After watching it, I felt so happy for the hosts and people who obviously worked so hard to make it happen. While there were so many highlights, what stood out the most was in so many of the performances in the artistic portion, how thousands of people worked together, in harmony and unison, to perform, dance, tai-chi, etc. It captured perfectly the how China can use its magnitude, its people power in tandem with its cultural sense of welcoming to connect with the rest of the world. And doing so in such modest beauty and elegance will undoubtedly win people over.

Spending a majority of my life in the US and watching the Olympics over the past years, I find myself rooting for many of the US athletes. The inspirational stories in the past and of today are simply hard to ignore. At the same time, I root hard for China, for the athletes who trained so hard to represent their country in their coming out party. When comparing the two countries, there exist cultural differences in their approach to the games. The US athletes focus so much more about individualism, personal hard work and sweat to prove oneself. The Chinese athletes do it out of sheer pride for their country and their family. It is more about face than personal glory.

I root for both countries’ athletes and it’s not that conflicting. Today’s basketball game between the US and China showcased a superior team beating the lights out of the host nation. I felt great about it because the US did it with talent and hard work, none of the show-boating and on-court mockery that resulted in their past failures. The Chinese team, lost graciously and with pride. Epitomized by one of the classiest basketball players in the world, Yao Ming, the losing team never played scared and gave their full efforts up to the end of the buzzer. There wasn’t any sense of dirty plays or complaining. I wasn’t alone in seeing Yao cheer his team on at the end, jumping and hollering. When the two teams shook hands at the end of the game, you can see the genuine respect for him from the entire US coaching staff. While this was a case where US was expected to win, in other situations, I expect the best athlete to win, plain and simple, and I’m looking forward to the next two weeks of world class competition.

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Aug 05 2008

Jon Stewart Uncensored

Published by jl under Main Page

The man is great on his show, but even better in person. To see him live, mouthing off, interacting with the audience in his Q&A session was simply fantastic. And yes, he is very short.

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