Lasha Machavariani: SMH Sports using ‘the positive power of sports’ in Euarsian media

credit: SMH
credit: SMH

The Eurasia region is home to numerous countries and cultures with a deep passion for sports, but it has been ‘neglected and undervalued’ by media brands – SMH Sports has a mission to change this.

Lasha Machavariani, SMH Sports’ Founder and CEO, explained the company’s Eurasian ambitions and wider media portfolio to Insider Sport, including its ambitions to take Italy’s oldest sports paper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, to new audiences across the region.

Can you walk us through SMH Sports’ portfolio of media assets and how these serve the company’s overarching vision and strategy?

SMH Sports is an absolute leader among privately-owned sports organisations in the region, suffice to remember that we have accumulated in our portfolio diverse media assets that allow us to build a true convergence between sports, igaming and media.

Apart from operating our own media sources, we are official representatives of Setanta Sports in Eurasian region, which provides streaming services in 15 countries and broadcasts major sports events, La Gazzetta dello Sport – historic sports newspaper that we have launched in Georgia and by the end of this year we will be present in several other countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia; ESports Insider, go-to platform for esports business news and insights and Sofascore – a premier sports live data provider that delivers real-time information with whom we have established a strategic partnership just recently and have major development plans in the region.

We strongly believe in the positive power of sports, and for SMH Sports, it is not only about enlarging the portfolio of media assets, but also about leveraging success in sports and popularising it. We have been active in successfully organising and supporting various amateur and professional sports events such as numerous grassroots tournaments, charity events like Game4Ukraine in London, and football legends matches, like the one in Batumi played this March, just to name a few.

What opportunities are there for sports media growth and innovation in Eurasia?

The region is rather neglected and undervalued by the sports media brands while it represents roughly a population of 150 million people that are as passionate and active in sports as anywhere in Western Europe, plus we operate in the Philippines with the population of over 100 million. 

Although each of the countries in the region have their particularities, it is obvious that our audience appreciates our ‘digital first’ approach. Also, we are well-positioned when it comes to catering to the wants and needs of our audience due to our diverse portfolio

Which Eurasian markets is SMH Sports targeting and why does the company expect strong potential from these markets?

We cover over 25 countries and our strategy might differ depending on the state of sports and media in the country. In our short-term plans we view the launch of La Gazzetta dello Sport in Ukraine, Romania, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan as a main priority. It is a year full of major sports events: Euro2024, Summer Olympics – Paris2024. We could not ask for a better time to launch sports media of La Gazzetta’s calibre at a better time.

How does SMH Sports aim to bridge the gap between igaming and sports in Eurasia?

SMH is indeed in a unique position in this instance, as we are official representatives of SBC, SBC Advisory Partners and also publish in partnership with SBC, industry’s leading news platform.

Thus, we have igaming expertise that allows us to bring together sports organisations and betting companies – in many countries of our region, sports sponsorships might be the only way to promote betting; at the same time we know what sports fans need and provide this insights to betting operators, so that they can craft their offering and products accordingly.

The most important mission for all players of the industry is obviously responsible gambling and we are committed to raising awareness around it through our media platforms.

Can you walk us through your partnership with La Gazzetta dello Sport? Why is this such an important partnership for SMH Sports?

La Gazzetta dello Sports is a historic and one of the most respected sports publications in the world. In the history of its existence, we are the first licensee and we have been honoured with the right not only to translate, but create & publish content.

The brand is well-known in the region and it stands for unbiased, honest journalistic work. By bringing the publication to the region we are set to change the sports media landscape.

Is esports an unrealised or under-tapped opportunity in Eurasian sports media?

In some countries of our region, esports is already well-established with growing audiences, professional teams, and tournaments. 

However, in others, it is still on an emerging stage, and its potential remains largely untapped. We would like to reignite conversation among the stakeholders, such as governments, sports organisations, brands to attract attention and investments, thus helping the esports to evolve and develop.

How is SMH Sports capturing media opportunities in esports via its strategic partnership with Esports Insider? What are the long-term goals of this partnership?

Esports’ growing popularity has urged many companies to tap into the competitive gaming industry but it is obvious that many still lack a source of quality business esports news and content. Esports Insider in a local language will be driving growth in the esports industry, and solidifying its positions as leaders in the esports media space.

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