Such is the draw of high-action, high-energy sports content that in 2023, Deloitte predicts that streamers will spend more than $6 billion on exclusive major sports rights in the largest global markets. For context, in 2021, streaming providers spent a combined $50 billion on all content: they are investing a significant proportion of their entire content budget on sports.
For sports organisations, this presents four key opportunities:
1. Monetising rights further: For premium sports competitions, streamers’ interest provides added competition for rights and/or distribution to reach a broader audience. For smaller and newer sports and leagues, streaming platforms can offer the benefits of coverage for the first time to increase awareness, and alternative commercialisation models (e.g. advertising-supported) beyond the traditional rights fee.
2. Appealing to younger consumers: While younger generations are less likely to watch full matches, their overall content consumption continues to increase, and that consumption takes place increasingly on digital platforms. In 2022, we witnessed a rush among clubs, leagues and governing bodies to respond to fans’ growing demand for sports content by partnering with streaming platforms to produce additional content taking fans beyond the live match.
3. Making it personal: Streaming services could provide new innovations around personalisation, interaction and real-time data analysis. In the future, we expect to see further experimentation from streaming providers looking to offer more tailored experiences, such as offering multiple live feeds in-game.
4. Growing global audiences: Giving viewers in different countries easier access to sports they might not be as familiar with and providing sports organisations with greater transparency of the popularity of their content.
The challenges to overcome
Streaming platforms may provide fans with access to even more content related to their favourite sports – such as original documentaries, behind-the-scenes content and associated secondary competitions. However, the fragmentation of rights across even more platforms could make it more difficult, and costly, for fans to access what they want to watch when they want to watch it. Rightsholders and streamers must work closely together to ensure that they aren’t creating artificial barriers to fan engagement.
What’s more, there are technical challenges when streaming live sport. Sports content is often fast-paced and therefore necessitates a higher frame rate than other media genres. In addition, live sporting events are more sensitive to latency issues and, when streamed, delays can be a minute or more. This could be a real issue for many, particularly with premium-priced subscriptions, as sports fans will demand high picture quality and superb reliability.
Meanwhile, rights holders may not want to risk a critical revenue stream when current linear broadcasts are already high-quality, low-latency, and have significant pre-existing production and distribution infrastructure already in place.
What’s to come
It will take at least a couple of rights cycles before the future of watching live sports is realised. For some major sports, the next opportunity for streaming providers to bid for rights and grow their share will not be until the early 2030s, by which time underlying industry economics may have evolved, possibly markedly.
For sports streaming to go the distance, sports organisations and entertainment companies should consider several things:
• Put the fan first: Skilfully used, first-party data can provide insight into fans’ needs and preferences. As a result, careful analysis of audience engagement will help organisations to deliver the right amount of quality content, easy access, an engaging user experience and exclusive perks, all at a reasonable cost.
• Expand the streaming service’s influence: The next generation of fans will consume sport across several platforms. Brands should consider how best to integrate social media, online games, fantasy sports and other digital engagement channels into the overall offer.
• Improve streaming’s technical aspects: In order to enhance broadcast quality – eventually moving from 4k to 8k resolution, reducing latency and eliminating service interruptions. This will help ensure live sport remains truly ‘live’ when streamed.
Ultimately, the question for sports organisations is whether media deals are both meeting their current fans’ needs and helping to build a future fan base. For many, streaming platforms, as part of a broader media strategy, may provide an opportunity to do both.
About Deloitte’s Sports Business Group
Deloitte is a leading advisor to the sports business market, with more than 1,000 experts advising clients across sport.
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