June 24, 2021

How to reach sports fans when TV viewership is down

It is no surprise that TV consumption has been going down ever since mobile devices and streaming services went mainstream ten years ago. However, the rate in which it has diminished is staggering. According to the most recent Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, the time that adults between 18 and 34 years of age spent watching TV was down 77% in 2020 compared to 2015. 

This shift towards streaming and on-demand entertainment has been beneficial in terms of consumers. They are getting premium content directly on their devices without the restriction of a specific schedule, limited viewing options, or the need to watch on a big, bulky device. 

However, when it comes to what audiences can view in terms of sports, on-demand and streaming are still unable to compete with probably the only competitive advantage that TV has left: local and hyper-local programming.

While famous streaming productions are part of the massive cultural conversation, local sports events allow a connection between local communities. Unfortunately, TV networks still serve as gatekeepers for sports content, and local leagues need to rely on the local cable news to share results or coverage with fans. 

That is why on-demand sports streaming might find its place among millennials and centennials viewing preferences. These users already have their attention spans and consumption patterns attuned to their devices. If they are presented with the opportunity to engage with local sports events –from their high schools, local colleges or junior sports leagues– in the same way as they open a Netflix app, they will most likely welcome the offer. 

June 18, 2021

Personalized sports content via OTT is prime for Gen-Z fandom

The next generation of consumers will require online-based experiences that are flexible enough to become in-person when necessary. At least, that is what the current preferences of the Gen Z show. 

They experience their personal and professional lives in an almost exclusively digital manner. However, there’s room for experimentation when it comes to how they’re entertained. Gen Z-ers are able to exercise an 8-second attention span for short-content platforms like TikTok, but they’re also able to be gaming for up to three or four consecutive hours. 

Also, they are more open to a broader variety of entertainment. In the case of sports, they’ve become consumers attracted to pretty much everything, from rollerskating to ballet to traditional soccer. 

An additional detail: when it comes to self-expression, they’re all up for it. Brands across different sectors have developed hyper-personalized products or services that they can achieve due to the amount of insights they can get nowadays from each user’s online behavior. Gen Z appreciates the effort, according to a study from Cognizant. 

So this is where the opportunity for personalized sports entertainment gets the spotlight. OTT can offer a highly personalized experience. Sports fandom is something experienced best while being part of a mass of roaring fans in a stadium, but there is also something quite special about   the way a single fan interacts with their favorite player, sport or community online. 

That is where the potential of OTT lies, according to an executive interviewed for a recent Deltatre report on the future of sports. If the offer for a personalized experience is good, even in terms of payment and content, then the Gen-Zers may be more likely to subscribe.

June 11, 2021

OTT can open a competitive market for streaming local sports

There is currently a very broad offering of streaming services. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, HBO, and Paramount+ all offer subscriptions to access their original, licenced, or proprietary content. Disney+, which bundles the Hulu and ESPN services with one subscription, is a particularly strong player when it comes to sports content.

Therefore, it would seem counterintuitive to launch another streaming service –unless, of course, such a service had a very competitive advantage. Luckily, OTT opens up a very solid possibility of such an edge. 

According to a 2019 report from Deltatre, many consumers are willing to supplement their entertainment consumption with sports content. This category is particularly noble to new subscribers, since teams and athletes have entire communities rooting for them and following their careers. 

Aside from ‘behind the scenes’ content from their favorite athletes –which they could easily get from social media or large studio productions–, fans could be willing to pay for an OTT streaming service if it offered hyper localized sports content. That is, a livestream or original content from their local sports teams or high school and college tournaments.

Considering that, according to the same Deltatre report, almost 80% of people under 24 years of age currently pay less than $39 dollars each month for sports content, and that the average price tag for a basic streaming service is $9 dollars per month (Netflix and Disney+ start at $8, while Paramount+ launched with a $10 price tag), a local sports OTT service could be offered for anywhere between $10 and $25. 

The audiences might be much smaller than those of the leading streaming services, but their fidelity might be stronger if the OTT service becomes a community event, like all local sports events tend to do. It’s an alternative worthy of examination.

June 4, 2021

The 2021 Olympics will showcase the power of OTT for sports

The Olympics are about to begin, and while the dynamics for on-site spectators will be different this year due to Covid, Tokio 2021 will be the showcase of what audiences expect from major sports events from now on. 

The postponement of the Olympic games, which were originally planned for the summer of 2020, affected expectations for major broadcasting deals. NBC has the broadcasting rights in the US and CBC/Radio is the main rights holder in Canada. Worldwide viewership is expected to surpass the audiences that watched the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games, which were about 3.6 billion viewers. But it is still to be seen if the lack of international fans will affect the amount of people that will turn on their screens to watch the games. 

This is why investing in an OTT platform is one smart move. Not depending on traditional TV broadcasting is becoming increasingly important for two reasons. First, there is a diversification in terms of devices from which users log in to watch a sports event. A 2019 report from Deltatre shows that the desktop is the most used device type throughout a regular sports season, while mobile usage slims mid season and big screens increase at the end, as fans want to watch major games in the largest possible screens. You cannot give the viewer that much flexibility with a regular cable subscription. 

Second, the same report shows that over two thirds of surveyed consumers pay up to $39 per month on sports content and the remaining one-third is willing to pay more if the content is exclusive, engaging or innovative. Everyone will be able to see the 100 mt on live TV, but not everyone could see, for example, Usain Bolt or other top stars training or competing against players from other disciplines. Consumers could be willing to pay for that –and leagues, federations and operators need to capitalize on that. 

As an example, the Olympic Channel has mentioned that in order to fill some of the broadcasting gaps that went missing from the postponed games last year, they  managed to push a deal with CBC  (Canada’s Broadcasting Company) to stream on their Gem OTT in the country. They leveraged their archives from previous Olympics and also pushed for original content from Olympic athletes. 

After Tokio, the importance of the investment in OTT will be much clearer –and, hopefully, there will also be a better visibility of how to monetize all it has to offer.

April 2, 2021

Live streamed high school sports will increase after Covid

From team practice to big game days, sports offer high school and college students the rare opportunity to engage with face-to-face interactions. This was already true before Covid-19. Gen-Zers were born into an age dominated by screens and digital socialization, so sports are a window to some much-needed physical proximity and collaboration. So, it’s no wonder that sports are one of the activities that students have missed the most during their year of studying at home.

Plenty of high schools across North America have been keeping their sports traditions alive during the pandemic by the means of virtual practices or live streamed matches. Broadcasting services for schools have been popping up in the past months.

Some schools have been very creative and learned how to stream via Periscope, YouTube or Facebook, with students or teachers often setting up their own phone cameras to offer the virtual spectators the best possible view, considering the circumstances.

It might seem that live streams will stay as the preferred alternative to engage with sports activities until the Covid-related restrictions are completely lifted. But once this happens, high schools and colleges should not be eager to dismiss them completely, since live streaming offers a completely new way to experience sports.

Imagine play-by-play and analysis given by former teammates or fellow classmates. The chance to rewatch the matches as many times as possible. Footage availability to improve certain plays or overall trainings. All of this is possible with an in-house network –which is surprisingly easy to build considering the technology that is ready and available. With a couple of cameras, local teams can execute a powerful OTT and Video on Demand service to allow seamless live stream experiences.

Plus, user engagement can further amplify the virtual experience via gamified interactions or live reactions. If there was ever an opportunity to take advantage of high school creativity, this is definitely one of the best.

March 26, 2021

The 3 most promising tech for in-stadium experiences

Before 2020, sports venues in the United States raked in an average revenue of $145 million per year, according to an article published by UC Berkeley in 2019. Aside from the sale of the tickets, the entire in-stadium experience was a business opportunity: from the branded TV screens to the merchandise and refreshment stands. Some of these businesses locked their in-stadium leases for more than a year, becoming fan-favorites or even collaborating with sports teams to sell branded food or retail items.

The Covid-19 pandemic has rendered these businesses useless, as sports venues have been closed for months. But recently, vaccination rates in North America are going up and restrictions for in-person gatherings are loosening. This means the sports industry is slowly opening up its calendar again. In some cases, sports fans have gladly poured back into the venues despite the capped capacity or mask-wearing restrictions. So, how to re engage with them within the new normality –and possibly after the departure of in-stadium sponsors?

Three in-stadium technologies are available right now and they offer a new type of fan engagement. The best part? They’re versatile and less invasive than, say, a massive LED screen or Wi-Fi wiring all over the venue’s infrastructure. In theory, any venue could easily adopt one of these solutions:

  1. RFID labels. Low-cost, RFID labels are more frequently utilized to track participants in mass participation sports events. However, they can also provide an innovative in-stadium experience: a wristband enabled with an RFID label can be linked to the attendees’ credit cards so that they can be used for contactless purchases through the venue and personalized offers from vendors.
  1. Gamification. Users could log into an app, engage with trivia or games related to the sports teams or athletes they’re watching live, and engage with transactions. These can translate into actual physical products they can purchase, coupons for in-stadium purchases or other types of virtual rewards.
  1. OTT. Through MBB (mobile broadband), an over-the-top streaming (OTT)  feed can be created through various linked cameras, each with different angles and views. This way, the event can be live streamed through an app or a website. This represents an innovative in-stadium engagement: having attendees view a 360 view of the building they’re in, even if they stand from their seats and go to get a snack.

March 19, 2021

The opportunity of in-stadium technology

When it comes to opening up opportunities for fan engagement in physical venues, the most obvious one is a stadium.

This type of building is popular worldwide and can accommodate any audience to experience a wide variety of sports: from football to basketball, from rugby to cricket. The largest stadiums can hold more than 120,000 people, and some have seamlessly adopted new technologies to provide a more immersive experience for attendees.

Take, for example, what happened with the SK Happy Dream Park stadium in Incheon, South Korea. The venue, home of the baseball team SK Wyverns, was chosen for the opening day of the 2019 Korea Baseball Organization season. An image of the team’s mascot –a wyvern, which looks like a dragon– was displayed in a gigantic LED baseball screen and had an augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) interactive performance led by fans that engaged with a smartphone app. The event was streamed live and has since become a reference when it comes to using top-notch technology to make a memorable in-stadium experience.

However, not all stadiums have the resources to pull off this type of activation. The SK required two things that are not easy to have: the massive LED screen – the size of three basketball courts–, and in-stadium 5G connectivity to support the AR/VR interaction with the wyvern’s image. Consider that 5G connectivity relies on a national spectrum policy, and that a screen that size is not easy to accommodate for smaller venues or ones that are not destined for baseball games.

Fortunately, there are other high-tech alternatives that can be used for in-stadium activations or experiences –ones that are less invasive, less expensive and much more versatile.

Take, for example, OTT, or over-the-top streaming. Through MBB (mobile broadband), a feed can be created through various linked cameras, each with different angles and views. Then the OTT can livestream the event through an app or a website. This is usually a good alternative for fans that are outside the venue, but it could also be an innovative approach in-stadium: having attendees view a 360 view of the building they’re in, even if they stand from their seats and go to get a snack.

Another alternative is the use of low-cost, RFID labels. While these are more frequently utilized to track participants in mass participation sports events, they can also provide an innovative in-stadium experience. Disney World has been a pioneer with RFID labels. According to a report by Deloitte, Disney provided RFID enabled “MagicBands” to the customers that accessed the theme park. The MagicBands are linked to their credit cards so that they can be used for contactless purchases through the park and personalized offers from vendors.

Disney World is not a stadium, but it is easy to see how the use of RFID labels could be replicated in one. In a post-pandemic world, contactless payments allowed by a wristband could be an even more valuable perk that consumers might be willing to pay for.

One final alternative? Gamify the attendees’ experience. Whether they use virtual or fiat currency inside the stadiums, users could log into an app, engage with trivia or games related to the sports teams or athletes they’re watching, and engage with transactions.These can translate into actual physical products they can purchase, or any other type of virtual rewards.

The bright side of these in-stadium engagements is that, contrary to a massive LED screen or brand new infrastructure, most of them –perhaps not the OTT streaming if it requires a lot of physical intervention– can be used for stadiums that are not as modern, such as those built on or before the 1970s. RFID labels and their readers are not invasive at all, and gamification relies more on the users’ smartphones or other devices.

March 5, 2021

3 ways a venue’s sponsor brand can leverage their naming rights

Take a look at some of the most popular sports venues in North America and you’ll see why they are the prime real estate for sponsorship deals: the MetLife Stadium in New York City, the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the BBVA Stadium in Houston… and the list goes on. 

It’s a smart investment to pay for the naming rights of a venue that usually welcomes thousands of people. It’s a way to push a brand’s name to the top of their minds as they enter through their gates and enjoy the matches from their branded seats.

Before 2020, the multimillion dollar deals that corporations have paid for this type of exposure ranged between $3 million to $20 million per season, which is the case of the Citi Field in Queens, New York. Usually, these deals consider the naming rights to last for up to 20 years, granting the sponsoring brand enough time to make a footprint and the stadium to guarantee a steady source of income during that period. 

Which is why the Covid-19 pandemic has posed a threat to this usually sweet deal. With restrictions for events with mass audiences probably lasting for the rest of 2021 in most of Canada and the U.S., these usually solid investments are losing valuable ROI for sponsoring brands whose contracts are still running for five, ten, or twenty more years. 

Luckily, there is still a way they can leverage their sponsorship investment: fan engagement through technology. Here’s three ways this is possible:

  1. In-stadium 360 VR/AR experiences: through their phones and hardware like VR/AR goggles, consumers can have a branded interaction with other fans or their sports idols. If they are allowed inside with a limited capacity, these interactions can still happen and use the hybrid real-life/digital model to do so.
  1. Off-season engagement: Users can be kept engaged with a venue’s sponsor brand even during off-season. With gamified interactions on their mobile devices, fans can play and earn points with sponsored trivia (that can even offer sponsored rewards, like swag or memorabilia).
  1. On-demand branded streaming: With OTT streaming technology, based on strategically placed cameras that allow specific camera angles to choose from, users can have an in-house experience from their own homes –branded, of course, in the same way as the venue’s sponsor brand.

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