The internet has enabled completely new ways to deliver high resolution content and allowed better advertising opportunities for publishers and advertisers alike. But over-the-top (OTT) platforms gain popularity also because they are redefining traditional TV sports and offering many benefits for the viewers. This article aims to track the rapid evolution of OTT, its adoption in sports over the recent years, and discusses its possible future development. 

Why OTT works really well with sports

The benefits of OTT are plenty. It allows people around the world to watch video content at any time of the day (not just live) and unlocks completely new advertising, targeting and personalization opportunities. And because more and more people are adopting OTT as a way to watch sporting events conveniently on various devices, the potential of the platform is steadily growing. This also entails creating a bigger advertising pool and attracting bigger players. OTT ads are the much-needed upgrade to traditional TV ads, offering a more personalized experience – they are better targeted, and better match the viewer’s needs.

The sheer revenue growth in subscriptions and advertisements is additional proof that interest is rising in OTT sports. While people are increasingly abandoning classic cable TV and moving on to various streaming options, the live nature of sports content remains one of the last draws of traditional live TV. But the experience is even better when combined with OTT.

OTT is gaining momentum in sports due to a couple of reasons. As more and more companies are getting into the OTT game as there are growing investments in the content acquisition. A recent ReThink TV report expects sports media streaming rights to hit $85 billion in revenues by 2024. 

Naturally, these figures are mainly inflated by football, where rights are expected to soar around $12.8 to $31.9 billion in the period – primarily due to growing interest in European leagues in Asia and North America.

Sports clubs invest in OTT

Recent reports have shown that sports clubs are either in the process of implementing or considering providing content through their own premium OTT services as an additional, independent stream of revenue. A third of the top 25 football clubs and six of the top ten largest leagues and federations now offer premium OTT services – and half of these launched only over the last two years. 

These services are mostly geared towards super-fans and offering them premium content, but there are exceptions to the rule.

Bars to adopt OTT

OTT is also an opportunity for sports-focused bars to differentiate themselves from the competition and offer diverse content for their clients. And there are a lot of options to choose from. Depending on what your bar’s speciality is might sway you one way or another, but there are some of the more mainstream players and what they provide.

In the past pubs mainly used Sky and BT for sports event coverage. Now, with new players in the game, fragmentation starts to set in. There is Sky, BT, Premier Sports and Amazon. On top of that comes Eurosport and Facebook making its first but generously funded steps in the OTT market.

This is when Premier Sports proves its worth – a remedy for the OTT fragmentation, and a perfect solution for pubs who want to have it all in one. Premier Sports is a Netflix-like streaming experience for sports events. Naturally, it comes with all the bells and whistles like personalization and per-household ad targeting (or, more specifically, per-pub targeting).

The Netflix-like experience of Premier Sports is an impressive deal for sports pubs.

Video delivery using the internet is now revolutionizing the sports world

OTT has created new business models and revenue opportunities which had previously been impossible with broadcast TV. This includes VOD content playback, live streams, live stats and the replay functionality so important for all the football fans out there. 

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. On the publisher’s end streaming video through OTT channels offers access to very valuable user data and real-time analytics (what they’re watching, what they like, what ad they might appreciate), which plays an increasing role here. 

Providers can use this data to personalize their offering and suggest subscribers content they actually want to watch like we see. Such tactics have long differentiated platforms like YouTube or Netflix, but now are also gaining traction in sports streaming platforms. 

But the viewership data does not have to be used for advertising purposes exclusively. Publishers can actually use such insights to deliver more engaging experiences for the users – offer new features or suggest new content.

The OTT sports landscape is expanding, but is it sustainable?

The evolution of OTT sports for video delivery shows how the market is growing and changing, but so are the sports fans. Channels like DAZN are diversifying with offers available on Xfinity STBs, and Eleven Sports has already been deployed by 12 pay-TV operators. Other operators are also working on similar agreements, a trend that is expected to continue over the next few years.

There are dozens of new players dipping their toes in the OTT market – and the names include both small and big brands. Check this article to see what they offer.

Global adoption of OTT is well under way, but sports leagues will initially use OTT only to complement their existing broadcast delivery, as broadcasters are looking for ways to enhance their traditional offering. These goals may change over time, as we have seen with more channels going D2C. 

High-quality OTT video delivery in the cloud has matured and is already used for live sports like the two-week French Open 2019 tournament produced by France Television – the matches were available on iOS, Android and through desktop browsers (HTML5).

Social media at the service of sports streaming

OTT enables novel ways to redistribute the content and engage users on social media. A great example here is France TV Sports, which uses the service Wildmoka to extract and publish highlights from live TV in close-to-real-time to social networks. This reinvents the interaction between audiovisual content and their users. The platform taps into real-time video sources and turns them into enriched, navigable, interactive content for social channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Dailymotion. 

Needless to say, this boosts fan engagement but also demonstrates that social networks generated more than 50% of digital views. Digital viewership was higher than broadcast by 62% and grew year over year by 23%. France TV Sports apps were using sponsors, and we expect targeted advertisements to flourish in the future.

All major European top football clubs have built their own media services to complement their offerings. A good example here is Manchester United’s MUTV SVOD platform.

Additional growth is expected to be fueled by increased viewership of the top European football leagues from China and North America— no wonder the top clubs have been working towards building up a heavy presence in these massive markets.

Spain’s La Liga now has 8% of its revenue coming from OTT services, but it expects dynamic growth in the area, with 20% of revenue coming from OTT predicted by 2022.

What lies ahead for OTT

OTT delivery allows for new ways to optimize content monetization. There are new players like DAZN and Eleven Sports who have very aggressive ambitions and are following in the footsteps of Netflix. These platforms have become successful because of their strong drive, differentiation, and consumer focus. But will they be profitable? That question remains unanswered.

Partnerships are going to be essential for each platform’s success. OTT services can’t be profitable without the support of operators who are marketing their offering. But such a scenario could be a win-win situation for all the parties involved. 

Netflix is distributed across more than 150 pay-TV operators (e.g. the Netflix app is present in their set-top boxes). This is a way for Netflix to increase its presence at a minimal cost. Similar schemes will gain popularity for pay-TV operators and sports content.

Does OTT spell the end of the traditional broadcast model? 

Not really. The trend is that broadcasters are just using it to add more interactivity to the fan experience on hybrid devices. And the opportunities are plenty. Powered by the cloud, OTT makes it possible to handle the event-based nature of sports and create innovative services that can be consumed on any device. But most importantly, everything can be tested very fast, and adjusted on the go.

OTT in sports broadcasting will also expand the viewership as more fans can engage with the world’s premium global sporting events. New OTT channels no longer have to base on subscriptions and instead offer ad-funded memberships, and still be able to generate revenue. 

Summary

OTT will continue to grow in the years to come. This is the direction that the industry and the consumers are taking. Consumers are increasingly using mobile devices. TV watching is no longer a couch-only experience. It’s more about being able to stay up to speed with everything happening with the sports, independently of the time and place.


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