A revolutionary approach to sports content offering and delivery
By Massimo Magrì, EU commercial director, Supponor
Along with many other sectors, broadcast media is experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 situation that currently keeps everyone on a tight grip. We have entered an era designated as the ‘new normal’, in which our habits change significantly and industries are forced to adopt different business and operational models, compared to what we considered common practice.
However, as Einstein once said: “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity”, which applies to the current situation in the sense that there is an opportunity for the industry to dramatically evolve and for businesses to be more innovative then ever in order to satisfy the needs of the market.
This is especially so in the sports and entertainment industry, which arguably has been one of the most affected industries worldwide, at it’s experiencing issues to satisfy market needs such as reaching target audiences and generating value to rights holders and brands. Several initial studies have shown the immense financial impact of the pandemic on the sports industry, with the Big Five European Football leagues expected to lose up to €4bn in revenues in the 2019-20 season alone, and the value of players to be reduced by a staggering €10bn.
OTT on top
The coronavirus pandemic is yet another factor that accelerates market trends we have witnessed since before the outbreak, demanding sports and entertainment to innovate, adapt and deliver against market needs even more rapidly. One of, if not the most, relevant developments in the broadcast media industry in relation to sports and entertainment has been the substantial growth of OTT platforms as the dominant distribution channel.
The degree to which the industry adopts this model more and more for the sake of delivering customised and personalised content to the audience marks the competitive advantage of a business. The pandemic acts as a catalyst in this process, demanding the industry to become more consumer-focused than ever before – it also requires the industry to do so in the least complicated, costly and inefficient manner.
The evolving adoption of OTT platforms as the go-to hosts for the consumption of live sports and entertainment content present the opportunity for broadcasters, rights holders and brands to carry out the most innovative marketing strategies developed to date. While OTT platforms are direct-to-consumer (D2C) focused, opportunities arise to impact the end consumer with more personalised marketing communications than through traditional distribution models. Audiences receive the live broadcast signals over IP rather than through fibre or satellite connections, meaning that individual consumers can be impacted with the content and marketing communications most relevant to them.
Throughout the last decades, technology innovation has become a factor inseparable from the sports and entertainment industry, not least because of the opportunity it presents to acquire new marketing tools and, eventually, unlock new revenue streams.
Visual graphic technologies have been widely adopted by the sports and entertainment industry for a long time, initially to mostly serve as a source of data and statistics to contribute to the viewing experience of an event. In addition to this, virtual technologies have been developed over time to drive commercial value as well, with many rights holders deploying virtual advertising solutions to diversify commercial inventory and generate additional revenues. The market has come to understand the flexibility with which these solutions can be deployed, which can be strategically adopted to serve specific market needs.
One of those needs is the personalisation of content delivered during live events to specific audiences. Now that events can be customised to target these audiences through OTT platforms, the market demands this to apply equally to virtual content such as graphics and advertising. The integration of virtual solutions in the OTT distribution allows for virtual content to be personalised as well, allowing rights holders and brands to impact individual consumers with the adequate marketing or institutional messaging.
Space to grow
The acceleration this trend is undergoing as a result of the pandemic means that virtual technology solutions have to be delivered through even more flexible and efficient, though robust and reliable, models. Virtual advertising was originally deployed only in those areas on or around the field of play during sports events, while taking all relevant conditions such as game elements, camera crew, spectators, security and medical staff, into consideration. In the absence of (the majority of) spectators, and with heavily reduced staff numbers at venues, many more areas have become available for virtualisation, which with the need to improve the viewing experience and generate commercial value must be delivered almost instantaneously. Many rights holders have adopted such models, for example through virtualising crowds or inserting simulated sound effects. From an operational perspective, these solutions must be deployed while limiting staff traveling without incurring additional costs, causing the need to operate remotely as much as possible.
While the pandemic has caused most industries to come to a halt temporarily or even permanently, it appears that this coming together with ongoing market trends in the broadcast media industry is calling for a more rapid, cost-effective, non-intrusive and commercially valuable business model to be developed.
Under the current pressure, businesses are forced to be more innovative than ever, leading to an acceleration of the industry. It would be unsurprising to find ourselves in the very near future consuming only the live sports and entertainment events we prefer while demanding, unconsciously or not, to receive marketing communications from brands most relevant to us and in the right language and tone of voice. Consuming anything different may have us decide to completely boycott the media presenting us with content we don’t want for good.