All roads lead to the cloud: Mediakind looks deep into the metaverse for its 2022 sports broadcasting predictions

Friends using mobile phones during a tennis match on the TV.

By Chris Wilson, director of market development, sports, MediaKind

Sports broadcasters, content owners and operators are at a pivotal juncture in how they package, market and deliver their media services to fans. While traditional broadcast rights remain a primary revenue generator, the audience shift to streaming platforms is well underway. Nielsen reported in August 2021 that 28% of sports viewing in the US came from streaming platforms, compared with 24% on broadcast and 38% on cable.

A major rethink driven by technology innovation is now reshaping how sports media companies take their services to market. As a result, the sports broadcasting landscape in 2022 will be underpinned by the ongoing wholesale migration to the cloud by all parties across the media value chain. This migration will accelerate collaboration between sports organisations and technology vendors, driving innovation and increasing the velocity of services. The question now lies in understanding how this will help deliver greater monetisable value to sports media companies and the level of trade-off between short-term and long-term growth.

Making the most out of rights

For sports broadcasters and operators, complementary services and channels will be designed and launched to elevate and expand on linear broadcast feeds, predominantly supported by the capabilities of the cloud. This will enable them to innovate faster and bring new features to market with incredible velocity, ultimately expanding their return on investment (ROI) for sports rights. What’s more, they’ll have the freedom, scale and flexibility to play and experiment with new fan engagement tools, helping them to grow ROI further.

2022 will see a huge embrace of cloud technology among the leading broadcasters of sports content to create data-driven, interactive content and dynamically deliver it to the end-user. As streaming aggregators like DAZN continue to acquire more digital rights and shift content away from traditional broadcast environments, there will be a notable increase in opportunities to open up access to new technologies and sports experiences that capitalise on streaming technology.

Examples include multiple camera feeds, integrated player stats and real-time chat functions. The cloud also allows rights holders to deliver highly personalised or targeted services by rapidly spinning-up new content or even linear channels and engaging a specific audience demographic. Australia’s Seven Network did an impressive job of delivering focused recaps for the Tokyo Olympics that served content types aimed at specific fans and age groups.

Sweat the assets

The embrace of this technology will help drive incremental revenue growth for broadcasters. A traditional broadcast production set up would often have up to 10 or more cameras at the stadium or arena, creating one broadcast feed that translates into a roughly two-hour linear broadcast. This is an incredibly inefficient investment when you look at the amount of content available compared with the content delivered to the end user.

In 2022, we’ll see all content captured from a game utilised and packaged into far more wide-reaching and interactive programming, including tailored highlight feeds, multiple camera angles from a match and live player stats. By utilising the cloud, broadcasters can take the same content but package it in several ways, targeted for different experiences and consumption means such as mobile, smart TV and social media.

By taking multiple individual camera feeds and packaging them on streaming platforms in many different ways, the traditional recording can potentially be elevated to return eight to ten-fold ROI on captured content. The cloud will be the harbinger in realising the value of these rights, bringing complementary value to consumers while expanding the monetisation potential for the rights holders.

Developing communities

In recent years, we’ve witnessed first-hand the capabilities of the cloud in enabling leagues, clubs and other content owners to create complementary experiences focused on deepening relationships with fans, either through a wide range of digital-first services or through their direct-to-consumer offering. I hope we’ll see this trend accelerate in 2022 as content owners of all sizes embrace the capabilities of streaming and digital technology to forge deeper bonds with their communities. This will be enabled by developing and running distributed production chains in the cloud, from acquisition to distribution.

These new complementary services could include betting service integration, ticketing, merchandising and social media functions within the same user interface as the content stream. We’ll also see the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other tradeable digital assets within the world of sports as a means of giving fans unique and fun memorabilia from games. This is something the NBA and NFL have already utilised as a means of fan engagement both at physical games and digitally.

As content owners look to engage further with their fans in this way, both in events and at home, we could see some impressive technology functions emerge, enabled by the cloud. For example, live clipping and editing during the event itself of key moments with social sentiment captured. That’s only made possible by tying data, production and audience tools together in the cloud, with broadcasters pinpointing specific moments based on data and machine learning.

Taking this approach to community development poses some challenges in short-term growth, however. For example, rights holders will have to hold back certain packages within rights auctions to support these digital-driven experiments. This means there could be several difficult trade-off decisions to ensure there’s room to grow in the future.

Enter the metaverse?

Another development we see in the broader media landscape is the idea of the metaverse, a model recently fuelled by Microsoft, Disney and Meta. These influential media juggernauts continue to outline the metaverse concept, and the debate on its impact within sport certainly remains up for discussion. In short, it centres the cloud as the most progressive technology for anchoring real and virtual content together. The concept could enable fans on the other side of the world to virtually attend their favourite team or player’s game through immersive virtual reality technology, standing pitch-side in the dugout area or behind the goal or net.

The past two years have signalled a challenging period for many live sports and media companies. But while the certainty of unpredictability remains, broadcasters and operators have an exciting opportunity to capitalise on maturing cloud technology to elevate their offering and increase revenues.

Embracing the cloud will enable these sports entities to prepare to scale their services, harness flexibility and champion innovation. From the Beijing Winter Olympics to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, another strong year of live sports content is on the cards, and the cloud will be the champion technology driving exciting news experiences and more sustainable business models.

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