Ateme on helping sports broadcasters meet audience demands during COVID-19

With a quarter of the world on lockdown due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these are certainly unprecedented times, writes Remi Beaudouin, chief strategy officer, Ateme.

With schools in many countries closed, a significant number of employees embracing remote working, and citizens being asked to stay at home, many of us have become increasingly reliant on television and over the top (OTT) platforms. In fact, it is anticipated that media consumption over this period could increase by 60% [Nielsen 2020].

However, many broadcasters are facing a challenge in catering to this growing audience as their own operations and usual programming is disrupted. This is particularly evident among sports broadcasters who are contending with live events being postponed or cancelled as sporting seasons are cut short and this summer’s Euro 2020 and Olympics are delayed by a year.

This is leaving broadcasters with huge schedules to fill and some sports broadcasters have been criticised by subscription-paying fans for not providing them with enough value in the face of such scheduling disruption.

Undoubtedly, entertaining a demanding ‘at home’ audience in light of these developments is challenging, but broadcasters must find ways to overcome these obstacles to keep viewers happy. So, how can broadcasters do this and continue to provide value for their customers?

Utilise content libraries

One thing broadcasters aren’t short of is evergreen content. Whether in the form of interviews with sports people, extended highlight reels or replays, sports media have a large and varied content library.

With broadcasting live sporting events currently out of the question and so much uncertainty around the creation of new content, the key to meeting audience demand in these challenging times will be for broadcasters to maximize existing and archived content. In particular, nostalgic content, such as repeats of classic football matches or particularly memorable Olympics events, can resonate well with audiences during times like these. After all, many people are craving a taste of normality and this type of content can be comforting, reminding them of happier times, while also allowing them to continue to engage with their favourite sports.

This is a method some sports channels are already adopting. For instance, American network CBS recently altered its Saturday afternoon line up to replay three classic college basketball matches from 1982, 1983 and 1992, with the first match featuring a young Michael Jordan.

Meanwhile, in many countries across Europe, Sky Sports has been showing repeats of football matches from events such as the Bundesliga, Premier League and Champions League.

Similarly, there is an abundance of sporting documentaries and films available for broadcasters to reuse over this period. Interspersing this content with their back catalogue of matches and events from previous sporting seasons, or momentous events from the global sporting stage, will allow sports channels to offer their audience more variety.

Embrace new opportunities

With such a varied and captive audience now available to them, sports broadcasters should also see this as an opportunity to use their wide-ranging evergreen content to appeal to a bigger fan base and different needs. While many people are lamenting the football season being cut short and the Olympics being postponed, the current situation has impacted every sport, both high profile and niche.

Therefore, this could be a chance for broadcasters to delve into their library to cater to tennis fans who will this year be without Wimbledon, rugby fans who are still awaiting the outcome of the Six Nations and boxing enthusiasts, to name a few. The most effective way to do this is by using playout solutions to adopt virtual programming which will allow sports broadcasters to quickly spin up new channels dedicated to different types of pre-existing content.

Historically, classic channel creation has only allowed broadcasters to originate 24/7 linear channels with a pre-defined schedule and new channels can take several days or weeks to develop. However, playout solutions, which can be integrated into a broadcaster’s ecosystem, allow for dynamic channel origination for both 24/7 linear TV channels and pop-up channels for short term events.

Consequently, broadcasters can create tailored channels in just a few hours and use their library of sports content to better effect. For example, during what would have been this year’s Olympics, sports broadcasters could spin up a new channel dedicated to the most nail-biting finishes from past events or defining moments from previous Olympics.

In lieu of having new content, using existing content in this way would allow them to satisfy people’s appetite for athletics on a designated channel, while using their main channels to cater to a broader audience. This will help broadcasters engage with a wider range of sports fans and ensure they continue to provide value for their customers at a time when many fans around the world have been left with a sport-shaped gap in their lives.

High quality experiences

While OTT providers such as Netflix and Disney+ have taken the decision to reduce streaming quality across Europe to lessen bandwidth usage, sports streaming platforms shouldn’t see this as the default option. Instead, they should look to continue to offer the high quality experience their audiences have become accustomed to by investing in better quality encoding.

In doing so, it will be possible for sports platform providers to improve bandwidth efficiency without impacting video quality, which could give them a competitive edge at a time when video content is proving to be of significant value to audiences. OTT sports providers should also see this as an opportunity to futureproof their platforms with better quality encoding, ensuring they can continue to deliver the best service to their customers beyond the current global situation.

Although the lack of live sports on offer has created a significant challenge for sports broadcasters and OTT providers, the key to continuing to provide value to audiences lies in their existing content. Making better use of archive footage, sporting documentaries and films, and implementing the right technology to help them optimise this content, will ensure they continue to engage both current and new audiences.

With disruption to the sporting calendar anticipated to last much of the year, these methods will help sports broadcasters futureproof their operations, enabling them to continue to adapt in line with the ever-changing media landscape.

Subscribe and Get SVG Europe Newsletters