Delivering the multi-screen reality

Paris: One of the key sessions at Sport & New Media 2011 looked at the issues of online video and data content. Figures suggest that the second screen might currently only be worth a fraction of the value of broadcast TV rights, but when broadcasters start spending billions on multi-year deals, that fraction can represent a lot of money.

A 2% value was the figure which was plucked out of a feature in the conference program by panelist Ciaran Quinn from DeltaTre, suggesting that the entire VoD market in the UK was only worth £60m in 2010 compared to £3bn for TV. Elsewhere in the same feature (an excerpt from TV Sports Markets Volume 15 Number 10) Timo Lumme of the IOC suggested that less than 5% of the IOC’s rights fees came from online. So, 2% or 5%, you can take your pick, but it has to be pointed out that even 1% of the roughly $4.5bn that NBC spent on Olympic rights is a serious amount of money in itself.

“The number of viewers isn’t perhaps as high as the hype would suggest, but interactivity will only drive that higher,” said Rhys Beer, Commercial Director at Perform.

“Rights holders have divided to conquer and sold the rights to different media and inflated the prices accordingly. Too many people though are just streaming video and not utilising the platforms properly,” commented Aidan Cooney, CEO of Opta. Opta has been adding metadata to sports footage since 2002 and now collects, packages and distributes information on around 60,000 fixtures per year from more than 30 sports in around 70 countries, so Cooney knows how to drive the new screens with precisely the interactivity that Beer mentioned.

“Sports broadcasters are normally pretty conservative, but what is happening is that they are finally getting more and more interactive with the content, using heat maps and so on,” he added. “It’s about using the data on one screen to drive the innovation on the other.”

As Quinn put it, “Realtime data with realtime sports content is a winning concept,” (and as he also pointed out, couple them together and it’s very difficult to pirate that content).

Rights however remain an issue that could prevent this nascent convergence from truly taking off. While there was much sneaking admiration for the US model which has seen federations dividing their rights into discrete packages and a) keeping control of more of them and b) maximising their value, it was felt that it will be a hinderance to convergence. In Europe, where pay-TV dominates the landscape and rights tend to be more often bought wholesale, convergence will likely be easier as long as federations don’t start subdividing to conquer. Which, of course, they might.

There was a bit of a stark warning for those that do though, not so much from the rights side of things per se, but from a technical standpoint. As an audience member stated, “I streamed my first broadcast over the internet in 1996 and there have been few changes in the way that video has been transmitted over the internet in the years since.” And, according to Beer, ISPs are looking at the increase in big-ticket sports events broadcast over the web with unease.

“It’s interesting that people are creating and buying all these rights packages thinking that there is infinite capacity in the market,” he said. “There isn’t.”


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