FutureSport 2016: How OTT, IP and New Workflows Will Fuel Sports Content Creation

OTT panel left to right: Carlo De Marchis, deltatre, Chief Product and Marketing Officer; Olivier Attali, Pixellot, VP Sales; Chris Wagner, NeuLion, EVP & Co-Founder; Dave Gill, SIS, Streaming Product Owner; John Smith, MediaLinks EMEA, Managing Director; and Andrea Di Muzio, Director of Professional Services EMEA at Aspera, an IBM Company

OTT panel left to right: Carlo De Marchis, deltatre, Chief Product and Marketing Officer; Olivier Attali, Pixellot, VP Sales; Chris Wagner, NeuLion, EVP & Co-Founder; Dave Gill, SIS, Streaming Product Owner; John Smith, MediaLinks EMEA, Managing Director; and Andrea Di Muzio, Director of Professional Services EMEA at Aspera, an IBM Company

The OTT market is growing rapidly, driven by people’s huge hunger to watch their favourite show anytime, anywhere on any device. Until recently, the time lag involved with OTT content delivery has prevented its widespread use for live sports events. In this session moderated by SVG Europe Managing Editor David Davies, the panel discussed how media companies can deliver and broadcast live OTT content in sync, anywhere in the world, and how they can help harness live events for additional revenues.

NeuLion EVP & Co-Founder Chris Wagner helped to set the scene. “In Europe we’re at a point with video quality that it’s better than what’s on cable and on satellite. We’ve got to the point where video quality on the old distribution platforms is falling behind. IP-based delivered-video quality is just stunning now, and you have the move to 4K.

“You have that happening from a technology standpoint, and in addition you now have rights holders very focused on what’s happening with the consumer because of the things that can be delivered and the personalisation of content – which is driving lots of changes from a business standpoint. I think we’re really just at the beginning,” said Wagner.

Carlo De Marchis, deltatre, Chief Product and Marketing Officer said: “First, rights holders are going direct to consumers. There are a lot of opportunities, especially among those sports that have a very deep fan base to directly monetise [consumers] with subscriptions. On the other hand, for ‘traditional’ broadcasters you cannot be on one platform any more; you need to be on every platform. This is not just bringing live streaming to other devices that have not been on the normal distribution; it’s about [the fundamentals of] TV,” he said.

Dave Gill, Streaming Product Owner at SIS, agreed. “One of the biggest challenges I see for traditional broadcasters, because of this democratisation of distribution models, it that the rights owners have a direct path to the users. So they could potentially bypass the ‘regular’ broadcasters. Anybody can deliver content to anyone.”

Chris Wagner elaborated the point: “You have new network launches like World Surf League that’s available for free worldwide, single destination with unbelievable quality. They moved off YouTube to their own network, and it’s doing great. Street League Live skateboarding is another niche audience that is generating revenue.

“The long tail of content continues to have audiences that show up. The cost of production and cost of distribution continues to go down. The quality of the video continues to go up. The ability to monetise the fans continues to be easier. These are all things that bode very well if you continue to hold or own rights. It’s just faster, cheaper and better than it was three years ago,” said Wagner.

Personalisation and Facebook profiling

The corollary of rights holders going direct to the consumer is that the consumer now wants and expects a personal service. Olivier Attali, Pixellot VP Sales said, “The major issue will be to reduce the cost of protection to really democratise all the production of the sport, to provide all the content. People want to see content in a personalised way, with all the social networks. How do we move this into sports? This is quite easy in terms of production abilities and interactivity. How can we afford it to make it happen at the local level, for tier two or three sports or local sports? Pixellot provides personalisation of all the sport production. We are not aimed at first league – instead [providing] real production capabilities for tier two, tier three and amateur sports events. This is a way to make it happen. It’s faster and very low cost.”

John Smith, MediaLinks EMEA Managing Director said, “We’re talking about the technologies to enable all this. We’ve got the quality, the features are there, we’ve got the ability to do it today. At Media Links we’re at the front end, we do the contribution side. Then there’s the OTT, and then there’s the key part of this, which is the consumer. What is that you actually want, on what device, at what time of the day?

“The mobile devices are different, the content you receive is different, the provider may be doing it in a different way. So the key is actually to understand the consumer, and how they use devices. We can make a great programme to show on all these big screens around us – but are you going to be able to read the graphics on mobile phones? You have to understand the demographics of the user.

“Learn from the mobile industry. That industry has been [doing] mobile advertising for years. They know who you are and what device you’ve got, and how you use that device. We need to learn from the mobile industry, so that we understand what’s required for the right content to the right device at the right time,” said Smith.

Chris Wagner added, “The UFC is a good case study to look at, in the way they use personalisation and Facebook profiling. It allows them to really find audiences at a low cost of acquisition. They look at the cost to acquire a customer through targeting, and they’ve been very successful at driving subscriber acquisition using Facebook data at a very low cost.”

Social platforms and social sports TV

In response to a question about the march of the giants like Amazon, Google, Netflix and Facebook, Wagner said, “They certainly have a lot of money. They have big audiences. In sports it’s not easy to produce large events with commentary, talent, graphics and multiple cameras. Can those companies produce those kinds of high quality live events? Can they go higher than everybody in this room?

“They just haven’t done it yet. If you look at the movie industry, the cost of distribution continues to rise because you’ve got others in there now like Amazon and Netflix bidding up those prices because they want exclusive content to put online. The question is, will they do it around live sports? They haven’t yet – but will they? It’s a lot harder than you think. You need the right kind of people,” continued Wagner.

“Can they buy live sports rights? Certainly they have enough money to do that. If you look at how the younger audience consume content, we find they are more likely to watch in-match highlights rather than just watching a match stream out. That’s really interesting: they have a short attention span and they want to consume in short bursts, so [they] prefer two-minute in-match highlight clips rather than actually watching the match.”

Asked about where virtual reality fits into this picture, Wagner said, “VR is an interesting proposition: ‘the best seat in the house’. Buy a digital ticket, second-screen VR on a headset in a similar way, and you can sell that virtual seat an infinite number of times. I see applications like that driving early money for VR in sports, rather than just putting on a headset and watching a full length soccer match, with all the cameras you need. And of course the stitching, that’s really the hard part [when it comes to VR].”

Wrapping up the session Andrea Di Muzio, Director of Professional Services EMEA at Aspera, and IBM Company said: “There are two problems with OTT delivery. The first one is the cost of delivery, and the second one is how long it takes to deliver.

“Sports content is usually short content, very interesting for one hour or maybe two. Regarding OTT this is definitely possible. We’ve done major sports events now for several years, where the OTT is massive. For these events we need near-live delivery, where we have invested with partners like EVS. We’ve pushed the concept, so now you can stream an event at very high quality directly over the internet. We’ve done that for the World Cup and the Olympics, with incredible results.

“The other interesting area is with events where OTT is pretty much the only way you can make a profit. These are smaller sports, smaller events. Let’s take judo, which my son does. It’s very hard to find judo to watch on standard TV. That’s where OTT can be a sustainable business.

“As a content owner you need an offer where people can turn on, pay and turn off. That’s a key part where Aspera is going to be involved for sport – on-demand, pay as you use where you can just say ‘one hour’ and when I don’t need it any more I turn it off and it doesn’t cost me anything,” said Di Muzio.

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