Going OTT: The race for live sports streaming heats up
By Andy Warman, director, playout solutions, Harmonic
Digital TV Research recently revealed that over the top (OTT) revenues will reach US $123 billion by 2023. With the proliferation of connected devices, live video streaming has grown significantly. According to Parks Associates, the percentage of households with multiple OTT subscriptions has increased by 130% since 2014. In 2019, 46% of US broadband households subscribed to two or more OTT services.
While OTT initially boomed because of an increased consumer appetite for on-demand content, there has been a noticeable shift in demand for live streaming, especially for sports events. Amazon Prime, for example, is now streaming Thursday Night Football games for the NFL, as well as English Premier League games.
With the OTT market for live sports accelerating, now is the perfect time to launch an OTT channel for live sports.
OTT technology rocks
One reason it makes sense to offer live sports streaming is that digital-based video delivery enables business growth. Using new IT-based technologies content owners, broadcasters and video service providers can be more agile and stay competitive. They can also develop deeper customer relationships and offer more dynamic pricing for OTT services.
What’s more, OTT technology is accessible. Today, launching an OTT channel couldn’t be simpler. With software as a service (SaaS) solutions for media processing and distribution, delivering digital video is seamless. In fact, OTT providers have moved beyond merely delivering OTT content and are experimenting with advanced targeting, cross-device campaigns, social media amplification, personalisation features and more.
Dynamic ad insertion technology even allows service providers to deliver advanced targeted advertisements during sports events and helps them to optimise ad campaigns to deliver personalised advertisements to viewers in real time.
“Traditionally, live sports streaming struggled to deliver the same latency as broadcast. This issue has now been resolved thanks to advancements in compression and the emerging use of the Common Media Application Format (CMAF).”
OTT is an opportunity for content owners to change their business model from pay-per-view (PPV) to direct-to-consumer (D2C), and this shift doesn’t have to be disruptive. The success of wrestling content OTT streaming service, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Network, is a great example of successfully moving to a D2C model. WWE Network launched as a streaming platform in 2014. It now provides live coverage to 1.7 million subscribers of every WWE match and also on-demand access to original programming, plus archive content online via a mobile app and on smart TVs.
Research shows that consumers are willing to pay for live sports streaming. The Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg and ThePostGame found that 63% of all sports fans would pay for an all-sports over-the-top channel. Of those interested in streaming sports, 56% would pay more for online streaming than for traditional TV channels.
Advertising can supplement OTT revenue. Digital TV Research found that advertising video on demand (AVOD) is set to climb $34 billion between 2018 and 2024 up to $56 billion. The same survey forecasts SVOD revenue to rise from $36 billion in 2018 to $87 billion in 2024.
Rather than relying on an unpredictable advertising market, content owners and service providers are embracing a subscription-based model where they can earn more predictable, recurring revenue.
Roadblocks are dissolving
Today some of the previous roadblocks to launching OTT channels are no longer an issue. For instance, latency used to be a major challenge for content owners, broadcasters and service providers wanting to deliver OTT, especially for live sports streaming. Viewers want to watch live sports in real time, without delay. There’s nothing worse than watching a live soccer match, and hearing that a goal was scored from a neighbor, before you’ve seen it yourself.
Traditionally, live sports streaming struggled to deliver the same latency as broadcast. This issue has now been resolved thanks to advancements in compression and the emerging use of the Common Media Application Format (CMAF), which reduces latency for encoded content delivery. Now OTT providers can deliver the same low latency for live sports as broadcast channels.
Another issue for live OTT has been scalability. During live sports events, service providers have been ill-equipped to handle peak viewing times. SaaS changes that scenario, enabling OTT providers to scale resources up and down as needed. Recently, Telkomsel, the Indonesian mobile network operator, served four million subscribers during a premier soccer tournament, with excellent quality of experience, using SaaS.
“While live sports coverage of a university basketball team used to only reach a local audience, video streaming makes it possible to cater to a global fan base.”
By launching an OTT channel, service providers can deliver more engaging experiences to fans and broaden their reach globally. For example, while live sports coverage of a university basketball team used to only reach a local audience, video streaming makes it possible to cater to a global fan base. The more people reached, the more that video content can be shared on social media and attract sponsorship.
With OTT, service providers can collect detailed data on audiences in order to learn more about viewer profiles such as age, location and viewing choices. This data can be used to drive content decisions and ensure that viewers are getting the content they want. Delivering personalized streaming video experiences is a must for increasing fan engagement.
It’s easy to make a case for the success of live sports video streaming. With an OTT channel, service providers can reach more viewers, improve fan engagement through personalisation, and increase video delivery scalability and agility by leveraging cloud technologies. In the future, expect to see a lot more live sports streaming as content owners, broadcasters and service providers seek to maximize brand monetization and drive new revenue.