Guest Comment: The rapidly changing sports TV viewing experience

Sports fans are among the world’s most dedicated and loyal followers. In order to support their favorite clubs, they are prepared to regularly travel the length and breadth of their country – and in some cases their continent – spending significant amounts of money in the process, writes Amory Schwartz, EVP Global Sales and Commercial Development, QYOU Media.

In Germany, more than 13 million supporters flock to watch teams compete in the Bundesliga, the nation’s premier division and the world’s best attended football league. In terms of global eyeballs, the English Premier League draws a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion, making it one of the most-watched sports leagues in the world. It’s little wonder that BT wanted to maintain its position in this highly lucrative market, spending £1.2 billion to renew its exclusive UK broadcast rights for the Champions League and Europa League earlier this year. However, with more ways to watch sport than ever before through internet-enabled services, how can TV providers win back the all-important sports super fan?

The growth of social media and online video platforms such as YouTube or Daily Motion have provided consumers with greater access to a wider range of easy-to-consume supplementary content, ranging from sports news and player interviews through to highlight clips rounding up the best moments of the game. For many younger viewers, the idea of sitting through up to eight hours of a test cricket match can seem a big commitment when they can catch the best bits online and without the ads. For the sports super fan, constant connectivity means watching the match live – but this only forms one part of their overall experience. For TV providers and operators, finding a way to tap into the sports super fan’s appetite for on-demand content can open up new revenue opportunities and make existing viewers stickier.

The popularity of ad-light TV services like DAZN are allowing viewers to get sports on-demand. These services offer viewers a greater range of options to choose from and full control over their overall experience. For broadcasters and operators, this offers the potential to take certain elements of these models and add them to their existing services to appeal to digital-savvy sports fans.

Some providers are already responding to the change in viewing habits. BT Sport for example heavily promotes viewing through its apps on smart phones and tablets, offering users with full match replays and short-form video clips such as highlights, interviews and video diaries. These methods are delivering results and BT’s viewing online and via its app has increased by 17%.  BT Sport has demonstrated how broadcasters can enhance their offering through value-add services and new digital business models, leveraging online video to engage the super fan so they spend more time and more money watching and interacting with their favorite teams, players and events.

‘Wow’ factor

Younger viewers are used to seeing extreme feats of athleticism and visual content with a ‘wow’ factor online. Thanks to the ubiquity of online video platforms and greater access to a wider range of video content, niche and extreme sports – such as skateboarding and parkour – are garnering greater levels of interest. These sports are increasingly attracting the attention of the wider TV industry. TV providers such as Ziggo Sport in the Netherlands and Fox Sports in Europe are already providing their viewers with custom programs showcasing these sport genres. By integrating them into their line up, Ziggo Sport and Fox Sports are racking up millions of views online and just importantly, re-engaging millennial viewers.

The internet has also enabled sports grown out of a digital-first environment to flourish. The sports fan today encompasses a broader audience with different interests. Platforms like Twitch, a social video platform for video gamers boasting over 9 million followers, shows that eSports is no longer viewed as an armchair activity and is now considered a serious sport in itself. eSports has been a competitive sport in Asia for a number of years but in the Western world it has only just started to enter the mainstream arena. It was only earlier this year BT Sport announced it had won the rights to broadcast the remaining four Electronic Arts ‘FIFA’ video game majors, enabling fans to watch virtual football for the first time, live on UK TV.

Without a doubt, the sports TV viewing experience is changing. Short form video is now proving a valuable way to entice back today’s sports fan to TV services. By providing flexible, add-on content that incorporates online video, TV providers can win back the sports-fan and in many cases, create new entry points that encourage these viewers to spend more in the future on their services to fulfill their appetite for sports content above and beyond the activity itself.

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