Guest Comment: Younger viewers turning away from live sport

Tom Williams is CEO of Ostmodern

Tom Williams is CEO of Ostmodern

Live sport has been considered by broadcasters to be the most successful aspect of live TV, being immune to new behaviours affecting linear TV, writes Tom Williams, Chief Executive, Ostmodern. Recent studies suggest that this is no longer the case, with younger generations in fact turning away from live sport.

Gaming, social media, and the broader evolution of the Internet, have given rise to a new set of habits and expectations, which increasingly define what viewers understand to be good models of interactivity, content, and ways of recommending that content.

This change is mainly being driven by younger audiences with a desire to watch what they want, when they want, on whatever device they choose. Unfortunately, the broadcasting of live sport does not currently meet these expectations. As young people seem to be watching less live sport, broadcasters need to find better ways of engaging with these audiences. A single linear feed – which in reality only offers a fraction of the content available, not taking into account different viewers’ preferences – is no longer enough.

Sports rights holders are, however, in a position to benefit from these new video consumption habits. They can offer users an unparalleled amount of material in terms of additional feeds and alternative camera angles, together with complementary articles, commentary and social media to engage viewers and contextualise what they are watching.

Although variety is an essential part of a successful sports VOD platform in today’s market, what is equally important is discovery. There’s no point giving viewers access to an extensive range of content if it’s difficult to navigate that content and then even harder to decide what to watch. For the demanding ‘Millennial’ (aged 21-34), and even more so Generation Z (aged 15-20), being offered vast content catalogues without the familiar conceptual and design tools to choose, this is especially ineffective. By carrying out scheduling, curation and storytelling well, sports broadcasters can steer viewers to content that they want to watch at a particular moment. By understanding how to deliver content on more than one screen (as well as the nuances of each screen and how they relate), broadcasters can create a more engaging and flexible experience.

In 2016, there were already examples of some sports bodies adapting to this change. The NBA moved to a new content distribution model, using social media and other channels to give ‘Millennials’ short, ‘snackable’ content in places that already capture their attention. This year, broadcasters/content creators will have to adapt fiercely to accommodate how young people want to view sport. Broadcasters will be much more creative about how they deliver first and second screen experiences, and be smarter about combining these with social media, for younger people. Otherwise, more and more younger viewers will simply look for alternative forms of entertainment – and, let’s face it, they aren’t short of choice in this.

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