In the driver’s seat: Fan control and data-driven experiences are key to next-gen sports viewing

Sports fans want second- and third-screen experiences that allow them to engage with each other – and with live content – in real-time

By Joe Ferreira, vice president, sports & events, LTN Global

The nature of sports consumption is rapidly evolving, with highly interactive, personalised experiences shaping viewing habits. Fans tuning into major finals across the sporting calendar have more customisation options at their fingertips than ever before, placing pressure on sports content producers to deliver immersive, fan-controlled experiences.

On the near horizon, fans at home — and in-stadium — can choose how they want to watch the biggest live sports events: switching between camera angles, zooming in on the action, replaying that goal they can’t resist watching again. On top of this, fans can dive into data-driven analytics: in-game statistics, player performance indicators and graphical overlays.

This gamer-style experience will quickly become the new sports TV standard. Fans looking for ways to take control of their experience may seek other sources of information — sometimes taking attention away from the primary broadcast. But rights holders and media companies that provide enhanced content can keep consumers in their ecosystem, attract new audiences and unlock new monetisation opportunities.

Until now, enhancing traditional broadcast coverage with new fan engagement formats has required complex technology workflows and equipment — and it’s been expensive. But IP and cloud advances enable the simultaneous ingestion and management of multiple video and audio streams, streamlining workflows and unlocking game-changing possibilities.

Raising the bar

Over the past 18 months, many sports fans have been unable to attend live events, focusing a brighter spotlight on live sports coverage. Fans who can’t attend in person want the next best thing: an immersive experience. Sports broadcasters and rights holders have risen to the challenge, pioneering with new technologies to design richer and more engaging live content experiences. To do this at scale, providing content fit for an explosion of new platforms and devices, the live sports industry has harnessed remote and centralised production workflows to ramp up content creation and deliver a greater volume of high-quality live coverage to global audiences.

“Sports fans aren’t just sitting back and enjoying the action — they’re increasingly deciding how they want to consume content and becoming active show participants”

But, as sportscasters raise their game to provide enhanced content experiences, fan expectations reach new heights, with consumer control becoming an increasingly important element of live sports consumption. Traditionally, broadcasters, rights holders, producers and sports events directors have controlled the fans’ viewing experience. Today, passive live sports consumers are trending towards the minority. Sports fans aren’t just sitting back and enjoying the action — they’re increasingly deciding how they want to consume content and becoming active show participants.

In the heart of the action: Virtual fan engagement

Fan engagement fuels revenue streams in live sports, bolstering the value of live sports rights. New production workflows designed to bring fans together virtually when physical attendance wasn’t possible are now shaping the future of live sports content. For example, ‘watch together’ events connect fan communities across geographies — and create a more dynamic live show. Even as crowds return to sports venues, not every fan can attend in person, so bringing viewers as close to the action as possible — directly from their living room — allows them to enjoy an engaging, interactive experience.

Robust and reliable IP multicast transport networks provide the backbone for innovative fan engagement workflows. A managed transmission network compensates for the shortcomings of the transport protocols that use the public internet — essential to the practical delivery of watch together features — ensuring the transport of multiple feeds to and from various locations at ultra-low latency and without packet loss.

Unlocking virtual fan participation in live sports broadcasts has been essential to keeping sports fresh and engaging for global audiences. But to get ahead of the game, broadcasters and sports leagues can take the viewing experience one step further by putting fans in control of their own experience.

It isn’t enough, though, to deliver high-quality, high-def broadcasts — that’s now table stakes. Sports fans want second- and third-screen experiences that allow them to engage with each other — and with live content — in real-time. Consumers expect to mould their viewing experience by selecting camera angles, audio streams/languages, live betting lines, replays and personalised game highlights. And they expect this to be easy and intuitive.

Data drives new monetisation opportunities

Fan-controlled viewing experiences present revenue growth opportunities for media companies and rights holders as they boost retention and loyalty. Viewers signal their interest in specific sports, leagues and players, creating deeper audience segmentation and paving the way for customised content packages and more precise ad targeting. But data-sharing is a two-way street. From real-time game and player statistics to wagering-specific data, richer viewing experiences meet the demands of increasingly knowledgeable audiences.

A new era of live sports experiences

Creating premium live sports content will increasingly depend on providing audiences with more control, richer data and real-time engagement opportunities. Nurturing and maintaining a loyal, switched-on audience within your ecosystem will unlock new revenue streams. Sports organisations, networks and agencies that master the art of fan-centric and data-powered content will win the long game.

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