Report: Sports fans demand personalisation and flexibility from broadcasters

Huge opportunities if viewers can pick and chose

Fans of sport want more flexibility and personalisation from broadcasters to allow them to pick and chose their own content, according to new research.

Sports fans are willing to pay more for streaming live sports, but only if it provides better access to the sports teams and leagues they are interested in, according to an international survey commissioned by Verizon Media into what fans want from services that let them stream live sports.

On how broadcasters can make sports content more relevant to sports fans as individuals, Ariff Sidi, general manager, media platform, Verizon Media, told SVG Europe: “Ultimately, consumers are looking for flexibility, and with sports, that means making the right content packages available. For example, our research found that those who watch live sports less frequently had a greater preference for ‘pay as you go’ individual games than those who consume a greater amount of live sports content.

“Those particular consumers may never go all in on a complete package of sports content, but rather than miss out on their custom altogether, give them the flexibility to pay for what they’re interested in,” Sidi advised.

The research was conducted amongst 5,000 sports fans in the US, UK, France, Germany and Holland and found that  the opportunity for content providers streaming live sports is huge, as long as  they offer greater personalisation, better viewing options and a different advertising experience better suited to a streaming environment.

Almost two thirds (63%) would consider paying – or paying more if they already do so – for a live sports streaming service if it offered coverage of a sports league or team that interests them. Less than half (47%) of respondents with a premium subscription feel that it gives them access to all the teams they want to watch, pointing to a market with plenty of opportunity for growth.

Meanwhile, 51% of sports fans specifically use streaming services to follow sports that are not available anywhere else. They like the flexibility and high quality experience streaming gives them, with 39% using a streaming service because it allows them to watch on their smartphone and 32% opting to stream live sports in 4K UHD. Over a third (37%) of respondents choose to stream live sports over the top (OTT) because it is a less expensive alternative to satellite or cable Pay TV.

However, commented Sidi, viewing sport on the big screen is far more popular than the smartphone: “Our recent survey results and data from our platform suggest that the majority of streamed content is delivered to larger screens, rather than mobile devices. In fact, the growth of streaming on connected devices (eg, smart TVs, game consoles, streaming media players, etc,) far outpaces streaming growth on mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc). To illustrate the point, 46% of those surveyed in this research stream live sports via a connected or smart television versus 22% doing so over mobile.”

He went on: “This indicates that consumers want high quality streaming on larger screens, so the challenge is for content providers to meet their viewers where they are, and to offer a seamless viewing experience no matter the size of the format. Further, consumers expect content to be personalised to them when it comes to OTT. Not only do they want to be able to watch their favourite teams, but they also demand localised, relevant ads, personalised highlights, and more.”

He continued: “There is a huge opportunity for content providers to reshape the entire landscape of live sports by offering more choice and deeper coverage of specific teams. There is the potential to build global audiences around niche sports and leagues that don’t currently get enough airtime, but to do so they must employ the latest and most flexible technology resources.”

Over a third (37%) of sports fans have cancelled a live streaming subscription, with almost half (45%) citing cost as the primary reason. The most passionate sports consumers, cancel services due to a lack of coverage of the teams they follow (23%), a hard-to-use interface (15%) or inordinate delay behind live (19%).

Sidi added: “We’ve already seen that if you get the content right, they could be willing to pay more and still see it as the option available to them that gives the most value for their money.”

Approximately one in three sports fans are looking for more control over the live experience, wanting access to replay controls like slow motion (35%), the ability to switch between camera angles (30%), time shifting (30%) and the ability to skip ads (30%). There is also significant interest in getting easier access to match highlights (42%), and libraries of on-demand content (22%).

“The industry talks a lot about streaming services being ‘TV-like’ but sports fans actually want a different experience that puts them in total control. Streaming services are much more capable of innovating because they have the luxury of using advanced technology that can serve every consumer need from day one,” added Sidi. “Live sports streaming services can emulate the best aspects of traditional television while bringing totally unique immersive experiences to fans.”

Asked to choose between 4K UHD or improvements to the gap between true live and pictures appearing on screen, two thirds of sports fans (66%) would choose picture quality versus only a third (34%) who would pick reduced latency.

As to what the challenges and opportunities for sports broadcasters in creating this greater level of personalisation for fans will be, Sidi explained: “The immediate addressable opportunity lies in the advertising models. We know from the research that consumers want different ad experiences when streaming sports content; they’ll tolerate fewer ad breaks, expect commercial messaging to be woven into the fabric of the broadcast itself and, of course, some level of personalisation to occur.

“If you are running fewer ads, they need to be highly targeted, and that’s where server-side dynamic ad insertion (DAI) comes in. It delivers entirely customised content, adapted for each consumer’s interests, completely automatically and in real time without any additional overheads in editing or playout resources,” he concluded.

Subscribe and Get SVG Europe Newsletters