Thought Leadership: Sportradar on the modern fan and data-driven OTT

Working with LiveU kit, Sportradar is bringing all 240 matches from the Austrian Football Second League to viewers worldwide this year

The growth and proliferation of digital media has brought increased opportunities for rights holders to either engage new fans or grow relationships with existing ones, writes Felix Blank, director of digital platforms at Sportradar.

Prior to the emergence of over the top (OTT) in the industry, video content was an altogether different beast and consisted of sports dictating to fans when content could be consumed; namely occupying a set time in a TV calendar each week. However, decades on, the tables have turned.

In many cases, viewers now dictate what content creators produce while modern consumption preferences, often driven by younger generations, have forced rights holders to cater to an ‘always-on’ mindset.

It’s not just a case of when people want to consume content that has changed, however; users are now across multiple platforms in multiple formats, thereby increasing the opportunities available to rights holders and publishers.

Fans ultimately want seamless accessibility across multiple platforms and the ability to engage and involve themselves with a sport, something gamification and data can help foster.

Viewer experience

With the rise and rise of mobile, especially among younger generations, newsrooms and media teams globally have been forced to adapt and integrate a comprehensive video strategy into their content output.

For almost all rights holders seeking to engage with both existing and new audiences, video is a focal point as it simply projects a sport better and more efficiently than any other medium. As a result, organisations require two things: a strategy that includes the best possible fan experience; and also one that can be well monetised. To be able to provide both requires relevant, accurate data and plenty of it.

In terms of the first requirement, in order to provide deep, immersive insights as well as new ways of content such as gaming and betting entertainment, high quality data is a must, however nuanced your goals are as a rights holder.

All our partners want to keep users on platforms for longer and we believe seamless integration of data is the best way to do that. That comes not just through overlays and statistical add-ons but also gamification aspects linked to the match. That can come in video form, text, a quiz or a poll and is increasingly an automated mechanism designed to understand what’s happening in a game before delivering something in real time that will keep users engaged with platforms and streams longer.

Personalisation is not only a positive for the user, ensuring relevant content and an improved viewing experience, it also offers greater opportunities for monetisation at the rights holder end. By being able to derive insights from users’ viewing habits, rights holders can innovate and create based on informed knowledge of their audiences, thereby maintaining a strong subscriber base if that’s the preferred route for monetisation.

Making money

Alternatively, if a rights holder is more reliant on sponsors and advertising, data still plays a crucial part because ultimately both sides still want the same thing; to know as much as possible about the customer.

Establishing that direct-to-consumer relationship could be to foster a bond with a sport or grow a relationship with a brand in order to sell products, but it is one of the key ways in which digital and OTT comes into its own when compared to traditional linear broadcasting.

As opposed to simply showcasing a product and trying to sell it in a very matter-of-fact manner, with data-driven OTT you have the option and the data to segment users and formulate relevant content in real time depending on an event within a match and that’s what will increasingly become the norm.

With modern technology like artificial intelligence (AI) becoming more advanced and mainstream, you could have pop-up ads of Lionel Messi just as he’s scored a goal or Ederson when he’s made a world-class save, offering discounts on relevant items like replica shirts to engaged audiences for a limited period during the match.

The options really are limitless and we see this practice of automated, real time advertising as a win for the user, the rights holder and the sponsor as it creates an increasingly personalised experience and adds further options by which to integrate sponsorship and monetisation opportunities.

Fan relationship

No two rights holders will have the same strategy because every sport, organisation and broadcast department will have different target audiences and various key aspects they wish to highlight.

However, what should be universal across the sports OTT landscape is the desire and aim to establish direct-to-fan relationships with the help of ongoing, entertaining storytelling in order to secure an identity for a sport or brand.

The role of data then comes into its own once that relationship-building process has begun, because the intelligence allows rights holders to constantly improve and enhance their offering with the inclusion of data-driven platform features and functionalities.

While there is an element of trial and error at play, those enhancements can then be amended or improved further based on viewing data and audience insights while the various revenue streams open to OTT rights holders can also be further targeted and optimised with the use of data, whether that’s advertising, sponsorship, subscription or indirect models.

Ultimately, with ad spend on OTT streaming set to increase 20% to $2.6 billion in 2019 [Winterberry Group 2019], data-driven insights in real time, coupled with innovative features, are what will ensure rights holders and content owners can maximise the potential of OTT.

Whether that’s live data overlays, up to date betting odds or social media embeds, allowing users to engage with sport and content without needing to leave the platform is the common goal for rights holders and sponsors as well as viewers.

Ensuring the best possible experience for viewers watching their favourite sports while also helping open up new revenue streams and monetisation opportunities is frankly a no-brainer and is also why data must be given an integral role in any OTT strategy.


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