Window of opportunity: Deltatre on niche services direct to the consumer in sports broadcasting

Magdalena Eriksson, Fridolina Rolfö and Linda Sembrant of Sweden celebrate after the 0-3 goal during the FIFA women’s World Cup Qualifying football match between Georgia and Sweden on 7 April 2022 in Gori

By Romain Rossi, Deltatre SVP commercial.

There’s no doubt that 2022 has been a sports fan’s dream. From the World Cup to the Commonwealth games to the Women’s Euros, it’s been a bumper year of sport. The packed calendar, plus the millions of people that have watched across the world, demonstrates that the appetite for sports content is insatiable.

And it’s not just an appetite for live sport, but also for a huge variety of fan-centric material, with more than a third of global sports fans watching non-live content and programming [Neilsen Report, Fans are Changing the Game, 2022]. In 2023, although there will still be the usual schedule of the NFL, Premier League, and MLB, depending on your preference, plus the Women’s World Cup, there’s no doubt that it will feel quieter when compared with the past 12 months of sports mania.

Window of opportunity

This presents a window of opportunity before a super summer of sport with the Olympics and Euros in 2024. An opportunity to step in and feed the appetite for sport that has been consumed with international competition this year. Previously, large players would step up to the plate to address this market, but 2023 will be a year where we see more niche services move into the limelight and take advantage of an audience looking at where to direct their enthusiasm for sport.

Traditionally, niche and localised media rights owners have faced significant challenges when it comes to reaching their target audience. However, that’s starting to change. The over the top (OTT) boom in recent years has disrupted the market, and the technology that has seen large players in the market thrive is now becoming accessible to a much broader pool of content providers. This is driven by out-of-the-box solutions that lower the budget needed to deliver an OTT platform, making it much easier for a service to be launched.

In terms of delivering what it is that sports fans crave, many of these providers already have the resources at their fingertips. The challenge is not the content itself, but a mechanism for delivery.

In the past, they may have been persuaded to partner with a broadcaster with strong technological expertise, capable of doing the heavy lifting for reaching their target audience. However, this comes with limitations on the rewards that can be reaped.

Direct to consumer

A proprietary, direct to consumer (D2C) OTT service changes things. D2C platforms offer leagues and federations a big opportunity to monetise their own content. These platforms put content providers and rights holders in the driving seat, able to access data that allows them to better understand and engage with their audience and use those insights to improve services. They are in a position to take advantage of a significant revenue opportunity with resources that are easily available to them – player interviews, docuseries, and webinars – and use them to build relationships with and serve fans.

2023’s dip in the number of global sports events makes it an ideal time for niche players to launch. They are less likely to be drowned out by the noise of large quadrennial events and instead enjoy a sport-hungry market to launch in. By choosing to unveil a platform in a “quieter” sports period, leagues and federations can capitalise on an audience that is interested in sport and not saturated with choice. It gives the opportunity to build up an audience quickly and gain the insights to understand exactly what is needed to keep fans engaged in preparation for a busier and more competitive landscape.

Access to technology that allows the launch of an end-to-end OTT platform, not only without the high price tag but also with a significantly reduced lead time, hasn’t just levelled the playing field for niche services; it’s completely changed the game.

Of course, 2023 will still see the continued evolution and development of all the big sports OTT services as it is clear they still have room for growth. However, it will also see an influx of niche and localised players enter the market as barriers to entry are removed and they look to capitalize on a window of opportunity to establish their services.

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