A new era of innovation is upon us, and media operators need to look at future investments to establish how they will embrace this transformational journey. The evolution from linear to digital broadcast has transformed the entire media and entertainment ecosystem. I discussed these industry changes and explored the impact of live sports streaming in the APAC region during the ConnecTechAsia technology roadmap panel, which you can access on-demand here.
The internet is the primary catalyst for industry change — defined by the growth of social media, mobile connectivity, streaming video, and cloud computing — and has facilitated an enormous rise in consumer expectations. Global access to information and video content has never been greater. During this panel I also discussed the transformative impact next-generation technology is having on contribution and distribution, and the opportunities for remote production to pave the way for future productions.
Scoring goals with live sports streaming
There is an enormous opportunity for live sports broadcasters and rights owners across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, not least with the rearranged Tokyo Olympics and the Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup in 2021. Media revenues in APAC are forecast to surge to $7.2 billion by 2024, with income from over-the-top (OTT) streaming set to climb at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22 percent and contribute $2.9 billion, according to research from Media Partners Asia (MPA).
These figures indicate that as the consumption of content shifts from cable and satellite to streaming platforms, broadcasters and service providers must innovate, engage, and shake up their business models. There are significant opportunities in APAC — and worldwide — for traditional players to compete with streaming services and scale up their offerings with broadcast-quality features. The uptake from broadcast to unicast will be a particularly major accelerant, as it gives end-users more flexibility with multi-angle camera feeds and 360-degree viewing experiences.
Content players will increasingly localize advertising in certain countries — particularly in South East Asia — as an alternative to the dispersed advertising route commonly taken by streamed broadcast groups. Advertising is a key component of business models across APAC and we are seeing this to continue to grow, mainly because of the low average revenue per user (ARPU). This is particularly important as we see a rise in linear TV moving to OTT services for scale, and services that are free to market need to establish a revenue business model for longevity. It is possible to harness the opportunities of advertising to generate this success.
Digital technology also enables far greater monetization opportunities with advertising. In the past, most eyeballs were on the broadcaster’s coverage, however as digital becomes more dominant, the prospects for addressable advertising will gain significant attention — and not just at a regional level.
OTT accelerates with 5G
Next-generation technology is having a transformative impact on video distribution. The rollout of 5G across the APAC region will create compelling new use cases for media providers, specifically live sports and differentiated experiences. However, we are unlikely to see the rollout of 5G happen in the next 12 months, with C-Band spectrum auctions yet to occur.
The deployment of 5G networks will change live content production, particularly concerning how audiences experience sporting events, concerts, and other major arena events. 5G will enable greater bandwidth, connection density, and much lower latency. This connectivity will also create new in-event experiences with augmented reality (AR) overlays and an overall improvement to streaming quality.
5G will make it possible for live sports to be broadcast directly from the cameras in the arena and streamed directly to a broadcasting facility. The opportunity opens up significant possibilities for the future of distribution and audience engagement. However, significant changes will be limited until the technology becomes more widely available.
New players entering a crowded market
Traditional service providers are transitioning to embrace streaming, something we will see more and more of across the entire APAC region. Despite the changing landscape, the growing competition for broadcasting rights is denser than ever before. The bidding for live sporting rights, which once was held by traditional players, is now faced with increasing competition as OTT services vie for the same rights — and audience eyeballs.
Finding new ways to monetize this content is the number one business priority for broadcasters, content owners, and pay-tv operators in APAC, with almost all operations boasting a complimentary streaming service. Herein lies the complications to monetize and market to consumers with so many services competing for audience attention. These operators must look at how they can make their technology investments neutral despite the increasing competition.
With that said, perhaps the most significant challenge in today’s digital ecosystem is aggregation and the successful bundling of direct-to-consumer (DTC) services alongside live and linear content experiences. We see the content rights ecosystem evolving quickly. I do not believe we are far away from seeing the same live football match being made available on linear broadcast channels, Facebook, and DAZN, at the same time.
Shaping and empowering the future of digital
The industry needs to work together to integrate end-user experiences in an aggregated operation that is commercially viable. It’s not an easy take, and one that to date has quite heavily swung towards the success of global players negotiating ways to monetize these offerings.
The linear business model is quickly changing, and broadcasters are moving to streaming services to tap into audiences and, as such, require flexible technology investments. Traditionally service providers invested in expensive technology, which would provide a return on investment over five to six years. Today, the world is moving much quicker, and there is a need for technology solutions that offer greater agility and more flexible contracts.
Producing remotely for seamless live broadcasting
APAC ecosystem still requires a lot of customization to specific languages, particularly with commentary and audio subtitling. Traditionally this required multiple language commentators and producers to travel the world; however, the pandemic has forced broadcasters to adopt remote production tools to navigate these restrictions.
Remote production capabilities will significantly impact how the broadcast industry in APAC delivers live content in the future. Adopting cloud and IP technologies makes a lot more sense for sports leagues looking to embark on this journey as remote production technology matures.
The possibilities for audience engagement and monetization in the short and long term across APAC is significant. APAC is the most diverse region worldwide; we expect to see far greater movements in Australia and New Zealand, specifically around live sports. However, the South East Asian market, including China, Japan, and Korea, will also radically accelerate with the rollout of 5G.
To hear more about the opportunities and challenges around empowering the digital ecosystem in APAC and the technology roadmap needed for success, you can watch myself and other industry experts speak during the ConnecTechAsia event on-demand now. More details on how to register and view the session are here.