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The future of live sports streaming and the digital fan journey pt.1

By Erik Ramberg, VP Global Development, MediaKind

“Erik, where do you see the opportunities for monetization in the streaming market today?” It’s a question I’m asked from time to time at panel events, sales meetings, and even during internal Microsoft Teams discussions at MediaKind! In relative terms, we’re still in the infancy phase of the streaming story, even if we’ve come an awful long way in the past five years alone. 

For me, it all comes down to getting back to basics – streaming services need to be reliable. And you’ve got to be able to accommodate viewers at scale, particularly if you’re in the live sports market. That’s not an inconsiderable piece of the puzzle – it’s potentially the most challenging aspect of all. Platform performance is table-stakes and paramount to attracting and retaining audiences long-term. I discussed some of these fundamentals in a blog last year

But let’s assume, for a moment, that the core tenets of a streaming service are upheld in terms of quality, stability, reliability, and scale. What comes next?

The future of the digital fan journey

Look anywhere across the sports streaming space right now, and there is one commonality – the need for data, the importance of analytics, and making more of the opportunities on offer. If you’re a major sports league, you need access to information that gives a relative indication of age, location, likely household income, and personal interests, rather than a faceless user ID filled with numbers. 

When I speak to customers and partners, my question is quite simple. Where do you want to take your digital fan on their journey across your platform? There are a few areas to consider. The first is around brand activation and creating a more visible value-add to expand audience reach. To engage the fan of today requires a deep understanding of audience segments and, as part of that, a knowledge of local environments – spanning from where the viewers are watching their favorite content to what they’re watching it on. 

And that’s why data is so critical – everything is being steered towards real-time interaction and a more personalized experience. To reach tomorrow’s fans, the sports streaming platform needs to be able to contextualize the content through to the user experience itself – the entire viewer journey needs to be relevant and highly personal. Personalization doesn’t simply refer to the UI either; it’s also the stream itself. When you go to a commercial break, what do you do next? 

Achieving a sustainable D2C business model

The trouble is, the challenge of brand activation and delivering contextual experiences is not centered on a single part of the supply chain or a single audience. The value lies across the board. It’s the fans in the stadium, the audience at home, the clubs, leagues, players, teams, and the partners that the broadcaster works alongside. The value of sports data extends in multiple directions and needs to be part of a complementary offering to the services that are already in place. 

To achieve a sustainable business model in the direct-to-consumer (D2C) space, broadcasters and content owners need to consider how they use their data to speak to their fans during that journey. They must strengthen the fans’ relationship with the viewing experience, the sport and find new ways to make them more loyal and invested in the platform and brand. The data needs to expose the right kinds of content and unlock the right types of interactivity to ensure that this knowledge is best utilized to deliver new methods of monetization and broader communities of engaged fans. 

Once you’ve established these communities of engaged fans, they need things to play with! Through the growth of social media and user-generated content, fans are now engaging and participating with the media of sport like never before. In the past few years, MediaKind has concentrated on finding ways to support that content pipeline to enable more effective data services and look at ways to support the commercialization of the platform and engage the audience.

In the second part of my blog, I look at the opportunities for fan engagement in live sports and the next steps in the digital fan journey.