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The future of live sports streaming and the digital fan journey pt.2

By Erik Ramberg, VP Global Development, MediaKind

In the first part of my blog, I discussed the opportunities for monetization in today’s sports market and the importance of data in the digital fan journey. “Engage with your” fans is clearly stating the obvious. But fan engagement isn’t easy. When you want to draw real-time interactivity and science from the data, it must be closely aligned with the video itself. Data services need to be able to tell a story through the information. Even if the content is freely accessible, there is always an element of upselling provided within the service. This is especially true if you have domestic and international markets running in tandem. There are likely to be several layers of entitlements associated with the service.

For instance, that could come down to a ‘paywall’ that restricts access to certain types of content or even features within the content itself, such as the ability to deploy multiple angles, unique consumer-driven in-game services, or special access to data. Use cases such as gamification, fantasy sports, and betting are all applicable here; in each instance, you can take entitlements down to a very different, granular level, which provides a specific set of capabilities.

Some sports – especially American sports – are well suited to snackable viewing, as they’re geared towards ‘big moments’ – think American football, basketball, and baseball. Other sports – like hockey and soccer – have more ebbs and flow to the game – they are not all dependent upon the ‘goal’ moments. I can attest to that – I’ve watched many a goalless draw!

Sports organizations of all sizes can engage their fans!

Nevertheless, there are opportunities to introduce dynamic promotional activities across almost every sport. Fans want to know whether LeBron James reaches the 50 points mark in the fourth quarter for the LA Lakers. They want to see whether Cristiano Ronaldo saves Portugal’s World Cup hopes in the second half. And they want to watch the final few laps of a Formula One Grand Prix to see whether Lewis Hamilton can battle to the podium. Through a simple promotional offer, maybe $5-10, you can provide short, segmented access to this kind of content across many different platforms and formats.

For some sports organizations, there is the challenge of multiple leagues which require – and deserve – the same level of service and attention. In the English soccer leagues system, even the third and fourth-tier leagues contain some clubs that command stadium audiences of 20,000+. While these lower leagues may not generate direct revenues, they can create a lot of indirect revenue and opportunities for advertisers to drive local interests and messages.

The MediaKind team is helping several customers find new ways to correlate the linear feed service with the audience reactions on social media. We are also building ways to help automate the process for them from a production standpoint – the highlights packages in live sports are essentially a curation exercise. However, you need to know what your audience wants to see when the commentator puts down their mic and “it’s back to the studio.”

Embarking on the digital fan journey

The challenge of the digital fan journey is not for one party to solve. Instead, it’s about building an effective ecosystem that can facilitate the right partners and help develop the exciting conversations and stories that fans and audiences want to be a part of. The best way to generate new revenue is to demonstrate value to sponsors. Right now, standalone D2C sports services are underutilizing the potential of secondary monetization tools and fan engagement tools. MediaKind’s 2021 Sports D2C Forecast found that of the 40 sports rights-holders analyzed, none had an integrated betting service, while features such as ticketing (3%), merchandising (5%), and advertising (8%) are still quite rare.

And that brings me back to my original point in the first part of this blog. We’re still in the relative infancy phase of the streaming story. Those who can unlock these revenue opportunities will thrive. The focus needs to be on opening the entry points to the content, maximizing recurring revenues, and making the digital fan journey the best it can be. The next steps are about creating new touchpoints and building direct relationships that enhance overall fan engagement.