Perhaps more than any other type of content, sports continue to remain one of the most significant opportunities for OTT providers. This is not without reason - 63% of all sports fans are interested in paying for an all-sports over-the-top channel.
But it’s a competitive landscape, even by broadcasting standards. Here in the UK, where Massive are based, BT and Sky dominate the playing field, having both held the exclusive rights to the Premier League for many years.
Only Amazon with its seemingly bottomless purse for content acquisition has begun to disrupt the status quo - the e-commerce giant secured the rights to broadcast 20 Premier League matches a season from 2019-2022 earlier this year, in what many consider a landmark deal for football and online streaming overall.
The attractiveness of being in a position to offer live sporting events, be it the FIFA World Cup or high school lacrosse, is obvious. Immediate sway with some of the most loyal and content-hungry fans in the world; a clear point of distinction between yourself and the competition; and, of course, an opportunity to turbocharge streaming revenues.
But merely owning the broadcast rights is not enough. Building a cohesive, multi-platform user experience to house this most premium of premium content is critical to keeping fans engaged and willing to part with their hard-earned cash.
Here at Massive, we’ve helped design, build and power some of the world’s most successful online sports video services, including DAZN, Bell Media TSN, and BBC Sport. In the following paragraphs, we share with you some of the hard-earned lessons that we’ve picked up along the way, proven to help maximize profitability over the long-term.
Understand a Fan’s Psyche…
Finding success in sports comes from a deep understanding of your audience, from the ‘committed-casual fan’ to the ‘die-hard fanatic.’ Each has their own set of drivers and motivations for tuning in to watch an event, which you need to recognize to deliver the most engaging UX.
Here’s an example of different types of fans and their behaviors that we’ve discovered over the years.
|Committed-casual fans have inherited their allegiance to a particular team or sport from an immediate family member. He may have grown up watching the game live, but looks back more fondly on the quality time spent together as a group, rather than the goals scored. He tunes in when “his team” makes it to the later stages of a competition, but other interests often take a priority. Sport connects him to his roots.|
|Enthusiasts are not fanatical but do have a favorite team. She may tune in regularly to keep abreast of recent developments and stay informed, valuing accurate information and critical stories over intense scrutiny of the game. Even though she doesn’t want to miss out on knowing how her team performs, she’ll only catch the highlights or replays when she can’t watch it live.|
|Fanatics have their team ingrained into their identity (and sometimes their skin). For these viewers, sport represents belonging and community. He will attend games often, have multiple sport-focused apps on his phone, and finds waking up at 3am to watch international games “normal.” He and his peers are the core target market for any sports OTT service.|
These are just three examples; there are many, many more in between, and it’s critical for you to understand what makes each of them tick in order to influence your feature planning.
It's also important to take into consideration wherein the event lifecycle a particular viewer currently sits. Despite the obvious differences between sports, there are similarities at the core of the spectator experience - anticipation steadily builds pre-game, giving rise to the high of the event, often followed by reflection and analysis. Facilitating ways to share the ebb and flow of these experiences allows people to connect through sport in ways that are meaningful and memorable.
…And Then Act on It
Comprehension of the different user types and the rhythm of the game is, of course, fundamental. But without the ability to act on what you know, quickly and decisively, it’s like sitting on a winning lottery ticket without anywhere to cash it in.
That’s why we built our user experience management console, Massive AXIS. The control layer, Presentation Manager, sits between your consumer-facing applications and back-end technology stack, giving non-technical operators (typically internal content schedulers and marketers) the ability to roll out UI changes in real-time, without writing a single line of code.
Here are some of the use cases in AXIS to help drive engagement and revenues.
Grow Revenue With Sponsored UI
Advertising has been the primary driver for the bumper revenues generated by sports for decades. A new record is seemingly broken every year on the amount spent for a 30-second slot during the Super Bowl (cumulatively, $5.4 billion over the last 52 years) and, clearly, the payment model will continue to pay dividends for many years to come.
But we are beginning to see a shift emerge. The rise of subscription services like Netflix and DAZN have steadily eroded the tolerance of audiences for pre-and mid-roll advertising. There’s a higher expectation for viewing experiences that are fluid and uninterrupted, yet this clashes with the desire from content owners to have as much headroom to grow revenue as possible.
Cue Sponsored UI.
AXIS enables content owners to sell the premium real estate in the UI to brands, through the form of sponsored rows, backgrounds, categories and landing pages. The concept isn’t new – banner and display advertising has been around almost as long as the internet itself – yet there are startlingly few video services around the globe leveraging their video service to generate additional income in this way.
For brands, the opportunities are clear. Non-intrusive access to passionate fan bases, in turn creating a positive association with the user’s favorite content. Chances for success are compounded when the brand in question already has a pre-existing relationship with the team or player being highlighted, just like the Adidas example above - the perfect formula for selling the same merchandise used by the pros.
Be Where the Fan is Watching
Think about the ultimate sports viewing experience. No doubt, you are picturing a wall-mounted, 60+ inch 4K television, coupled with a cold beer and great company. And you wouldn’t be blamed for believing that this is still what most fans dream of when thinking about the best way to consume content.
But research indicates that an increasing number of viewers are now tuning in to games on mobile devices – 65%, to be exact. Why is this?
Highlights, from a match-winning goal to a favorite player being sent off, are typically only a few seconds in length, and can easily be enjoyed from the palm of your hand. When a game is live but you're on the move, a mobile device is a quick and reliable portal to get your sporting fix. And the acquisition of rights by social networks (Facebook and the NFL announced a partnership last year) means that it is easier than ever to connect with friends during an event.
That's why we built Massive AXIS to encompass not only the user experience control layer but also a suite of best-of-breed native reference applications across web, mobile, smart TVs and games consoles. These are all controlled directly in real-time within Presentation Manager, require no additional engineering post-integration and can be taken off-the-shelf or fully customized (or a combination of both).
Highlight What Matters
Rivalries within sports transcend simple aversion. Some run so deep, the mere sight of an opposing team’s success is rage inducing. AXIS’s powerful Segmentation Tags enable operators to easily tailor the UI to highlight any specific team, city, league or country for each individual user.
For instance, say that a proportion of your audience are die-hard fans of the Green Bay Packers. Within AXIS, you can put together a customized version of your service that is strong on team colors, surfaces relevant team highlights, live content and commercial promotions in the hero bar, and, most importantly, suppresses any reference to the Chicago Bears.
Think of it like creating a custom team franchise OTT service, within your OTT service.
Content is no longer king; the consumer experience has taken the throne. To compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace, TV operators have to deliver an exceptional user experience that caters to the individual habits and behaviors of their audience. And there is no trickier terrain to navigate than that of sports fans.
If a user becomes frustrated by the lack of features, unavailability on specific devices or the game freezes half way through, not only will they go elsewhere, but they will be vocal in their feedback.
TV operators should aim to exceed their customer's expectations, not just meet them. And this starts with a deep understanding of your user profiles, their wants and desires, and how this translates into bespoke functionality, layout, and promotions. All of this, coupled with a user experience platform like AXIS, means that very quickly you can begin to make your strategy a reality.
Find out how we helped Telecine in Brazil grow its OTT traffic by 75% in under 12 months with Massive AXIS.