How building a cult following in sports can fill future stadiums

Sports rights in streaming can bring exponential growth to your fanbase. Building global audiences has never been easier or more lucrative

Having an over-the-top (OTT) service in sports used to be a ‘nice to have’ when the traditional broadcasters had a monopoly on the rights. This is no longer the case. England held the World Cup for football last time it was.

Thanks to streaming services and their availability around the world, niche sports have the power to go global. You may struggle to find cricket fans in Croatia, but that’s not to say there isn’t a fanbase there. Streaming and OTT provide the ideal opportunity. Growing audiences from a cult following to stadium-filling organisations. How do you go about this?

Let’s explain:

Sub-cultures of sport in new lands 🏈

Who would have thought that Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would become the UK home of the NFL? A 10-year deal with 2 games a year, gathering crowds of over 120,000 people for a sport popularised in the USA. If you travelled back a mere ten or fifteen years, you’d find that American Football had much more of an underground appeal in the UK due to the scarcity of its availability outside of its home turf. Now they’re filling stadiums with dedicated fans in a country that had minimal involvement in the sport. No need to buy the latest Superbowl on VHS from the man in the local pub anymore and you have NFL Game Pass to thank for that. More on that shortly…

Bright lights sell rights 💸

Recently, The National Football League (NFL) and DAZN signed a ten-year deal to deliver NFL Game Pass International, globally. When you look at the numbers, it’s not surprising that a sports organisation of this size is doubling down on their share of the OTT market. There’s no secret that traditional pay TV is falling off when compared to streaming. 80% of sports fans regularly or sometimes watched sports on streaming services or online channels in 2022, according to research conducted by Nielsen. Selling rights and making a deal is still the same framework that sports organisations have worked within since the golden ages of pay-per-view (PPV) TV deals, but now it’s moved online and gone OTT.

Why can’t I stream Malaysia kick volleyball championships? 🏐

Ok, that might be a little too niche, but the point still stands. Some national sports could have untapped global audiences they aren’t reaching without an OTT or streaming service. Building an engaged audience goes beyond the simple sale of rights. Some sports organisations have become early adopters of going direct-to-consumer by building their own OTT services. An example of this is The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) parting ways with Sky to strengthen its own OTT service, GAAGO. By retaining their TV rights, they’re now able to offer global coverage for most of the matches. This exclusivity isn’t to be trifled with considering GAAGO had revenue of €2.9 million in 2021, without the ability to show their matches in Ireland on the service due to rights restrictions.  

A quote graphic card with blue and greenshapes overlayed. There is a photo of Josh Harrington, Head of Sales at Simplestream, alongside a quote from him about starting your own streaming service.

Everyone loves an underdog 🏅

You may think that you need a large team with sponsorship and rights deals to run your own applications for live and VOD streaming. This isn’t true for every distribution method. Bringing your content to audiences can be achieved beyond applications. Build your service at a scale you can manage and make it self-service, without the requirement of a sizeable support team. A virtual channel, with optional ad insertion, provides the lowest barrier to entry. Distributing both live and VOD content is simple with this method and could be set up in as little as six steps.

A clickable blue Simplestream branded banner with a call to action to book a meeting at the International Sports Convention with Head of Sales, Josh Harrington.