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Sport beyond broadcast: Building a successful sports streaming service

With sports entities looking to monetise their live and on demand content, what does it take to make a sports streaming service successful?

It’s five letters, and celebrated globally: unscripted drama par excellence, one of the most loved sources of entertainment ever invented. We hear you; the answer is an easy one, we are talking about sport. Hands up if you have never thought of live action sports as (one of) the most lucrative content buckets, as well as an opportunity for greater engagement, as mentioned above. Simplestream can help you build a successful sports streaming service, which we’ll cover in greater detail throughout this guide.

Sport has been one of the main drivers of growth for OTT and streaming services in recent years, and the content rights budgets will also very likely increase in the near to mid-term future. Think of a space that naturally began converging with traditional, linear distribution of content, then progressively added layers of excitement to the fan experience, in a multi-device, interactive landscape. One that’s unique in that it’s dominated by live action and the pre- and post-event coverage. A fan based centric experience that has quickly changed its skin in the past half decade or so, to better suit the ever-evolving taste of younger generations of viewers and create a cross between different worlds.

How can governing bodies, sports federations, leagues, and even clubs stay current with the evolution of the digital world we live in?

How are emerging trends that see consumers accessing video content from many different devices and at different times impacting the sports sector?

Do sports entities need to become tech companies themselves?

In this ‘brief guide to building a successful sports streaming service’ we try and provide an answer to these questions, depicting the profile of the perfectly innovative sports entity wanting to access the OTT and streaming sector with a blast. Read on.

#1. It all starts with content

Yes, content is king, and not only when it comes to live action – the beating heart of any sports discipline. In a world that’s dominated by hyper-innovation, even the smallest of sports organisations out there are looking to address the unknown, to produce content that can ultimately move masses, become viral, and influence many aspects of today’s life. Think of the white space that sits in between TV rights and sporting events. That’s the target, the area where the magic can happen, often neglected, but now more than ever an integral element to audience growth and greater revenues.

There’s an entire world that lives and breathes behind the scenes of sporting events unfolding in real time. It’s the world of original video, docu-style content, produced for the fans, to go under the skin of legendary athletes, clubs, or National teams. It has nothing to do with selling exclusive rights for the transmission of events and matches during the season. It’s a personal approach to what audiences – especially the younger demographic – want today. Better if in a friendlier bite sized format than long-form video, where the attention span gets shorter and shorter. Ideally consumable on any device, from big screens to smartphones.

Sports players, out there, we are talking to you: it all starts with content, and you’ll be surprised to know how much more there is to say, especially in between your marquee events.

#2. Make it available everywhere, choose the right tech partner

It’s like a successful dinner party: you bring the content; your fans will own the experience. And rest assured, they’ll make it their own. Sports federations, leagues, and clubs have progressively become tech-savvier, finally acknowledging the need to enter the digital space and gaining the benefits it offers. However, despite the newfound resilience to manage interruptions – gained through the tougher days of the Covid-19 pandemic – sports entities are far from becoming tech companies per se. The level of investment required, together with the amount of constant research and development to build a bespoke tech stack, can be prohibitive and take a long time to build from scratch.

Choosing the right tech partner is key. It’s become a ‘must’ for all the organisations who choose to diversify their content offering, beyond the sale of broadcast rights. Moving away from highly bespoke, complex solutions, simplified architecture are what sports entities are looking for today. A seamless way to integrate an OTT platform with existing apps, perhaps, and to manage the live streams, create on demand content within minutes from broadcast, organise lists and categories for seamless frontend fruition, across multiple touch points. Think of the Simplestream suite of products and services: from Media Manager to App Platform, your audience’s experience is… pixel perfect.

#3. Self-service is better

Long gone are the days of media brands being dependent on a tech partner, even for the smallest of changes to be made. The world today moves fast, and a code-agnostic, cloud-based experience is what operators need, especially when having to wear multiple hats as part of a content or video/broadcast department in a sports entity of sort. At Simplestream, we build out-of-the-box solutions that have roots in a ‘self-service’ environment, where operational workflows can be managed in-house, reducing the friction of having to constantly rely on engineers or technical teams on the side of the supplier.

Is this the direction sports organisations are taking? Perhaps it is, especially when it comes to tier 2/3 leagues or sports clubs and franchises looking to maximise their audience reach in areas where TV rights are not palatable or lucrative enough, yet where untapped user-bases are just waiting to become superfans.

#4. It’s your show: enhance monetisation with ads

The choice on the best monetisation model for your service opens to several different options. From traditional subscriptions to hybrid models that include advertising or transactional purchases for specific events, it’s key to consider the blend of live and on demand programming as the best chance to delight audiences and grow revenues. Advertising – when paired with free-to-access services – is proving to be the best ally to content owners who want to retain their users.

Picture this: you are a top-flight football club aiming to provide your fan-base with an OTT platform that serves behind-the-scenes content of how the team is doing, daily. You want to monetise your service by personalising the experience for your fans, by letting them access additional commercial opportunities through targeted ads. Going direct-to-consumer (D2C) brings many advantages when it comes to being able to control monetisation through advertising. You can achieve this through Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI), deepening the experience while users watch the action unfold before their eyes, or while consuming their favourite show on demand.

Well-suited for both live and on demand, the deployment of adverts is seamless across all platforms, it prevents ad-blocking, and doesn’t require SDKs whatsoever making the integration code-less and easy as pie. Most importantly, SSAI comes with rich tracking and metrics for ad performance reporting. Handling the insights that come from data collection is key to getting to know your audience inside out, informing future campaigns on an empirical basis.

Closing thoughts

Monetising the emotions that only sports can generate has opened the gate to a world of opportunities. Fans are loyal if they get value in return for the money the invest in their own idols. Yes, invest, that’s the right word. When the return on that investment is matched – through a deeply satisfying experience that comes from timely and relevant engagement – they will be more likely to stay longer, browse further, splash even more cash to complement their own world with something that’s not just merchandise or tickets for the arenas.

Sports entities of any size should repeat this like a mantra: it all starts with content, supporting a simplified, self-service infrastructure, one that’s quick to deploy to market and can seamlessly integrate with existing third parties, making your road to fan engagement a smooth one.