Our top takeaways as SportsPro deliver another wonderful OTT Summit in Madrid

The 2019 SportsPro OTT Summit was hosted at the fantastic ‘Melia Castilla’ in Madrid this week and was the place to be for the who’s who of the biggest players and innovators in the world of OTT. The speaker and attendee list covered every aspect of an industry which is currently undergoing a period of significant growth – and everyone is here to learn from one another.

Digital Sport had two of our team in Madrid to experience this first hand; Snack Media CEO Niall Coen & OTT contributor Trevor Evans, who have compiled their top 5 takeaways for you below:

OTT content is increasing in production and quality – as they try to convince you to spend more time on their platform

It is no longer just about the main product (the game or the fight) but the content around this. WWE are leading the way in this respect with ‘reality’ shows based around the lives of the wrestlers helping to emphasise the athlete-entertainers before and after the main event. As John Brody (WWE’s Global Head of Sales & Partnerships) says – they want to convince fans to spend more time watching their content, and the biggest challenge to that is limited time. How do you convince a fan to spend more time consuming their product rather than spending time with their family. The best solution of course is to merge the two together, as a family experience. The WWE really seem to be leading the way in this respect, as expected considering they are an entertainment company by nature, however the UFC, among others, are embracing this to increase their offering to their fans on a deeper level. More story telling, more emotional and higher engagement. Keep fans coming back to consume more content, and buy more from the brand (merchandise, tickets!!).

Owned and operated, or utilise the reach of aggregator?

There is an on-going battle going on with rights holders; build their own OTT and brand it up – taking on the risk and commercial burden, or continue to sell the rights to the highest bidder in a lucrative, trusted deal to cash in and focus on other areas of the business. Some rights holders have taken the direct to consumer approach with incredible success – UEFA and Tennis Channel to name a few – but there is still high demand and plenty of Tier 1 rights available to be picked up by the likes of DAZN & BT Sports. There are plenty of OTT white labelled providers with the full tech stack prepared to help rights holders go direct to market, but timing and expertise is required to make this a success and replace the current models in place. Formula 1 have demonstrated this, and will continue to own more of their own content in the future as existing rights deals expire (supposedly)

Is the UFC the hero of combat sports, or do they now have a monopoly?

With the success of the UFC and the brand they have eked out in the combat sports industry, they have taken this to the next level with their aggregated OTT solution ‘UFC Fight Pass’. With this they have significant influence over the collective audience and all video content, as other associations and organisations need to go through the UFC’s platform to access the fans. In the short term this is great for the smaller associations as the huge costs and responsibility of building the tech and the audience has been done by the UFC and they are able to ‘share’ access to this. However, one cannot help but see this as a means for UFC to own this space – putting their own UFC content at the forefront of all users’ attention but also collecting significant amounts of data on all platform users. Similar to how Apple operate the App Store.

It isn’t just about the content, there is more to the experience

A big challenge being faced by platforms is how to engage with the audience on a deeper level. Most sports fans tend to have the game on the TV, but typically dual-screening on their mobile devices: checking the odds, messaging with friends, playing Candy Crush(*) – but what can platforms do to make the audience engage with them further and collect more insights / data points. Simple polls have been around for a while with gamification (the NFL excel with this on the fantasy products) proving hugely successful. But what else is there that platforms can do? AR & VR is seen as the next phase for this to create an immersive experience with AR being tested in some scenarios but not mainstream just yet

Analytics and data are at the absolute forefront of OTT for a number of reasons.

Prior to OTT there was very little information broadcasters / rights holders could possibly know about their audience. Now, it is possible to know so much more (GDPR complaint of course!) to best serve the user on an individual level and ensure that they are engaged to the maximum. Content recommendations are getting smarter, considering more than just ‘last watched’. Platforms have an extensive pool of content (old and new). This leads to higher revenues they can generate per active fan. How to increase the CLV of each user is essential to the business. Enticing them to watch more content leads to buying more merchandise and tickets. Also becoming ambassadors for the brand and introducing to friends & family. Data is also being collected and used in highly intelligent ways to answer business questions. La Liga is an incredible example of this with conversion and user experience at the centre of this approach. Calculating the best time to schedule a game factoring in sun glare at different times of year, in each stadium is next level information.

The athletes and personalities can be leveraged to sell

The WWE own the characters. Their storylines, their destiny, their social feeds – all geared towards increasing emotional engagement and converting to paying users. Sports are learning from this and developing mechanisms to cut highlights videos and deliver to their athletes (the associations do not have direct control over these unfortunately) to access their dedicated audience. The WTA are leveraging this with players being given content to then share to their personal social profiles to promote their product (on an influencer-like model) to great success.

Whilst the industry has grown and innovated in the last 12 months, there are key challenges that remain. Content discovery (cross-platform?), increased view-time & interactive engagements. Will there be some progress made in the next 12 months? We look forward to seeing how this develops.

About author

Trevor Evans
Trevor Evans 6 posts

Trevor is a sports and tech enthusiast, specifically interested in the broadcasting & OTT industry. Features as a guest writer & co-founder of StreamFOOTBALL in partnership with Snack Media.

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