Why tennis could be at the forefront of merging live-streaming with TV

We’re moving into a new era of sports and media rights, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that coming.

The rise of social media live-streaming has led to lots of chatter about whether or not TV is on the decline when it comes to the broadcast of live sporting events, whilst other research is repeatedly showing that most people are still watching live sport on TVs rather than on streaming devices. All the while, though, online platforms are increasingly helping those sports which haven’t always traditionally been able to rely on broadcasters for much airtime get noticed by a new audience who are now able to watch from all over the world.

It looks like a straight-up battle between digital platforms and traditional ones, but that’s probably a bit too much narrative for the situation. In fact, the key is that both probably have a place, and if that’s the case, there’s no battle at all.

Managing director of WTA Media, John Learing, told Omnisport, “Each one of our broadcasters is starting to understand the OTT world and the direct-to-consumer delivery and I think they’re all trying to grab a bit of that. It used to be the bigger screen would always win, I’m just not sure that’s the case. I think the most convenient screen is always going to win.”

Tennis as a whole has been at the forefront of this very phenomenon. Last week, the ATP announced that it was extending its partnership with Amazon Prime which will have exclusive rights to some World Tour events and the Next Gen finals in London, whilst events like Wimbledon have become online affairs as well as televisual: this year’s tournament was streamed live on Twitter, whilst in the UK, the BBC Sport website provides an incredibly well-known and recognisable platform for sports like tennis to embrace live-streaming.

This is probably where the idea of convenience wins out in the big screen v small screen debate. The fact is, it is almost always more convenient to watch live sport on a big screen, but there are obviously times when that’s not possible. Those times when it’s not is when fans will want to be able to switch to a live-stream on their phones and tablets, but that doesn’t mean it’s better: it just means you need a well-rounded way of being able to watch the same content on every device.

With smart TVs and devices like Chromecasts making it possible to stream from the internet to your TV, it seems strange to separate the two in such a hard and fast way. Isn’t streaming a tennis match on Amazon from your TV just the same as sitting in front of the sofa as you might have done 20 years ago? And isn’t it just that little bit more convenient to be able to pick up your phone and continue watching when you have to go out and jump on the bus? The BBC’s coverage of something like Wimbledon is a good example of that kind of flexibility.

Learing is right, the most convenient screen will win out, and that means you need the ability to switch between platforms. But when the figures show that people are still watching TV in huge numbers, and that the medium isn’t going away anytime soon, perhaps all that shows is that people like to watch on big screens. But that doesn’t mean they don’t also want to be connected to the internet while they’re doing it.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 664 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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