From live updates to live streaming; Facebook,Twitter and Snapchat have slowly ascended into sports broadcasting and are all set to seek online rights to video highlights to next year’s Fifa World Cup from 21st Century Fox.
The step seems logical for social media platforms to step-up in the place of TV, as TV is showing signs of decline in audience figures. Sky's live Premier League viewing figures hit seven year low, signaling a changing of the tides for the world's most lucrative league.
All the social media platforms are bypassing traditional sports media rights agencies and buying rights, such as NFL and MLS. Facebook has already announced a deal with La Liga to live stream regular matches, while Twitter has partnered with ESL and Dreamhack to stream live eSports. Twitter's catalog also consists of NFL and MLB. According to BT Sport live streaming sports only made sense to commercial broadcasters if their rights are packaged as a data buy, otherwise they are just giving lucrative content away for free. However, social media has potentially become too lucrative for sports to ignore now.
The Drum spoke with digital sports consultant Richard Clarke, who believes it is logical to take the next step and blend the two.
He said: "This comes as no surprise. TV ratings have been under scrutiny for some time in the wake of changes in media consumption. But only recently have we started seeing significant action taking place on the back of it. Usage of the small screen is ubiquitous. Meanwhile, the live nature of sport has always found a sweet spot in social media."
Among the three companies, Facebook might have an edge as it already has a deal with Fox to carry some of the broadcaster’s coverage of the Champions League. It recently hit the 2bn users mark as well. Snapchat had struck deals for sports highlights, including the recently inked landmark deal for Uefa Champions League.
Clive Malcher, vice president of market development for EMEA, Piksel, said that this initiative showcases shifting consumers habits, which are impacting the media industry and creates new challenges for brands who’ve traditionally tied their advertising to sporting events. To ensure they don’t lose their audience, brands will need to react quickly.
He further added: “If social platforms become the primary avenue for consumers to watch sport, current strategies won’t cut it anymore. Brands might be tempted to spread their resources far and wide to reach as many platforms as possible. But this reliance on third parties – like Twitter and Facebook – makes brands vulnerable to losing their voice among the noise. What brands should do is find a way to create a loyal, engaged audience that actively hunts out their content. Third parties are crucial here – but the sweet spot is using these platforms to seed teaser content that gets the audience onto a brand’s own platforms. By pursuing the audience instead of the platform, brands can successfully own audiences and the data that goes with them.”
AR and VR features of social media are also attracting the sports realm. Fifa, in their recently concluded Confederations Cup Russia 2017, gave fans a unique opportunity to show their support for their favourite team by using Facebook’s new augmented reality camera to add new and innovative 3D face masks to photos and videos. Twitter too is showing its support to sports by innovating new emoticons and live streams.
R Sasikumar, founder, executive chairman, RedCard Global, said: “It is no secret that young people are not watching TV anymore. Mobile is the new TV, and the young audiences now reside in the mobile space. Rights owners will be encouraged to explore the true potential and want to be where the action is happening. This should spur competition and it will ultimately open up sponsorship opportunities in various platforms which will drive revenue that they never had for rights owners."
He further added: “Additionally, the exciting option of using digital platforms is having the ability to serve different ads to a different audience. This presents huge opportunities for advertisers to target and reach an already engaged audience. This makes it a compelling reason for savvy advertisers to place spots better whereas as compared traditional media which has an inflexible module. We are particularly excited with social media platforms and its ability to target audience."
Formula One recently inked a deal with Snapchat to push a drive towards a digital future. Going forward, digital is going to dominate not just the sports realm but every business. Thus, social media platforms take centre stage. Plus, due to intense competition, all the social media platforms are constantly innovating and evolving.
Saorabh Sharma, director of stadium and arenas at Lagardère Sports, said: “Fans want more exclusive content, more engagement and they want to participate in developing more content. The more content they develop, the more loyalty they have for the platform. Hence, social media platforms are spending large amount in acquiring these rights. For most platforms (except Amazon), their main source of revenue is the advertising and the more fans are loyal to their platform and the more time they spend, the more advertisers can have targeted audience engagement and the more they will invest in the platform.”