The next frontier for tech giants: unleashing sports broadcasting potential

television viewing

We’re at the precipice of a watershed moment in broadcasting. Over the past two years, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Verizon and Yahoo have all picked up smaller nonexclusive rights to live sports packages. However recent indicators suggest tech players are now ready to expand rapidly.

Amazon and Facebook are both circling Premier League rights packages, with the former successfully locking 20 matches to air live online next season. In addition, Amazon recently posted a job ad seeking a UK-based executive to lead the development of Prime Video’s advertising-funded channels by working with major European broadcasters.

Amazon and Facebook have certainly been the most active in seeking out bigger-ticket streaming rights. Live sports are a key component of Facebook Watch, the company’s platform aimed at driving “high intent” viewing of episodic programming blended with community and discussion features. For Amazon, live sports serve a different objective, to drive consumers to its Netflix competitor, Prime Video.

As both titans encroach on broadcaster turf and negotiate for more and more sports properties, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t mark the end of linear TV. All three players – the tech companies, broadcasters and sports properties – have the opportunity to capitalise on a renewed aperture with both audiences and advertisers.

Pushing new markets

One of the most widely covered moves by Amazon into the sports entertainment industry was the purchase of Premier League games. While broadcasters have shown little interest in the matches that Amazon bought, the bigger game is whether Amazon can push the content in other countries.

When you consider that the Premier League will sit alongside other newly acquired rights, such as US Open tennis and NFL games, the proposition could be more appealing for international sports fans looking for a cost-effective means of watching multiple sports.

Similarly, Facebook is planning to bid for rights to stream Premier League games, focusing on the lucrative Asian market including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos where BeIN Sports currently has exclusive rights.

Wake up for broadcasters

In both cases noted above, tech players are only beginning to experiment with sports streaming. And it makes sense. Rather than go after Sky and BT’s steadfast local audiences, they’re looking at the broader market overseas.

However, the likes of Sky and BT need to take note. Consumers are now empowered to enhance, share, and discuss their TV experiences. Even the most dedicated Premiere League fans are likely not only glued to the TV screen but also checking stats on their phone.

Broadcasters need to be able to enhance cross-screen experiences for each segment. Audiences want to discuss events and individual opinions as well as create and share their own related content across social channels.

Sports property interests

Equally, sports properties themselves have a stake in becoming more digitally mature to maintain their sport and their club fan base as audiences evolve.

The partnership between Golden Boy Promotions and Facebook is a great example of a property seeking to attract a broader and younger audience. "Everybody is... going to digital programming, so we feel this partnership can only evolve boxing and get a new audience into the sport,” said Golden Boy founder and chief executive Oscar De La Hoya.

Combining live sports and social media allows advertisers to reach their most relevant consumers by delivering contextual content during key match moments. Not only is this a fantastic platform to elevate the sports property, but carries the added benefit of providing measurable, evidence-based feedback of success for sponsors.

Of course, many are waiting for the opportune moment to make the leap. WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon told The Drum that Amazon and Facebook may be options in the future, but “I don’t think we’re there yet… linear is still incredible important and reaches a huge audience and delivers.”

Whether or not UK broadcasters can capitalise on this fast changing landscape, one thing is certain; digital channels will be essential in providing a full experience, not only to enable watching however audiences choose, but also to enable them to engage with peers, sports properties, and brands directly.

Aaron Goldman is the chief marketing officer for 4C Insights

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