deltatre

The Shift in the Broadcasting Landscape and its Impact on the Sports Industry

I don’t watch TV in the traditional live sense any more – at least not consciously. It might be on in the background but my concentration will be elsewhere. There are two exceptions to this: live sports and news. The rest of my TV viewing habits I prefer to watch when I want and where I want. This is enabled for me by a Tivo box, Netflix, Virgin Media’s bespoke catch-up service and iPlayer.

In the interest of impartiality, other TV boxes and streaming services are available. Equally, I don’t profess this to be the norm; there are many other factors that affect viewing habits – children, for example – but a shift in the traditional broadcasting model is in motion and will have a wide reaching effect.

Did you ‘Tivo’ Game of Thrones?

The fundamental appeal of my Tivo box is saving time. I can watch TV when I want, and I can fast forward through the adverts. A concept not dissimilar to days of the past, – VHS anyone? Who had to ‘wind’ a VHS tape with a pen because the machine ‘ate it’? – but much simpler and more intuitive. The fact that Tivo is on the verge of being a verb is no mean feat either.
As a result, if people are not watching adverts, the broadcasters will find it challenging to show value to advertisers and will need to explore other commercial avenues. For example, broadcasters in the US have been actively exploring in-show advertising with product placement (something which is still somewhat regulated in UK production) to ensure they can commercialise and fund their output.

No, I forgot. Is it on “Catch-Up”?

An additional feature from my provider is the ‘catch up’ service build into the set top box. A simple, but useful concept that aggregates the free-to-air TV network’s catch-up services into an easily consumable app – and where necessary pushes the consumer to the relevant service.
The positives for the broadcaster is that they can control these services, often putting a time limit on availability and weaving in advertising at relevant points. The downside is that it is not available for pay channels but available via another avenue – i.e. Sky Go platform, itself proof of the shift in viewing habits.

Nope – and there is nothing else on. Netflix?

The other facet in this is companies who are moving into the production and distribution scene. The likes of Netflix and Amazon are not only distributing content but producing quality TV output – be it new shows such as ‘Orange is the New Black’, ‘Daredevil’, and ‘House of Cards’, or the resurrection of existing shows post-cancellation by mainstream networks and in response to passionate campaigns by the fans; ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘Community’.
Another example is the BBC’s ex-Top Gear team, who will be moving to Amazon Prime. These shows have massive worldwide followings, so their already established brands are an incredible anchor, attracting engaged users – and reaching news ones.

These companies have utilised two concepts very well in order to engage – a shift in the traditional release schedule, and content discovery. The former is a simple concept: all episodes released together enabling ‘binge’ viewing. Control is given to the audience, watch as little or as much as you want. Content discovery on the other hand, is based on user behaviour, offering shows that are similar, by recognising and understanding user behaviour. In any case, the net results of binge viewing and content discovery is a ‘stickability’ factor, ensuring fans keep returning.

And, what of the likes of YouTube and Hulu? As content aggregators, they are yet to make a foray into the production scene but both are in essence digital broadcasters.

Oh, look! The football is on!

So, why is sport the exception for me? Simple: sport is about the live, the right now. Don’t get me wrong, the sense of enjoyment while watching post-live is ever pervasive but there is a silent race in the background: the race to get the ‘right now’ to the fans as fast as possible.
Media outlets, federations, clubs, and broadcasters alike are exploiting every avenue and platform available to ensure they are the first to get the information to you – Twitter, Facebook, Push Notification, etc. And so, that’s why I will watch my sport live if I can – and if I can’t watch it, then I will invariably use one of the aforementioned avenues to get my result. Paradoxically, if I am watching live I will probably use yet another avenue, namely Twitter, to read and share views, enhancing my sense of enjoyment.

This ‘second screen’ experience is an avenue that broadcasters will need to explore as the shift in the broadcast space continues. The ability to synchronise live TV output with native mobile applications is a largely untapped market. Audio watermarking technology can enable a native application to ‘listen’ to the TV output for an inaudible signal and perform an action based on trigger. A simple but effective way is to present a sponsored voting mechanism and anchoring users to not only download the application (and capturing their data in a streamlined fashion) but also giving additional exposure.

Another crucial factor to recognise is that media outlets are also getting involved in sports – for example, Facebook streaming live football or Twitter’s deal with the NFL. This could have huge implications for the rights industry and the effect will become clear as time goes by.

Okay, I’ll watch something on the tablet – you watch the football.

Evolving and reacting is key to progress; be it product placement, second screen applications, or Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms – the latter being a massively growing industry in its own right.

The traditional broadcast model is fragmented and new companies, enabled by technological advances, are exploiting this. Broadcasters are aware of the risk this can pose and should continue to assess their presence on multiple channels, moving away from the classic linear broadcast space.

That said, one could contemplate with interest whether traditional broadcasters will have a place in this ever-evolving model 10 years from now, and what effect this would have on the sport industry…