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What Does Super Bowl LIII Mean for the Future of OTT?

Nothing can generate the same level of buzz as the Super Bowl, which I was lucky enough to attend on Sunday.

AM

The annual finale of ‘America’s Game’ is the ultimate sporting event, drawing tens of thousands of in-person spectators to watch some of the world’s greatest athletes battle tooth and nail for football’s highest prize. 

Of course, today it’s possible for the action to be witnessed in real-time not just by the fans who were lucky enough to score a seat in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but by millions of viewers worldwide who could tune in to their TVs, mobile phones, tablets and games consoles to watch the New England Patriots lift the Lombardi Trophy over the LA Rams.

That number, according to Nielsen, sits at 98.2 million.

Yes, it wasn’t the highest viewed Super Bowl ever broadcast, thanks in part perhaps to the low scoring nature of the game and supposed boycott from New Orleans fans who still hurt from the questionable call in the NFC Championship. But the report from Nielsen unveils another interesting statistic. Over 2.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the game online – a 31% increase year-on-year.

Does this indicate a shift in how consumers want to watch sports? Not in isolation. But there does seem to be a case when you account for the number of brands that offered the game online – CBS, NFL, YouTube TV, Verizon, Yahoo, and even Tumblr, to name a few – and when you consider the increasing rise of direct-to-consumer sports OTT applications such as NFL GamePass, DAZN and Tennis TV.

What’s driving this trend? One answer is the benefits that come with owning the direct customer relationship – yes, your reach initially may be lower, but you own 100% of the revenue. Another is the ability to completely own the brand experience, from which content to surface to how deeply you use customer data to drive personalization.

In any case, operators looking to launch a D2C offering should look to work with partners that have intimate knowledge in the sports space, how best to engage the digitally-driven fan and with demonstrable experience deploying OTT solutions for some of the world’s major leagues and federations.

Otherwise, you may find yourself staring 13-3 at the bottom of the fourth quarter in your first OTT Super Bowl.

Andrea Marini
President Americas