Filling the white space - growing fan engagement in the OTT space


by Marco Lorenzi


by Marco Lorenzi

We live in a world of hyper-innovation. Every media, broadcaster, or sports entity is looking to address the unknown, to produce content able to make a brand stand out, and, ultimately, to generate additional revenue and return on investment.

This path leads straight to the “white space” that sits in between TV rights and sports events. The promised land where fan engagement can grow exponentially, where operators can continue to monetise their audiences with content in times previously locked off in a linear environment.

The white space not only can be used as a tool to keep customers engaged 365 days a year; it is also the ideal ground in which to identify and exploit new strategic opportunities that otherwise would be considered too risky or resource intensive. Think of businesses wishing to experiment with new distribution technologies, like VR, as a mean to reach tech-savvy consumers. Or playing with a new content type, such as Instagram-style short interviews with players during the off-season? Leveraging OTT, operators can experiment freely within the white space around marquee events and validate ideas that only serve to increase interest in the platform.

How do you fill the white space?

Documentary-style programmes from the likes of Netflix and Amazon have already made waves with consumers and have set a new tone in the entertainment space. Increasingly, operators investing in the production of original content turn their focus on sports, offering behind-the-scenes access to exciting stories otherwise unheard of during regular season coverage.

Is this one of the directions all media, broadcasters and the already mentioned sports entities will need to follow to grow audience engagement? We feel the answer is yes, for ‘white space’ by definition sits in between the boundaries defined by TV rights - and it needs to be utilised to hit year-round KPIs product owners are held to. It all goes beyond the coverage of a live event and ultimately helps overcome the now obsolete pattern determined in the past by linear TV content makers - intro-live-outro. Yes, the bottom line of consumer expectation is still that very simple timeframe. However, OTT has enabled this model to be expanded in length, and blur the lines between one event and the next. Coverage, now more than ever, can be 24/7 and bring fans to the centre of the action.

Deltatre’s latest report “Where the Money is Going: The Future of Sports Entertainment“ states that over two-thirds of consumers pay up to $39 per month on sports content, with the remaining one-third willing to pay more. Yet, with the promise to offer the most memorable experiences ever, consuming content that is bespoke, unique and serves to build the anticipation of something even stronger - that being the main event.

Find here Deltatre’s latest report on the future of sports entertainment

VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) are already being used by sports organisations, both in the arena and in the home. New trends are emerging in a fast and aggressive way - think about eSports, integrations between OTT and betting, or social networking merging with blockchain’s business opportunities. The chance to create an unforgettable experience lies in the content that can draw from these technologies.

Is sport just about… sport?

No, we dare say, it’s not. Sports stories are not confined to the live game or match. Nor are they solely about the stars and main athletes involved. Fans are now multi-tasking catalysts for interactions and generation of new stories. They are the real protagonists of that behind-the-scenes consumption mentioned earlier, willing to fill the existing gaps between sports and the culture they belong to. Music, as well as fashion and any other popular trends, is what we are talking about. Indeed, we mean everything that can be defined as entertainment. And it’s at the feet of the operator to find the right channels to reach fans and captivate them.

It’s clear how social media fits in this picture and can help to create the right conditions for bits of content to reach fans and become viral. House of Highlights, brainchild of Omar Raja, was born as an Instagram account and was acquired by Bleacher Report in 2016.

It’s, by far, one of the brilliant examples of white space exploited and re-invented as a new generator of disruptive content. The founder explains today how his project was born essentially as a way to share with his friends the type of content that was not covered elsewhere. Here is the most important lesson - House of Highlights, like other similar cases, is the way fans are stealing the show and demanding to be engaged and valued as participants of unique moments.

It’s becoming crucial to all content makers and relevant stakeholders to customise their own channels and digital properties, tailor their messages and campaigns with achievable targets well in mind, and segment the audiences they expect to reach. For instance, “younger” social platforms - think Tik Tok and Snapchat - target millennial audiences. What becomes critical is to drive the right fans to the right platforms at the right time, shaping the storytelling accordingly. Finally, fill the white space in a timely, relevant, and most importantly, smart fashion.

“Snackable” content, everywhere

Deltatre’s Superlayer, enhanced by sports-specific publishing platform Forge, can be one of the answers to engaging fans in the white space. It acts as a ‘cover’ on existing digital content, promoted through immediate accessibility and an immersive experience.

Superlayer has been built on three user pillars - that access to visual content should be fast, open and - most importantly - fan-first. The tool embraces these attributes through interactive digital cards that tie static images, videos, and animations into an enhanced marketing message.

Learn more about Forge, Superlayer and Deltatre’s solutions for content management

It’s the idea of consuming pieces of content as if they were snacks - something quick, satisfying, and necessary to fulfil fans’ hunger for the “here and now”.

On the horizon

Finding a way to fill the white space to attract, engage, and monetise users increasingly seems to be a top priority for many operators looking to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon year-round. What awaits us in the future is a world dominated by digital outputs, with right-holders that will most likely become the producers and distributors of their own product, and uncountable opportunities to generate outstanding and exclusive content like never before.