#41 Ideas on the OTT/D2C Area in Sports activities Media

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Earlier in November, I attended the SportsPro OTT Summit 2019 in Madrid. With the occasion now within the rear-view mirror, attending solely 5 periods through the occasion has definitely been lower than I supposed. Nonetheless, constructing private relationships and exchanging ideas with like-minded individuals for 48 hours straight was most likely the much more gratifying expertise. And I additionally acknowledged shortly that these 5 periods have been greater than sufficient for arising with 5 top-of-mind ideas on my flight again from Madrid to Berlin — which offer a solution to those elementary questions:

💬 Direct-to-Client vs. Wholesale:

Is it value for rights homeowners to disrupt the present (and worthwhile) B2B2C market in favor of any ambitions within the direct-to-consumer area? In any case, they need to decide on the subject of the best way of monetizing their IP.

💬 What really is OTT?

If “Over-the-High” is merely one other distribution channel, and even probably the most conventional legacy gamers within the sports activities broadcasting market began to serve digital distribution to achieve the patron on their most popular platform, is all people an “OTT” now?

💬 Massive Tech’s Position in Sports activities Broadcasting:

YouTube has seemingly discovered its area of interest within the sports activities broadcasting market, and it isn’t what rights homeowners hoped it could be (and doubtless much less vital than many have thought).

💬 Commodity vs. Differentiators:

How can rights-holding broadcasters nonetheless distinguish their streaming providers within the eye of the patron as a lot of the technical infrastructure will get commoditized?

💬 Preventing Piracy – Safety or Innovation:

Is the dearth of product innovation the true trigger for piracy and can be way more efficient in combating it in comparison with over-investing in content material safety?

Earlier than leaping into my takeaways, I wish to share a (much-simplified) graphic that I compiled just a few months in the past and hopefully supplies some context on the subject of the battlefield of the “SPORTS BROADCASTING WARS” — which itself is one puzzle piece within the heating-up “STREAMING WARS” — which is, so far as I concern, one deciding (albeit not solely) part within the grand scheme of the “ECOSYSTEM WARS.”

B2B2C vs D2C Marketplace - Distribution and Revenue Models in the Sports Broadcasting Market

Granted, the truth that this illustration was created “just a few months in the past” makes it nearly already out of date within the fast-changing media area: No person considered Disney+, Peacock, Apple TV, HBO Max, Britbox, or Joyn on the level of creation. Nonetheless, I do assume it supplies some context and an understanding of the underlying economics.


“The 4 most vital income streams for sports activities groups and leagues are pushed by B2B relationships. Any ambitions to disrupt that B2B2C – market and rework right into a D2C enterprise is each difficult and harmful.”

  • 📆 Session: How the NBA drove Fan Engagement by revolutionary OTT ExperiencesThought-provoking

  • 👤 Thought-provoking Panelist: Melissa Brenner (Government Vice President, Digital Media @ NBA)

The U.S. sports activities leagues have been on the forefront of any direct-to-consumer ambitions amongst rights homeowners ever because the MLB launched their over-the-top streaming service “MLB.TV” again in 2002, to enrich and increase each the home in addition to worldwide protection of their on-field product by third-party broadcasters. NBA’s “League Move,” even these skilled gamers are nonetheless in a section of pure experimentation as no one appears to actually have found out the OTT area simply but: The present pricing mannequin of “NBA League Move” is a good instance: Though customers have demanded flexibility and “a-la-carte” choices, providing the complete vary of choices, together with team-based subscriptions, bundled pay-per-view sport passes, and entry on a quarterly or real-time foundation along with extra conventional subscription choices (e.g. all-team season-long subscription) is more likely to reasonably overwhelm customers as an alternative of pure enjoyment of those nearly limitless choices. Though customers have been demanding the best flexibility and affordability, in addition they like simplicity and steerage.

Melissa Brenner was expectedly was tight-lipped about which gives do carry out finest, aside from offering just a few attention-grabbing however apparent insights reminiscent of that the 10-minute entry of real-time is hottest among the many youngest cohort of followers. I strongly imagine that the NBA is all about experimentation proper now since their D2C enterprise stays non-material to the league’s top- and bottom-line in comparison with their broadcasting offers with ESPN and Turner Sports activities within the USA and few profitable abroad offers. If the NBA League Move (or their D2C streaming enterprise at this level) will ever turn out to be a extra related income driver, the league may have streamlined their providing and pricing-tiers left over may have most likely carried out finest.

Nonetheless, this brings us to a different current media growth on the NBA during which I’ve been most intrigued: The NBA goes direct to shopper with a product that has been historically distributed by way of an aggregator (i.e. the standard pay-TV): their linear pay-TV channel “NBA TV”. This determination to forego any TV platform is providing a take a look at each the upside and draw back that direct-to-consumer enterprise is providing for rights homeowners: On the optimistic finish, providing NBA TV on an “a-la-carte” foundation with out the necessity for an costly, ballooned pay-TV bundle, which is definitely the case right here provided that NBA TV (accessible 45M TV households within the U.S.) is a premium-tier pay-TV channel, at $7.99 per 30 days is roughly 30-35x what the basketball league receives as an affiliate payment per subscriber from cable or satellite tv for pc pay-TV operators reminiscent of Verizon, AT&T, and Constitution: the “whole-discount” which content material suppliers need to take with a view to faucet into the built-in attain, distribution, and subscriber base that these TV platforms are offering. What turns into apparent, the way forward for direct to shopper is about smaller, extra passionate (and monetizable) audiences. Given the territory-by-territory nature of the sports activities broadcasting market (i.e. sports activities rights markets + sports activities programming market), such transfer by NBA TV or another rights holders don’t allow world distribution and scale and, due to this fact, growth. That can be the explanation why I stay specific bullish on leisure OTT providers reminiscent of Disney or Netflix which have the chance to both take again world distribution rights of their content material from third-party distributors (see: Disney) and/or bolster their library with unique programming. That additionally means proper homeowners such because the sports activities leagues and group themselves have a minimum of the chance to comply with the blueprint of their friends within the leisure area: proudly owning the media worth chain from end-to-end. Nonetheless, doing this as an alternative of wholesaling their IP to third-party broadcasters/distributors needs to be a part of a holistic, world technique merely in territories during which expectation for rights charges (i.e. reserve value) haven’t been met — which at present appears to be the principle cause why rights homeowners such because the Massive-5 in European soccer have launched (LaLigaSports), introduced (Bundesliga Move, My Ligue 1), or teased (English Premier League, Italian Serie A).

Till then, league-operated channels or another sports-centric channel providing a direct-to-consumer along with the linear choice as a part of the standard pay-TV is a straightforward hedge towards cord-cutting or cord-shaving — for which premium-tier channels are notably inclined to. The draw back is as apparent because the upside although: Any direct-to-consumer enterprise inevitably endangers present income streams from third-party broadcaster — by far probably the most profitable supply of earnings proper now. Because the middlemen in that conventional B2B2C market, pay-TV platforms have historically paid a premium (by way of carriage payment) for being the unique strategy to entry the content material supplier’s belongings, and each sports activities channel reminiscent of NBA TV drives incremental subscribers amongst their vivid niches to extra premium-tier packages. In different phrases, for the die-hard NBA fan to have entry to NBA TV, she or he has most certainly subscribed to (and pay for) the SEC Community, Golf Channel, and the Tennis Channel. Wanting throughout the U.S. sports activities media panorama, the linear pay-TV channel beIN SPORTS which has seen its distribution dropping always in the previous few years because it has been dropping sought-after properties such because the Italian Serie A that made it a “must-have” for a lot of (soccer) followers, and due to this fact pay-TV operators. With present distribution of under 20M TV households, the Qatari-owned broadcaster appears to be an apparent match to go “over-the-top.” — which is a pleasant segue into my Thought #2. (For comparability’s sake: ESPN, regardless of all of the doom and gloom because of the secular pattern of cord-cutting, continues to be in 83M TV households.)


“What really is OTT? In the long run, it‘s simply one other distribution medium. Enterprise fashions of broadcasters can differ drastically though all are exploiting such distribution. So the OTTs we’re speaking about should really be digital-only broadcasters, proper?.”

Talking throughout one of many opening periods on the SportsPro OTT Summit, Movistar’s President Sergio Oslé already addressed the elephant within the room: What really is “OTT”? The interpretation can fluctuate extensively: Is it simply one other distribution medium to achieve clients by their most popular technique of consumption, which might make even probably the most conventional broadcasters an “OTT” since nearly all people these days follows platform-neutral strategy to the distribution of their content material? If that’s the case, even the streaming providers that stay tethered to a conventional linear pay-TV subscription on an authentication-based foundation (e.g. beIN SPORTS Join, WatchESPN) can be an “OTT.” On the opposite finish of the spectrum, an “OTT” could possibly be outlined because the digital-only streaming service by rights holders (e.g. DAZN, ESPN+) or homeowners (e.g. WWE Community) that may be may be subscribed to on an “a-la-carte” foundation however just isn’t accessible by way of linear satellite tv for pc or cable TV. Within the center, there are some digital-first gamers who attempt to strike the steadiness between being a part of a linear pay-TV bundle and providing the identical content material direct-to-consumer on an “a-la-carte” foundation (e.g. Eleven Sports activities). Wanting on the first definition of “over-the-top media providers” that pops up in Google search, which unsurprisingly comes from Wikipedia, it’s “a streaming media service provided on to viewers over the Web […] bypasses cable, broadcast and satellite tv for pc tv platforms that historically act as a controller or distributor of such content material.” Does “bypassing” imply that the identical content material can’t even be provided by conventional distribution? No matter the place you fall on the subject of the definition of “OTT,” I’d emphasize that “OTT” doesn’t essentially equal “Direct-to-Client” (which is the last word goal of really going D2C) as you will note in my “closing over-arching thought” on the backside.

Lastly, Movistar+, whose President introduced up this matter within the first place, is one more peculiar case that doesn’t actually match any of the three circumstances talked about above: Owned by the Spanish telecommunication service firm Telefónica, Movistar+ has been one of many longest holdouts amongst telcos on the subject of launching some form of a stand-alone OTT streaming service together with a few of its dwell sports activities content material and is untethered to a conventional satellite tv for pc or cable pay-TV subscription: Movistar+ LITE was launched in June 2019. Nonetheless, it has the add-on “LITE” for a cause: Telefónica’s prime dwell sports activities belongings (i.e. LaLiga, UCL) will proceed to be solely accessible together with a conventional (way more costly) subscription since these belongings are core to the built-in enterprise mannequin of Telefónica (e.g. Bundled “Triple-Play” of pay-TV channels, phone/cell, and broadband). In truth, solely lower-tier belongings of their sports activities portfolio (e.g.. Bundesliga, Ligue 1) are accessible by way of the brand new, less expensive and stand-alone OTT product. Thus, how would you categorize Movistar+ which makes solely chosen content material accessible by way of a stand-alone OTT within the grand scheme of the sports activities media panorama?


“Not a thought, however reasonably a affirmation: “Massive Tech” just isn’t coming to rescue the flattening sports activities rights market anytime quickly.”

  • 📆 Session: Evaluating YouTube’s Sports activities Technique

  • 👤 Thought-provoking Panelist: Tomos Grace (Head of Sport, EMEA @ YouTube)

One cause why high-caliber firms are current on stage at conferences such because the SportsPro OTT Summit is that they’ve an curiosity in positioning their agenda within the market. In an effort to carry throughout your message, you may have your speaking factors and provided that their agenda doesn’t change on a month-to-month foundation (a minimum of hopefully for any firm’s sake), the content material is commonly the identical and predictable. Going with such expectations into any session, YouTube’s Tomos Grace really offering some actually attention-grabbing nuggets, together with that 7-to-10-minute spotlight content material performs a lot better (each in whole watch time and variety of distinctive views) than the quote-on-quote “snackable” content material (2-to-3-minute highlights), was a much-welcomed shock. Nonetheless, these insights, along with the anticipated speaking factors, supplied reasonably a affirmation of my viewpoint on the subject of nearly each know-how big that has been talked about to enter the sports activities broadcasting enviornment: They won’t open their (deep) pockets for broadcasting and even simply digital-only streaming in sports activities anytime quickly.

Granted, that was not a foregone conclusion from the start as Fb, Twitter, YouTube & Co. began to tip their toes into sports activities broadcasting round 2016. They have been open-minded, made huge strikes to equip the businesses with the required mind energy such Fb hiring an trade veteran in Discovery’s Peter Hutton, however shortly acknowledged that their primarily ad-supported income fashions should not made for first-tier dwell sports activities broadcasting. The way forward for dwell sports activities broadcasting stays in paid content material, no matter how nice the built-in attain of such ad-supported, free platforms is.YouTube’s Head of Sports activities (EMEA) additionally admitted that horizontal platforms reminiscent of YouTube don’t accommodate dwell sports activities nicely and must make progress on this regard. My query is how doubtless it truly is {that a} horizontal platform that tries be all the pieces to all people and the place dwell sports activities won’t be the main focus of the enterprise ever can cater to the wants of rights holders and homeowners. As an alternative, YouTube & Co. will doubtless be most useful to the sports activities broadcasting ecosystem as a max-reach distributor of free spotlight content material serving top-of-funnel advertising for rights holders and homeowners.
Fortunately for YouTube, rights holders reminiscent of Sky Sport UK or BT Sport appear to embrace that proposed worth proposition and turn out to be actually way more open-minded on the subject of distribution fashions for his or her (non-live) content material: Premier League highlights on YouTube shortly after the ultimate whistle (as an alternative of preserving any spotlight inside the walled gardens of the pay-walled Sky platforms) or the UEFA Champions League Remaining as free-to-air dwell broadcast (as an alternative of a short-term financially extra profitable sublicense to free-to-air broadcasters with a view to adjust to UEFA necessities) are just some examples for this shift in mindsets. Stay sports activities broadcasting may not turn out to be a critical enterprise for YouTube ever, though it’s nonetheless experimenting with it, together with committing up-front assured minimal rights charges in just a few chosen circumstances (e.g. LaLiga in India, UEFA Champions League in Latin America). Rights-holding broadcasters leveraging spotlight content material as free top-of-funnel advertising (pioneered by the NBA) as an alternative of making an attempt to incrementally monetize such non-live content material and squeezing much more cash out of the patron, is a helpful pattern for Fb, or any free on-line platform with large attain. It is going to safe a spot for Fb, Twitter, YouTube & Co. within the sports activities media panorama — whereas not committing sky-rocketing rights charges in any respect and as an alternative merely counting on their built-in person bases as forex. #RevenueShare


“Many of the sports activities broadcasting worth chain will probably be commoditized, rights holders have to choose and select the only a few elements that differentiate them within the market, whereas outsourcing the remaining to (a set of) third-party service suppliers.”

The subject with which Amazon, one of many big know-how firms which can be most related to changing into a critical participant in sports activities broadcasting and has the most important track-recording of really doing, was on-stage at SPOTT19 match the narrative of my Thought #2 properly: The emphasize was on Amazon Net Providers (AWS) — as an alternative of their funding in and learnings from NFL Thursday Night time Soccer (world rights), the English Premier League (U.Ok.) or The Tennis US Open (U.Ok.). By the best way, even Amazon’s annual monetary dedication of roughly $100M as probably the most aggressive one amongst “Massive Tech” on the subject of dwell sports activities broadcasting rights stays non-material within the huge image of a $50BN sports activities rights market.

As an alternative, the main focus of Amazon’s Simon Frost (Head of EMEA Media Advertising and marketing @ Amazon) was all about what the e-commerce big is doing that’s not consumer-facing: offering the technical spine of the long run sports activities broadcasting panorama. My key takeaway from his presentation has been that (from a technological standpoint) most of sports activities broadcasting worth chain (e.g. manufacturing, internet hosting, supply, play-out) will get commoditized over time and only some chosen items within the UI/UX will have the ability to function differentiators for broadcasters. In just a few years’ time, present ache factors of streaming reminiscent of the dearth of reliability, high quality, latency, and so forth will probably be largely solved and won’t make any streaming service particular. It doesn’t make sense to take a position closely in constructing/replicating soon-to-be commodity. Thus, it does make sense that these elements will probably be dealt with by a (set of) third-party service supplier similar to AWS. That being stated, broadcasters want to choose and select elements of the know-how stack that has the potential to actually differentiate its consumer-facing service from the competitors, take these potential USPs in-house, and make investments aggressively. Such USPs may be very completely different from service to service however could possibly be as “easy/apparent” because the video suggestion engine. Nonetheless, it also needs to be famous that an organization’s USP has nothing to do with know-how however lies someplace alongside the broader sports activities media worth chain (e.g. private community within the rights acquisition).

Coming again to AWS, offering such commoditized providers will probably be financially enticing for AWS as a service supplier at world scale and nearly zero marginal prices. Rights holders as an alternative want to choose & select which elements can differentiate their service. Amazon discovered pure gold by constructing the infrastructure to fulfill inside demand, evolving within the technical spine for a lot of third-parties. Thus, dwell sports activities broadcasting will turn out to be a horny enterprise for Amazon, it should most certainly simply not play the function that many assumed: being aggressive on the subject of direct rights acquisitions.


“The sports activities media trade can battle piracy with improved safety measures and collaboration perpetually, however so long as there’s a lack of product-market-fit, (younger) customers will proceed to be pushed into unlawful means.”

  • 📆 Session: Piracy forcing Innovation

  • 👤 Thought-provoking Panelist: Vincent Helluy (International Content material Safety Partnerships @ Canal+ Group)

Innovation within the context of piracy is most certainly related to improved safety measurements and applied sciences reminiscent of watermarking, DRM, noise detection and so forth. Nonetheless, product innovation is likely to be much more highly effective, or can a minimum of be a useful complement to no matter progress is made on the safety entrance. Being always nervous about combating piracy and, due to this fact, spending a lot of the accessible time, cash, and assets on this annoying subject, as an alternative of engaged on the precise product, has led to a product-market-fit between present gives and the calls for of the brand new era of sports activities followers — that are nonetheless considering watching a full-game dwell broadcast as an alternative of solely catching up by short-form spotlight content material within the aftermat(c)h.

I do not blame rights holders reminiscent of beIN SPORT, who’ve spent billions of {dollars}, for tirelessly worrying about the way to fight unlawful means to entry their content material from the primary minute within the morning till calling it a day late at evening. However the result’s the dearth of product innovation whereas the calls for and desire of customers are always altering. Working example: Even disregarding pricing fashions and subscription tiers that are one of many primary cause for the patron’s frustration with the present gives within the market, the OTT resolution of beIN SPORTS, who’re for comprehensible causes extra occupied with combating piracy than anyone else within the sports activities media panorama, is objectively rating among the many least superior merchandise on the subject of UI/UX. In different phrases, particularly youthful customers have merely no cause to pay up for reliable merchandise as their product expertise is simply not warranting it. Digital providers reminiscent of Spotify and Netflix have supplied proof that even these notoriously low cost buyer cohorts are keen to pay for content material, so long as the worth for cash is correct.

The primary cause why even the very best safety won’t forestall all piracy: Present incentivization programs at most rights proprietor’s organizations are geared in direction of purely maximizing broadcasting revenues, with little regard for different components than the best minimal assured rights payment provided by the bidders — particularly if these components are of non-monetary nature. Even when probably the most technologically superior rights holders throughout the most important sports activities media markets (i.e. North America, Western Europe) implement state-of-the-art safety know-how, with a view to maximize whole media rights revenues, rights homeowners will most likely proceed to grant broadcasting rights in even the smallest, least superior media markets to squeeze out the incremental greenback. There’s a cause why the stream you stumble throughout on unlawful web sites has most likely in a commentary language you may have by no means heard earlier than and a top quality you’d by no means settle for in the event you had paid for it.


“OTT drives fragmentation. Folks like aggregation. It is going to return..”

Fragmentation is pushed by OTT: Plummeting manufacturing and distribution prices mixed with the attractive outlook of slicing out any intermediaries (i.e. higher-margin enterprise) and proudly owning the client relationship that may be leveraged in a mess of the way past pure media content material make it nearly not possible for rights homeowners and holders to withstand the temptation to a minimum of do that direct-to-consumer factor. In consequence, fragmentation will proceed for the foreseeable. Nonetheless, the preliminary enthusiasm of customers for “a-la-carte” choices will slowly however certainly wane as frustration of rising month-to-month payments for OTT streaming providers and disorientation as a result of content material overload or lack of steerage will rise. Backside-line, individuals like aggregation (and comfort); therefore, it should return. It is most likely a cyclical motion, and in some unspecified time in the future recognition in customers’ thoughts will set in that pay-TV was not the worst. One query will probably be who will “win” the function of the aggregator. In different phrases, who will present the distribution (and be the gateway that manages the connection to the shoppers) for content material suppliers — which, in flip, must spend billions on content material manufacturing and acquisition and are at present not making use of any enterprise economics in doing so. However, distributors will nearly function at zero marginal prices — one thing the know-how firms are accustomed to as a part of their core enterprise and can be very happy to take action within the (sports activities) media panorama as nicely as an alternative of spending huge on content material (i.e. sports activities broadcasting rights) themselves: Amazon Fireplace (or Amazon Channels), Apple TV (or Apple App Retailer), Roku and so are already in place to play that function of the brand new “middlemen,” take their lower of the revenues, and transfer content material suppliers again right into a world that’s similar to the one earlier than any of there D2C/OTT ambitions existed: with none direct-to-consumer relationship.

Lastly, I usually factor about how comparable the emergence of “Over-the-High” (i.e. the market entry of digital-only/first gamers within the sports activities broadcasting enviornment) is comparable with the migration of dwell sports activities from free-to-air tv to pay-TV, which began roughly a decade in the past and has been one of many primary catalysts for the explosion of the rights charges ever since. Describing the present scenario because the migration from (conventional) pay-TV to digital gamers can be the logical subsequent summation — if it actually occurs is a very completely different query, I doubt it.

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