The Future of Sports Broadcasting

Sports is part of my daily life. In the past it was playing, but these days it is following. I’m one of the 36% of sports fans that follow a non-mainstream sport (table tennis) and today I have access to more content than ever before – anytime, anywhere. Indeed, growing-up, the only live International table tennis I saw was probably in the Olympics on television. So, whilst we see brash headlines detailing the drop of live sports viewing figures on traditional TV, I believe more live sports is being consumed now than anytime in history; it’s just being consumed differently.

Sports associations such as the NBL, NFL and major European football leagues have all obtained streaming partnerships with various broadcasters. From Periscope to dedicated services such as DAZN, dubbed the ‘Netflix of Sports’, more sports fans are going online to consume their favourite matches and games. It isn’t just mainstream sporting giants securing bold relationships with streaming services, as Table Tennis England becomes the first of it’s kind to begin broadcasting using Facebook Live.

Focus: Table Tennis England

In October 2016, Table Tennis England announced a broadcast rights deal with TheLADbible Group. Soon after the announcement, the first broadcast was made: a men’s England vs. Greece European qualifier via TheSPORTbible on Facebook. Remarkably, 2.1 million people tuned in to watch the England men’s team beat Greece on the same night Manchester City played Barcelona in the Champions League. This was a landmark moment for sports broadcasting in the UK; proving lower-tier sports like table tennis can draw in an audience of millions without traditional broadcasting. Better still for Table Tennis England, much of the demographic that watched were millennials who will have hopefully been inspired by what they saw.

“We are particularly keen to reach new and younger audiences and The Sports Bible have a fantastic track record in reaching that demographic.”

Mark Taffler, Head of Commercial at Table Tennis England.

In the past, Table Tennis England would have likely had to pay to get such a match shown live on traditional TV. Instead, Table Tennis England found a cost-effective and innovative way to bypass traditional TV, subsequently increasing both engagement and exposure for the sport. In the process, by demonstrating the potential of another platform, Table Tennis England proved traditional TV is no longer as attractive as it once was.

Looking to the future, in the case of Table Tennis England, it will be interesting to see:

  • How it follows-up this huge success. What will it do next?
  • Will we see a long-term benefit for table tennis in the UK?
  • Just how much will Table Tennis England benefit given it doesn’t own the relationship with the viewers?
  • Is the agreement with TheLADbible Group future proof? In a world that is quickly changing, is the agreement structured in a way that deals with future technology and future potential rights types?

Digital Disruption

As illustrated by Table Tennis England, digital disruption is happening in sports broadcasting worldwide. As per video and music before it, it is the emergence of new technologies that is driving and fuelling this disruption. New technologies have had a profound effect as to how fans consume sport as consumption moves mobile first. Additionally, with the proliferation of social media, fans now expect to be able to engage with their favourite players, teams and sports anytime, anywhere. All these changes present opportunities and challenges for the sports rights holders. At present, there is fragmentation and no solution that suits all - with each sport requiring a unique strategy and approach to truly submerge its audience in live broadcasting. Some of the available options include:

  • Alternative media rights strategies like Table Tennis England
  • Free OTT digital streaming on websites (ITTF) or social media sites like Twitter (NHL) and Facebook (Snooker)
  • Paid for OTT digital streaming (GAAGO)
  • Maybe Facebook Stadium, as more drastic potentials open up for business.

Do you think online broadcasting and streaming opens up the potential to expose the masses to sports they may otherwise have not heard of or watched? Tweet us your favourite sport - and where you watch it! @FastWebMedia

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