If you believe everything you’veb seen written, sport on TV – often considered a last bastion for “traditional” TV in the face of more and more OTT competition – may be in trouble. Lots of stats are being bandied around: 2016 Rio Summer Olympics viewership was down by 10% when compared to the London 2012 Games. For the English Premier League, early 2017 season ratings for matches on Sky Sports were down by 20%, and there are more deep-seated fears in the US, where NFL coverage has suffered a 10% decline in viewers this season.
But here at Dativa, we’re still bullish about sports. Let’s not forget – it’s still true that almost every successful MVPD has built its audience to a greater or lesser extent thanks to live sports, and millions of us still tune in to watch peak sporting events.
But there are issues. We’ve had it put to us that amongst younger generations, there is perhaps a tendency to get updates on the ‘important details’ by watching the goals in the highlight clips, seeing one player’s heinous tackle in GIF form and following the Twitter storm surrounding the referee’s appalling offside call, rather than watching the whole 80 or 90-minute event. Piracy is also certainly an issue, with the illegal re-streaming of live sports beginning to affect viewing figures.
But this in itself is a complex situation, and may be financially motivated. In other vertical markets, we’ve seen how other subscribers won’t pay for a top tier offering, but will pay for a “Pay-Lite” proposition. In sports, the biggest matches and events are key to the proposition. This doesn’t translate very readily to a pay-lite scenario – although a few MVPDs are giving it a good go.
For MVPDs and sports networks, what’s clear is that a ‘one-size fits all’ content strategy will not last as a ‘pan-generational’ plan – and harnessing audience data is vital to achieving this.
In such a competitive and aggressive market, it is even more important that MVPDs utilise data to retain existing viewers and increase revenues. To begin with, automation of audience segmentation can help facilitate better targeting of customers and help MVPDs to cross-market effectively, allowing service providers to identify other types of content which can be marketed to ‘typical’ sports fans. For example, by discovering that fans of a certain team or sport over-index for a particular channel or content genre helps a broadcaster identify cross-marketing opportunities more effectively. Additionally, data can identify that when a viewer has an affinity with one sport, it’s much more likely that they will enjoy another sport, leading to even further exciting cross-marketing opportunities.
Utilising real-time data is also extremely valuable when trying to re-engage viewers. Real-time information can be used to generate more push-notifications and alerts about the content they want to watch, such as reminders about upcoming matches or alerts for imminent kick off times. Increasing the value of advertising breaks during sports can also be improved through harnessing data about the way consumers view ads.
For traditional media companies reliant on high value – and increasingly high cost – sports rights, this decline should ring alarm bells. However, commentators have been ringing this bell for years and still sports have been incredibly affective in building pay-TV audiences. However, as rights costs rise, we believe it’s even more important that MVPDs harness the data they have at their disposal around sports viewership to maximize ROI by increasing sports viewing, stickiness and the effectiveness of its cross marketing activities.