Covid has significantly impacted the sporting landscape and fundamentally changed the way the industry operates. While live matches were initially canceled or postponed, the return to live sports has been challenging without fans in the stadiums. Sports organizations are looking for new ways to engage with fans who are stuck at home. At the same time, however, the appetite for live sports is bigger than ever.
Sports organizations and broadcasters have been forced to reassess key strategies to ensure that they can retain fans’ interest and survive post-pandemic. Changes in consumption behaviors and loss of revenue streams have heightened the importance of offering services direct to the consumer. With shifting patterns in consumption already being addressed by some, how can they continue to overhaul their offerings and deliver value directly to the consumer?
There has already been a shift in the broadcasting landscape, with a rise in demand for OTT services and Latin America being one of the fastest-growing OTT marketplaces in the world. Pre-pandemic, there had been a steady growth in OTT consumption but changes to routines and daily life have accelerated the changes. These changes, along with the lack of live games, have viewers accessing content differently. With demand rising for more varied content, sports organizations have revisited archive content and made it available for viewers, who are now able to access a wider range of content, including historical footage and documentaries.
We are seeing a fundamental change in the way broadcasters are reaching their viewers. Clubs are moving away from deals with big players and going direct to the consumer with apps and features that offer consolidated content. Direct-to-consumer services from clubs such as that of BarcaTV may well become commonplace. I certainly think that other clubs may well follow suit. In particular, Flamengo already has a partnership with Amazon and has been pushing back on long-term rights deals with traditional broadcasters. Moving to its own video offering seems a natural next step. Offering content in this way provides a convenient all-in-one platform to the user, as well as offering a whole host of exclusive content that wouldn’t be available otherwise.
Sports will always be vital in the Latam TV and streaming landscape. In a study involving 42.8 million Brazilians, 74% were found to have an interest in general sports with 40% said to be interested or very interested in soccer.
Going back a few years, there were two options to follow your favorite teams: watch it at the venue or watch it on TV. Now, alongside the rise in demand for OTT services, the demand for alternative features and content to be available on a range of web-enabled devices has also risen. Viewers still want the option to watch sports in real-time, however, they now need it to be easily accessed from wherever they may be located.
With a lack of in-person experiences, fans have been looking for different ways to immerse themselves in sports content. AI has been leveraged by many organizations to offer an easier way to find content. Interactive features such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have been providing new ways to engage fans. VR integrations offer users a chance to be part of the action, while AR delivers another dimension and brings the interactivity that is lost with the lack of public at the stadiums. Although these are not new technologies, they have risen in popularity over the last 12 months and aren’t showing signs of going anywhere. The enforced confinement is making people more curious about immersive technologies and companies are investing heavily to make a difference in this area.
With a loss of almost every sporting game and event as a result of the pandemic, leagues were left trying to negotiate with sponsors the return of money. Back in 2020, the Premier League was said to have made an agreement worth £330 million to return money to local and global broadcasters due to canceled or postponed games.
Disruption in the sports industry has forced rights holders to reconsider the way they deal with sponsorship. A logo at the bottom of a website is not enough for sponsors. XR is trying to make this relationship interactive. With new distribution and content models, comes a shift in sponsorship values. OTT platforms create heightened value for commercial partners and allows them to target users more specifically. AR delivers an interactive approach and boosts engagement between sponsors and consumers.
For over a year, the sports industry has had to adapt to a new way of engaging fans. There have been changes in consumer requirements and shifts in viewing behaviors. While many organizations have quickly adapted to a new way of delivering content, there is still plenty of innovation to explore.
As live sports begin to take place once again, there is still a huge uncertainty within the sports market. Sports organizations must carefully consider options for the future. They can't invest in solutions that only work now. Understanding the post-covid scenario will help to create relationships that will continue to please millions of fans once they can come back to the stadiums