S05E03: Game of Streams (Engagement is King)
Our Media Solution Specialist, Magnus Svensson, is sharing his reflections on the online streaming industry in this post. This is part of a monthly series so make sure to follow us here if you don’t want to miss an episode.
We have just seen a couple of media rights deals finalized. National Football League just closed a new 11-year agreement that will run through 2033 worth over $100 billion. And just a week earlier, Disney, ESPN and the National Hockey League reached a historic seven-year television, streaming and media rights deal. And NBA is next up and is aiming for a $75 billion multiyear rights package with Turner Sports and ESPN.
It seems that there is no limit to what the media rights for the major leagues are worth. This at the same time as the viewing figures decline and cord-cutting increase more and more for each year. While you could smell the desperation, you could also see the shift towards streaming, as the deals include the right to gradually shift towards streaming when the time is right. And some of the matches will be on streaming only platforms such as Amazon Prime Video.
But it is not that simple that just move the games to streaming and the viewing rates will return to record levels. Data provided by the analytical firm The Maru Group shows that more than half of the fans (NHL, NFL, and NBA) age 18–34 prefer to watch highlights instead of a full game, and that most games are not worth watching until near the end.
You often read statements that this is a Gen Z trend, but I believe that this is more than a trend by the younger generation, it comes down to alternatives and engagement. Today you have so many options of what to watch and the traditional sports are simply not that engaging. One reason is the structure of the sports, the series are too long before it is interesting, and each game is too long to keep the engagement level up. Another reason is that the way the sports and games are presented to the fans in front of the TV screen, that in many cases has become a worse experience with streaming than with traditional distribution.
Engagement is King.
The sports and leagues must do their part to make the series and games more interesting. And the media rights owners must absolutely do their part to make the best out of their very expensive rights. I believe that it much about cooperation between the leagues, clubs, and media rights owners.
The coverage of the games must be done in such a way that it can be distributed to the fans in a way that the fans would like to consume. Even if you can find ways to make the structure of the series and games more appealing, you will still have moments when a 5-minute collection of highlights is enough or what you have the time to consume during the commute. And for some fans, just following your favorite player is all you want.
With today’s technology it is possible by fairly simple means to produce different formats of the same raw material. Ensure full-length games as well as all sorts of highlights and clips. Make it possible for others, former players, influencers, and just ordinary fans to make their own production with the raw material as base. Make those options available to the fans, in your app and in the environments where the fans feel comfortable. Do not be afraid of redistribution and partnerships, these will in the end increase the engagement of the sports, drive traffic and monetization options.
Keep the viewers engaged.
Regardless of if the viewer is watching a full game or highlights, keep them watching. In most sports streaming services today each game ends with a dead end or a slate. This will force an active choice and a possibility to leave the service. If you instead push the viewer to some other related content, based on previous viewing history, or something else that you believe would attract the viewer, chances are that they stay with the service.
Streaming technology enable the possibility to personalize the experience before a game, during the game and after the game. But this possibility is very seldom used by todays streaming services. The experience does not necessarily need to be individually personalized for each user but use the possibility to engage and keep the viewer in your hands.
Finally, the user experience in the applications of most streaming services leave plenty of room for improvement. Most applications are hard to navigate, does not contain enough statistics and information about the sport, league, and clubs and in some cases, it is even hard to find out when the game starts. If you instead could find the news, statistics and information about your favorite team or player, the streaming service might become to the one stop shop. Today, it is more like a necessary evil.
To watch out for the coming months…
It will be interesting to see how the subscriber numbers for the already established services like Netflix and Disney will be affected by the new entrants. And how the local players will be influenced by the global launches. Churn will become something that will become part of the game and not something to fear like the plague. The viewers will be more volatile, and the focus should instead be on customer acquisition and make it easier to be a customer. Trying to lock the viewers will most likely have an opposite effect.
Magnus Svensson is a Media Solution Specialist and partner at Eyevinn Technology. Eyevinn Technology is the leading independent consulting company specializing in video technology and media distribution.