• Red Bee panel tackles sport D2C
  • Speakers from BT, F1 and 2Circles join Red Bee SHOWCASE session
  • DTC and broadcast are “complementary” says Formula 1’s Max Metral

The return of live sports to broadcasting provides a critical opportunity to re-evaluate the business. A Red Bee Media panel asked whether sports broadcasters had missed an opportunity during lockdown to bring more direct to consumer offerings to fans.

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Red Bee panel tackles the return of sports broadcasting

“Once the major leagues got up and running did they miss the chance, where stadiums are empty, to provide a DTC proposition or some kind of pay-per-view option for season ticket holders?” posed Jonathan Wilson, key account lead, UK & Ireland, Red Bee Media.

He suggested that the EPL could have collaborated with BT Sport or Sky to deliver as close to an experience as possible to a Saturday afternoon live experience.

BT Sport’s head of business development & broadcast partnering, Louisa Clark disagreed. “Yes, we have a set of rights which we paid a lot for but our consumers also expect value for money. We offered access to BT Sport’s matchday coverage for football season ticket holders in the UK (Sky offered similar access via Now TV). There wasn’t a huge take-up but I think fans appreciate that clubs were trying to give them something. The point is that we are all in this together. It’s not about who is in the strongest negotiating position. Sports need to feel like they have a broadcast partner not a broadcast who just bought some rights.”

Max Metral senior analytics manager, F1 argued that DTC and broadcast were complementary although this differed between sports in different countries. “F1 is an international sport in almost every continent and crossing diff time zones. We are live at least one a year live everywhere. Local football leagues on the other hand derive most of their revenue from one TV broadcaster. If your main client tells you not to launch DTC then you are at risk if you do so.”

The entire sports industry from teams to technical suppliers worked very hard to ensure safety under quarantine and then to plan for resumption of live production. In the meantime, creative ways had to be found to fill the schedule.

“There are a lot of great content ideas not related to live,” said Clark. “People want engaging content. The optimum engagement time on YouTube is 6 minutes. You can make a really well thought out creative production at that length. Luckily, we have sports personalities who can create content without you needing to send a crew. Tyson Fury creates a whirlwind of content all on his own!”

The panel also noted that if there’s one positive above and beyond the new ways of working it’s how to be more sustainable.

“We have proven as an industry we can make it work and do live remote without having to transport kit and crew on an airplane,” said Wilson. “That can save rights holders and broadcasters money too as well as the positive effect on the planet.”

Clark said the pandemic has shaken up business culture. “If you applied for an operational job with us last year and said you couldn’t work in Stratford (BT Sport’s HQ) we probably marked that person down. If I’m honest, our attitude was that if it was an operational job you physically needed to be at base most of the time including weekends. Now, we’ve moved the majority of operations to people’s houses. We should no longer look at mobility or disability issues and say you can’t work for us - because we’ve just proved that we can do it all remotely.”

Metral wondered about the long-lasting effect of the shuttering of live sport to spectators. “We don’t know yet if any sport will achieve 100 percent capacity again. Will fans pay what they did pre-Covid? Are they willing to pay premiums to be Covid-safe?”

The drain on sports cash flow has also yet to play out. “More and more private investment will come into sport,” he predicted. “CVC has invested in rugby and is looking now at WSL. Hopefully private investment will be a positive outcome for sport.”

Catch up with the full panel on-demand here