• Speakers agree niche personalised content counters OTT subscription fatigue
  • Converting eyeballs to dollars is a challenge, says European Tour COO
  • Olympic Channel to grow localised content for the underserved Indian market

SportsPro OTT Summit 2019 Serving specialist audiences

Serving specialist audiences: Panel commences 

Sports federations looking to balance digital and broadcast in order to retain global viewership and drive revenue have highlighted aggregation, personalisation and partnerships as key priorities.

Senior figures from leading sports federations spoke about the importance of serving narrower and dedicated audiences more deeply to counter OTT subscription fatigue and fragmentation.

It was unanimously agreed specialist sport networks, associations and leagues need to collaborate with broadcasters and OTT providers to provide mainstream content for fans in a niche way.

Speaking in the session ‘Serving specialist audiences’ during the SportsPro OTT Summit in Madrid yesterday, European Tour chief content officer Rufus Hack explained the difference between niche and too niche. He said: “We have a global sport and we want to try and create content to move people down the funnel, to buy merchandise and engage with the tour in an authentic and engaging capacity.

“We’ve seen a great growth in eyeballs but not dollars and now we are talking about how we can take those eyeballs and convert them to dollars.”

He pointed to Discovery’s business approach, inking a deal with the PGA Tour last year for a global TV and multi-platform rights outside the US, “[Discovery is] acting as a natural aggregator and consolidator with golf,” he continued: “We all know OTT products are costly but cut through and it is the best cost solution with fantastic products and features.

“The more scale within a vertical or even cross-vertical means that consolidation and aggregation can be a key part of that.”

Rob Mitchell, programme lead for the FA’s FA Player OTT service, added: “One of the biggest challenges we have had is recognising and building the addressable audiences so we can communicate with them.

“Having spent a lot of time in development with player and analytics tools on consumption behaviour and marketing from a stakeholder perspective, the ability to listen to users and interpret data means we understand the markets, the features of OTT and what they want as well.”

Thematic content
Paid-for OTT subscription services can potentially mean losing the casual fan likely to tune into free-to-air TV; while the benefits of specialist sport channels going direct-to-consumer (D2C) means growing global fan bases.

SportsPro OTT Summit 2019 Serving specialist audiences 2

L-R: Rob Mitchell, Simon Miller, Rufus Hack and Mark Parkman

Speakers agreed success is dependent on how the D2C OTT players are approaching the growth opportunities with a deeper focus on thematic content.

Olympic Channel managing director Mark Parkman reflected on the success of the Channel. After launching over three years ago, it has partnerships with 93 federations, is now in 12 languages and last week added Hindi.

“We want to start to grow the Indian market which traditionally has not been a strong market, but we will carve out rights and localised content for India and make it about their athletes to maximise our highlights.

“It is part of our strategy, it is a 365-day endeavour and we want to keep it alive and drive viewers to [The Olympics] in the 17 days of the event because we want them to be successful, reach the widest audiences, which is successful for all of us.”

The Channel’s main objective in the next 12 months is to aggregate the audience and collect data ahead of Tokyo 2020: “We aim to service personalised and niche audiences that we can continue to develop and help grow more interested in the sport.”

Parkman continued: “We distribute content across a number of territories, and we are seeing wider engagement, but we are not commercialising on an individual basis….we are trying to make that as aggressive as we can to get more eyeballs through our rights holders to watch the game.”

While many sports federations have benefited from the OTT global footprint of niche sports, Hack said: “The economic model is really tough, you are going to acquire customers slower than you thought and you can’t monetise the fans as well as Sky Sports, Canal+ or NBC.”

“Collaborate with broadcast partners, as you need multiple strings to your bow and critically you need to think about the wide value proposition – make sure you’re relevant, authentic and doing something fantastic.”