LiveWire Sport were in attendance in Madrid and here’s what stood out for us from two days of insight into OTT best practice and its potential next steps.
OTT has progressed enormously in the last five years, with Netflix and other subscription services going from niche products to staples of the media landscape. Consequently, the days of OTT merely duplicating traditional linear broadcast are over.
Personalisation was one of the big buzzwords in Madrid, indicating the power of what customers watch is now very much with the customers themselves.
It’s expected that, for example, fans will be able to choose their preferred camera angles, select how they consume real-time data – such as stats on specific athletes – and influence how machine-generated content, like tactical analysis, is employed to enhance the experience.
“The next evolution is where the fan directs what they want to watch. The fan should dictate what they see and how they construct that on screen. They will essentially become the director of the event,” said UEFA’s Marketing Director Guy-Laurent Epstein.
As well as the presentation of the action on OTT, the precise nature of the action itself also provides a real opportunity for personalisation. One recent example has been the NBA’s changes to the payment structure for its OTT offer.
NBA fans can now purchase just the final quarter of a match if they want, in addition to the more traditional annual, monthly or weekly subscriptions.
It’s a bold move but - according to Matthew Hong, the Chief Operating Officer of Turner Sports, who manage the NBA League Pass on the governing body’s behalf - it’s a test "in response to growing consumer demands” with initial results suggesting even more specific methods of pricing strategy could be on the way.
Watch this space…
There was no mistaking that the ongoing debate over quality versus latency was a key topic.
In an ideal world, of course, you’d have quality with no latency, but current technological restrictions are forcing some to choose between supplying a feed of the highest quality and putting up with occasional buffering issues, or being as close to live as possible with a compromise on the quality of the stream for the customer.
The general consensus from the delegates in Madrid was that quality should take precedence.
“Latency is a problem that many are facing, but, for us, we are a premium brand with a premium product and the quality of the product is everything,” said Tim Orme, Formula 1’s Head of Digital Product.
The good news though is that research is taking place to help eradicate these issues. It seems that as technology gets better, particularly with 5G on the horizon, it may not be too long before the problem is a thing of the past.
Sinking the pirates
According to Digital TV Research, $52bn (£42.7bn) will be lost in revenue globally through piracy online by 2022. That’s rather a big number - and the sports industry certainly isn’t exempt from that, with up to 13% of potential rightsholder revenue disappearing into the digital ether.
Delegates were shown an eye-opening example where (in less than 60 seconds and from the comfort of an airport lounge), someone managed to source a sporting stream and create an illegal pirate version for monetising through a reputable hosting platform.
But the fightback is on.
In March 2017, the Premier League and Sky Sports won a rights blocking order with the law now enabling proper enforcement - and it’s working. The stance is leading the way in the industry – so what can other broadcasters and governing bodies learn from Sky Sports and the Premier League’s approach?
• All broadcasters need to buy in: If not, the pirates win by simply taking another broadcaster’s stream and making it available globally. For action to be effective, rights deals need contractual clauses insisting everyone has a responsibility to actively protect content
• Engage the hosting platforms: The likes of Google, YouTube and Twitch are integral to the piracy clampdown and opening dialogue with them makes it much harder for pirates to post and promote illegal streams, effectively dealing with the problem at source
• Stay across digital trends and tech: As technology develops, the problem of piracy is unlikely to go away. Continually assessing counter measures are up to the task and developing a strong monitoring system are vital to protect content
OTT is seen very much as a technology testing ground - and that’s a good thing.
The likes of HD, 3D and UHD TV were trialled on OTT streams before making it to linear TV and this is exciting because the future of broadcast and streaming is clearly going to be online.
Recent analysis has shown a switch in UK consumers’ behavioural patterns with more people now watching more content online through mobile, tablet and web than via traditional TV methods.
What this suggests is that the predictions are coming true. OTT is not just the future. It is the now.
And with the likes of AI, augmented video and machine-generated content in the offing, prepare to be amazed…
Esports ready to go mainstream
Despite enjoying an enormous global audience and the emergence of successful platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming, esports has yet to make much of an impression with mainstream UK broadcasters.
In the USA though, it’s a somewhat different story.
“We talk about what’s coming, but esports is coming right now,” said Eric Black, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at NBC Sports.
“We’ve been working with a few different leagues. The opportunity for esports is fantastic and it is something we’re bullish about.”