In a general sense, television viewing has been disrupted permanently by internet technologies that allow fast, reliable, high-resolution video streaming. The sports world has taken advantage of this, utilizing over-the-top (OTT) platforms to either supplement traditional TV broadcasts or to supplant them altogether.
Also, when it comes to sports leagues and clubs, the landscape is far more varied than the big four major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). Smaller leagues such as major league soccer or the WNBA still have large potential audiences, and leagues from semi-pro to minor leagues, to college—even high school and recreational leagues—are all using new technologies to reach audiences. At the top of this technology heap is OTT.
According to a Rethink TV study, sports streaming revenue will reach $85 billion by 2024. This is no small part of the overall market, and there’s room for growth. According to Verizon, 63 percent of sports fans said they would consider paying for a live sports streaming service.
OTT platforms are ideal for sports for a variety of reasons:
This means providers can offer value-added services with little effort and show ads targeted specifically to each viewer—something traditional television can't do.
While television providers and independent streaming services such as FuboTV have already jumped on the OTT bandwagon—so have teams. And why not? The barrier to entry in broadcasting your own games is nothing compared to building a terrestrial television network. Teams can cater to super fans, provide behind-the-scenes access, sell direct advertising, and give fans first access to all games—not just a few. Plus, teams can utilize the same targeted advertising and personalized value-add services that networks can.
Even the smallest of clubs—say a local college hockey club—can use the most basic OTT services to stream to fans who can’t make games, building audience and brand loyalty similar to major sports or broadcast organizations.
It would be moot to talk about clubs and teams moving to OTT if the audience wasn’t there. Fortunately, they are. Individuals and businesses are turning to OTT services in increasing numbers.
For consumers, 2019 saw a tipping point. For the first time, more viewers were subscribing to streaming services than paying for cable. Not only that, but New research by eMarketer suggests that by 2024, 46.6 million households will have abandoned cable in favor of streaming.
2020 slowed business for restaurants and bars, but before the pandemic, sports bars were still preferred by many fans as places to catch one or more games. Faced with expensive choices when using cable or satellite services, bars have been moving to OTT services, saving money and giving them more control over content—including the option of ad-free broadcasting. For some bars, there may even be reason to create their own OTT service—after all, they may have a longer road ahead before returning to normal than some.
There’s no doubting the value of video-on-demand and live streaming. Market share in the overall streaming space is growing exponentially, and sports broadcasting is no exception. With technologies only getting better, faster, and more service-oriented, in-the-know sports clubs and teams both large and small are getting on the OTT train—leaving the less savvy competition behind.