BusinessLive Streaming Services and the Future of Sports Broadcasting

Live Streaming Services and the Future of Sports Broadcasting

Benefits of Live Streaming Services in Sports Broadcasting

Enhanced Fan Engagement With the multiple features of online streaming, fans can now be more involved and closer to the action than ever before. The ability to watch a game live via a mobile device means that fans will never have to miss an event. Whether you are stuck at work late, out to dinner on a weekend night, or even commuting from one place to another, live streaming services have the ability to access your location and can show live events such as in the United States NFL or NBA games via Yahoo Sports app or NBA league pass via a mobile device. This is huge in terms of fan accessibility; anywhere from any location, fans can now watch an event with ease.

In an article by The Guardian, traditional TV viewing figures of the 2010 FIFA World Cup final showed that an estimated 700 million people watched Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0. TV viewing figures in Australia alone showed that over 4 million people tuned into at least some part of the game. In comparison to the 40 million unique viewers in the US watching via ESPN3 online during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, this clearly states that online streaming figures are continually rising and there are fewer people now watching the event after it’s happened. Live streaming services have the ability to show an event or game to a much greater number of people than a traditional TV service. With the downfall of Foxtel, who has now lost their English Premier League service to Optus, who are only offering online streaming via an app, there are people who, for the most part, no longer have the option of watching their favorite team on a TV.

Expanded Audience Reach At the heart of live streaming services, sports fans love to look out for events that are live and happening at that instant. It’s more exciting and entertaining. Live sporting events are untouchable in the sense that you can’t replicate the value of a live game. Whether it’s coming home from work and recording the game to watch for the duration of the night or the nail-biting tension over the last play, sporting events have the ability to keep fans on the edge of their seats.

Expanded Audience Reach

Live streaming sports games has the potential to expand the audience reach of sports broadcasts for both the near and distant future. As internet technology continues to improve, more television will be delivered by the internet, which is where an increasing percentage of the population younger than 45 are now watching television. As time goes by, the older generations who are accustomed to terrestrial and satellite TV will fade. By 2025, most of the traditional TV viewing demographic will move to online television, and this is where people of all ages watch live sports. Essentially, broadcasting live sports online will soon reach near-full market penetration.

Advertising spaces sold inside the United States for TV sports broadcasts earned $18.65 billion in 2017. Still, many people outside of the US watch sports and would want to support their favorite teams through higher viewership. Nevertheless, only 25% of US television offers live internet streaming, and most of these channels don’t offer live sports streams. With a widening economic gap between younger and older generations, broadcast TV ratings for live sports are in decline, with younger generations preferring on-demand entertainment.

Enhanced Fan Engagement

This table of contents, an excerpt of “Live Streaming services and the future of sports broadcasting”, is a predicted data of the actual text in the enhanced fan engagement. The table is written by author Dixon, T and details all the benefits of live streaming services, focusing particularly on the enhanced fan engagement. It is explained that the term ‘engagement’ is used as a colloquial term meaning interactions and inferences about the sport being watched. A diminished term of engagement would mean less of the mentioned. With the rise of second screens and social media, fan engagement would appear to not be short of its own technology. This is, however, not the case. Some fans may watch a match with their team’s colors worn, watching from a global audience. There is no effective way for them to be noticed. This could be from lack of an engagement platform or simply that the television will have adverts that they cannot bypass. The notion here is that live streaming events can provide an all-in-one platform on either the official team website or a match streaming site that feels more personal to interact with. This can be a game changer for events such as motorsport where there might only be an online fan base. A direct streaming event with fan interaction has the potential to draw in more viewers. Primitive_FreeLiveTiming and the Formula E series are both good examples of this. The simplicity of being able to ask the caster a question about an in-game occurrence can be the decision between watching a stream and watching a television show. Viewers streaming on a second screen device, for example, a phone or tablet, have the ability to interact live on the screen that they are watching. It is said that a high percentage of these viewers feel more immersed in the event than the event attendees themselves.

Global Accessibility

The first benefit that the author expounds is the increased audience of a particular sport in the advent of live streaming services. He gives the example of Spain’s La Liga which has a larger following outside of Spain than within. With traditional television broadcasts, they are confined to a relatively small following in comparison to the world’s interest in the sport. This is mainly due to the limited broadcasting of their games in other countries. The article goes on to explain how live streaming services can alleviate this problem by giving the consumer the ability to watch any game from any location in real time. This gives leagues like La Liga the ability to reach out to hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe, fans that would otherwise have no way of viewing the game. An international example raised by the author is the case of the International Cricket Council who have set the goal of expanding cricket beyond its traditional countries and into newer markets. My personal experience backs up this point. Being a supporter of the Italian team AS Roma, I found it virtually impossible to watch any of their games when I was living in Australia. Now, being back in Italy, I still have to rely on streaming services to get the matches that are not shown on television. But the fact that any of these games are available is a huge improvement from the past and I can imagine that location in the near future will no longer be a barrier to viewing certain matches.

Challenges and Considerations in Live Streaming Sports Events

This research investigates how innovation has transformed the way in which sports fans connect with their teams. While the focal point of sports fandom is still the consumption of live traditional broadcast content, the audience is now expecting more from their television. With the emergence of high-speed internet, combined with advances in video compression and delivery technologies, streaming video brings the sights and sounds of sporting events directly to a fan’s computer. Sports leagues, teams, and content providers are using streaming video to increase their revenue streams through subscription-based mechanisms, while making games available to fans living outside of the game’s native viewing area. As internet television evolves, the line between traditional television and streaming delivery becomes increasingly blurred. People are preferring to consume their sports online, and it is up to the industry to provide the best possible experience. This alignment between sports fans and the online distribution of sports presents a window of opportunity to revolutionize the way in which sports are experienced and make massive improvements in the way live sports broadcasts are done today.

Bandwidth and Connectivity Issues

Perhaps the primary concern for streaming live events, before any of the above-mentioned concerns can occur, is the issue of bandwidth and network connectivity. Accessing a high-quality stream requires a great deal of bandwidth and a fast connection. Streaming a live sports event in standard definition may suffice in some cases; however, particularly with the emergence of high-definition television, many viewers are much less willing to accept a lower quality picture. With live events, in particular, many consumers will expect a stream of similar quality to what they are accustomed to receiving through their cable or satellite provider. As high-definition streams become more and more common, the demands on available bandwidth will increase. Most American households still do not have internet connections capable of streaming HD video, and many in rural areas may not have high-speed internet at all. This could isolate a large portion of the market from streaming content or force them to upgrade their internet service. Bandwidth is also a concern for mobile users. While internet-enabled smartphones are becoming increasingly common, streaming live video can quickly eat through a mobile user’s monthly data allowance. This could be a major issue for sports leagues, as live streaming to mobile devices could be a highly desirable option. If mobile streaming ends up being a viable option, it will be imperative that connectivity is available and affordable to mobile users from all income brackets.

Piracy and Copyright Concerns

This form of content theft can become a major concern for the providers of live streaming services for sports events, especially when their sole purpose of doing so is to gain advertising revenues by drawing traffic to the site and attempt to use very relevant ad placement near the stolen sports broadcast. Richard Atkinson, Director of Internet Piracy analysis for anti-piracy company Net Result claimed in his written testimony to the Congressional subcommittee that the advertising revenue of such sites frequently totals over $1 million during popular sporting events. This type of high quality sports content on the net is available from twenty-four hour sports news sites to fully functional online broadcasting networks. With the gap in fees between traditional cable-based pay-per-view and online pay-per-view often being quite large, there is strong motivation for consumers driven to find a bargain to seek bootlegged online streams of the event in question. The combination of potentially high traffic to a site and the lure of a substantial revenue gap presents thereby presents a tangible threat to the exclusive rights holder’s profitability. These concerns regarding piracy and potential impact on advertising rates could easily be alleviated with a strong stance towards enforcement and takedown of illegitimate live streams coupled with a proactive education campaign aimed at raising awareness of the possible detrimental impact to the consumer who may unwittingly support content theft.

Quality and Reliability

The reliability issue comes first and foremost from the competitive business nature of live sports event coverage. If you are not immediately better than the competition, gaining market share in local and global sports, which is often the case for newer more cost-effective sports organizations and tournaments, is difficult to impossible. Given the current issues some sports organizations have experienced with streaming vendors, it must be said that not every company will stay in business. This has sometimes led to providers dropping off mid-event, leaving both the company and consumer in a frustrating situation. This shake-up is an unfortunate but necessary event as the best providers will contend for market share and hopefully the value of coverage to consumers will increase as a result.

The production of complex, high quality live streaming sports event coverage will involve a sizeable expense. Methods for ad insertion will have to be nonintrusive to prevent viewer loss, and there may even be a call for development of new ad models. The implementation of stats and other ancillary information in a high quality manner has already been discussed. Camera coverage, replay packages, quality commentators and other production values should not be overlooked; the more traditional methods of production have a higher standard across the board. Lastly, offline viewing options such as VOD and DVR functionality are becoming standard for consumers across the globe. It is necessary to provide these features when on-demand sports content is the target.

Live streaming of sporting events will have to contend with a high comparison from event to event in the quality of coverage traditional broadcast methods provide. Potential consumers are already accustomed to high quality, reliable coverage for every single sporting event. Whether it is HD television, 5.1 surround sound, or nested highlight packages at your fingertips, there is a higher standard for production values in sports coverage across the board. For the near future at least, high value events such as playoff games, championships, and tournaments will almost certainly be able to secure television contracts because the rights fees keep increasing and there are a wealth of production costs that need to be recuperated.

The Future of Live Streaming in Sports Broadcasting

High-speed data connections that are found on mobile devices will also see an increase in quality and loading times for live streams as the demand for HD content becomes an industry standard. This is especially true with the increasing prevalence of 4K resolution. Development in codec technology also means higher quality streams at lower bit rates, which can again be advantageous for mobile viewers. All of these improvements should make for a desirable viewing experience for live sports content on the go.

With Wi-Fi and 4G internet connections becoming increasingly widespread, a prediction can be made that the future will see all live sports events streamed directly to people’s phones and tablets. This presents a problem for television broadcasters who will be looking to hold onto the right to show said events. Currently, live streaming sports services have been implemented by some TV companies with apps like SkyGo, but their content is often restricted to those with a Sky subscription. This shows one potential future for live sports streaming is integration with TV service and removal of the need to have satellite television.

Sport broadcasting’s future has improved with the development of live streaming because this service is capable of reaching out to sports enthusiasts all over the world. This is an opportunity for sport broadcasters to tap into greater global audiences. The most obvious development, as with streaming in general, has been the distribution of live content to mobile devices. Mobile sports viewers are able to watch games and events from wherever they have a connection, be it out and about or at home. This is an insider look at the future as live streaming sports looks to become almost entirely accessible from mobile devices.

Advancements in Technology

The rise of mobile devices has led to the demand for wanting access to live events on the go. Certain cloud-based services and DVR options allow for companies such as ESPN to stream live events to mobile devices, with an option to save the event and watch at a later time. This caters to a larger audience and does not restrict them to a specific time, which is a current downfall for many sport events that are only broadcasted live on television. With an increased demand for mobile live coverage, it’s likely that sports organizations will seek cheaper alternatives for simple streaming from events, bypassing traditional television coverage completely.

A strong emphasis is placed on technological advancements when considering the future of sports broadcasting. Resolutions of 4K and beyond are being considered, enhancing the visual experience for viewers. As the transmission from an event to the consumers becomes seamless and of higher quality, the likely shift from traditional television to online streaming becomes more probable. The increase in quality and viewing platforms could also improve the globalization of certain sports, providing higher quality coverage to more obscure sports, potentially increasing their popularity.

Integration of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Augmented reality will provide an enhancement to the viewer’s current environment through the use of computerized visual information. This can be achieved through a smartphone or tablet device. A simple example of this would be a live American football game with various graphics displaying player statistics, or ball trajectory, etc. This would enrich the viewing experience by making the game easier to understand. A more sophisticated example would be Microsoft’s HoloLens device. This could potentially allow a person to watch a game taking place in an empty field and see real-life sized players acting out the game. A HoloLens wearer could sit on the sideline and look around at the virtual and real world at any time.

The integration of virtual reality and augmented reality in sports broadcasting is the next big step for the industry. Both of these concepts seek to enhance the viewing experience by providing an environment which is more immersive and interactive. Virtual reality has the potential to achieve this by allowing viewers to experience the sporting event in a 3D environment. This can be achieved through the use of VR headsets which will transport the viewer into a totally different world. It is possible that an app could be developed which allows a viewer to pick the event they wish to view and then be virtually transported to a seat in the stadium. This would enable sports fans to experience events which are on the other side of the world, as if they were actually there. The technology can also be taken further by creating an entire virtual stadium that viewers can navigate through. This could create an experience similar to a sports video game, however the visuals will be taken from a real-life event.

Personalized Viewing Experience

With the à la carte viewing experience looking more and more like a possibility, the importance of data will be key. With more data available about individual consumers, we can expect streaming services to begin offering more personalized packages to viewers based on their preferences. This could take the form of a discounted price on a set of games featuring their favorite team, or highlight packages centered around a favorite player or team. Targeted advertising will also become more prevalent, with viewers being shown ads for products more relevant to them based on their viewing and consumer habits. This will be appealing to both consumers and advertisers, as consumers will be less likely to be annoyed by irrelevant ads and advertisers will be getting more value for their advertising dollars.

The rise of live streaming services is set to bring about a new era of sports broadcasting, shifting the focus from the traditional linear broadcast (terrestrial, satellite & cable) to an exclusively over-the-top (OTT) on-demand service. The significance of this shift is huge, with many industry experts viewing this as the first step towards sports broadcasting eventually becoming an à la carte service. As sports fans become more discerning in their viewing habits, this will allow broadcasting companies to gather far more information about their viewers in order to deliver a much more personalized viewing experience.

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