In the second half of 2020, the proportion of French people who subscribed to at least one SVOD service passed the 50% mark (52.7%).
OTT (Over The Top) keeps on proving itself in many areas: cinema, festivals, training, media... The sports sector is becoming more and more interested in it.
The emergence of online sports content, new strategic benefits, changing consumer habits...
This article highlights different trends concerning the arrival of self broadcasting in this field.
A newly-emerging French market for online sports content
Many players publish online offers including audiovisual sports content. TV publishers offer the feed of their linear channels with additional content (short videos around competitions) on their websites and applications. Others broadcast exclusive retransmissions on their online platforms, such as Eurosport or l'Équipe. Pay-TV publishers such as beIN sports, Canal+ or RMC Sport all offer OTT pay-TV offers, with different access modalities depending on the players.
Following the pioneering model of American leagues, notably the NBA, French rights holders such as the National Volleyball League, the Professional Football League, or the National Rugby League are starting to invest in online publishing of content for which they own the rights.
However, are users ready?
OTT has to prove its worth in a still limited number of applications
The Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) and the Supreme Authority for the Distribution and Protection of Intellectual Property on the Internet (Hadopi) have joined forces to carry out a joint reflection on the development of online audiovisual sports content offers.
This includes sports broadcasting, programs based on these broadcasts (short excerpts, summaries, highlights, etc.), sports news, and series and documentaries dealing with sports.
OTT sports offerings seem to suffer from a lack of awareness and understanding in France, especially in comparison with "traditional" sports TV offerings, which are more established in habits and better identified by consumers. While 86% of Internet users surveyed are aware of at least one sports offer (television or OTT), less than half of them (44%) have already heard of OTT offers (combining traditional television and pure player offers).
While the French's appetence for sports content seems real (24% of Internet users indicate that they subscribe to a paid sports offer), OTT offers currently account for one-third of subscriptions. According to this study, subscribers to OTT sports offers have a younger profile, belonging to the upper socio-professional category and are more likely to subscribe to online cultural services.
Pure OTT sports offerings, on the other hand, still have low penetration rates of around 1-3% per platform.
If, on the consumer side, the concept is still little known, various strategies are notable around this mode of distribution for clubs and federations.
Various strategies around the broadcasting of sports content on OTT
Various economic models
Service publishers broadcasting sports audiovisual content on OTT have developed different business models. They may decide to create a free service that can be financed by advertising (AVOD), paid-for via subscription-based content (SVOD), or even in some cases on a pay-per-view basis (TVOD). It is also possible to create hybrid "freemium" models by offering free videos as well as enhanced paid content.
Getting to know consumers better
Indeed, self-distribution on the Internet allows the publisher to have access to information and observe the daily consumption habits of its users. It seems unnecessary to negotiate this data with intermediaries such as telecom operators, TV channels, social networks, video sharing platforms or third-party data providers. Publishing your own platform is therefore a key asset in order to have this data at your disposal, to understand consumer behavior and to adapt your content strategy according to it.
Responding to new habits and attracting a new audience
The number of subscribers to sports content offers distributed via OTT is limited compared to the number of subscribers to traditional offers developed by pay TV publishers. In an emerging market such as the OTT sports content market, the audience has to be found yet, but the potential for broadening the fan or subscriber base is real. Firstly, given the drop in audiovisual consumption on traditional media, broadcasting your own video content on the Internet makes it possible to capture the audience that has abandoned television. Then, developing an online offer makes it possible to reach a new audience that complements traditional offers, younger and used to multi-screen.
Rights holders whose competitions are less exposed have for the most part built their own digital platform around their content in order to, on the one hand, increase the visibility of their discipline among licensees and the general public and, on the other hand, control the distribution of their content.
The National Volleyball League (LNV), whose discipline receives relatively little media coverage on television, has implemented a differentiating strategy by building a paid OTT platform. After encountering difficulties in finding a TV broadcaster from the 2018-2019 season, they have chosen to develop an interface around their 3 competitions (the men's and women's 1st division championships and the men's 2nd division championship). The LNV TV was thus created to inform and broadcast images for clubs and amateurs. The League produces audiovisual content for exclusive OTT use at lower costs than those involved in broadcast broadcasting.
Putting online content with little exposure on television meets a real demand from consumers. The OTT sports subscribers surveyed showed a clear interest in sports with low exposure in traditional offerings.
As for rights holders who manage competitions that are already known and attractive, and therefore broadcast on television, they are developing their own OTT services to penetrate new markets. This makes it possible to test their sport's appeal, but it also means that these players must be technologically ready to cope with changing uses.
Achieve economies of scale
Finally, for publishers who wish to develop in several markets, savings are possible as long as the content that feeds their platform remains more or less the same from one territory to another. Developing in new markets allows for economies of scale. It is true that investing in the creation of a platform that can be used for several territories is a way to propose a monetizable offer at controlled costs.
Players whose content is accessible in different territories can save money when acquiring sports rights. While the majority of purchases are still made on a national level, some sales are made on a continental level. This is the case of Discovery's acquisition of the Olympic Games rights for Europe. Rights can also be sold on a multi-territorial basis, depending on cultural and linguistic similarities. These continental or multi-territorial sales can lead to savings in the acquisition of rights globally.
As you can see, there are many advantages to distributing your own content on OTT. Major players in the soccer industry have therefore taken an interest in it.
Changes in the French soccer world
Covid has changed the soccer ecosystem. Mediapro and Canal+, who no longer wish to broadcast the competitions, have stopped their payments. Faced with this chaotic crisis of TV rights for the Ligue 1, some clubs wanted to react, such as Olympique Lyonnais. No longer believing in the current model of selling TV rights, Jean Michel Aulas, its president, had put forward the idea in 2020 of a "Spotify of soccer", or rather a Netflix of soccer to better match the format. Indeed, self-broadcasting via a streaming platform would no longer depend on the vagaries and keep control over the distribution of its content.
The Americans, for their part, have already implemented it since 2008 with the NBA in particular. The concept is based on a "pass" allowing fans to buy only the games of their choice on an OTT platform. In 2018, the NBA will have reached $8 billion in revenues.
It is now the turn of the Professional Football League to look into the subject. At the end of the 2017/2018 season, it posted a significant economic performance, with revenues of more than 2.8 billion euros. With more than 600,000 subscribers, the LFP would consider creating its own channel in OTT to self-broadcast the games. This scenario would make it possible to stop using Mediapro and generate revenue in the face of the current financial abyss. The debates are still going on today.
The field of sports is undergoing many changes, self-broadcasting is shaking up an industry that raises more and more problems. If the concept is already developed in the United States, the subject is timid in France, facing entrenched consumer habits. However, self-distribution has many advantages that should not be overlooked.
So, a temporary solution or a real revolution in the world of sports broadcasting? To find out, let's stay connected...
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