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The changing face of Ott

A stream of opportunity at sports “long-tail”

Changing face of OTT

by Dave Greene

Living in a fast-paced world? Surely digital transformation has accelerated many aspects of our daily lives. Looking in the rearview mirror allows us to ask the question - are we where we want to be? In terms of digitalisation of sports rights, it would seem that we are only at the beginning.

Premium is trending

Names that meant nothing to the wider public only a few years ago are today mentioned alongside broadcasts titans - the ESPNs, the Skys, the Canal Pluses of the world. They are either B2B (classic over the top technology) or Direct-to-consumer (that typically use the B2B services). These are the OTTs that have taken the sports rights media landscape by storm, seducing the top properties to join the digital revolution (OTT = over the top, content providers distributing directly to viewers via streaming, bypassing traditional TV platforms). Such is the importance of the topic that 2018 will see the 2nd edition of the “OTT Summit”, a gathering of the most important players in the industry including content rights holders, technology services providers and broadcasters.

Sports fans are growing increasingly used to logging into a streaming platform rather than turning on their TV sets to consume their favourite sports content. Watching NBA League Pass or subscribing to D2C services are fast becoming essentials for the younger audiences cutting the TV cord.

Rise of the sports OTT

The first ever sports stream over the Internet was a baseball game in 1995, and a few years later in 2002, MLB launched their MLB.tv service. At the time, Derek Jeter was quoted as saying, “We may get into a situation where you don't have to have a specific channel to see a game”. The NBA launched their league pass in the 1995-1996 season and it would take a decade before they could make it available online in 2006.

Sports streaming services have been slowly emerging while others have stolen the headlines- in particular, the meteoric rise of Netflix in the early 2010s. Today, the sports streaming movement has reached a point where, despite its challenges, the Formula One OTT offering that provides its subscribers with better production (which it fully owns and operates) and viewing experiences than the TV broadcasts (access to multiple cameras including on board), and various services are vying for the title of “Netflix of sports” (a description that doesn’t fit mycujoo because, well, mycujoo is free - but we’ll get to that).

OTT illustration 2

From boom to bust for OTT?

The OTT world is only now fully accelerating, in part due to technological advances that deliver a satisfactory user experience, as well as cultural and behavioural shifts. Still, many challenges remain including connectivity, latency and piracy as well as how to elevate the user experience beyond what they can get from a linear broadcaster. Add to that the challenges of fully personalising the user experience, pricing, churn/retention, data collection and others.

It is increasingly clear that live sports, as it was for linear TV programming, is fuelling the OTT boom.

OTT and sub-premium content

Streaming is now clearly entrenched as a key component of the sports media landscape, and even outside of premium properties there is a growing presence around the globe.

The landscape for “sub-premium” content continues to rapidly develop as businesses have recognized the opportunity and demand for quality broadcasting at the lower reaches of sport (and particularly football), all the while traditional TV models fail to deliver sustainable production and distribution models. In November 2018, Brazil’s major broadcaster Globo announced that it would cease to acquire state championship TV rights starting in 2020. A watershed moment for the marketplace was the English Football League’s launch of their iFollow streaming platform for the 2017/2018 season. Recognizing that there were a considerable number of fans of the English Championship, League One, and League Two outside of the UK, the EFL and iFollow have offered the chance for international fans to follow their club live every week through the streaming platform.

Playing the long(tail) game

While the aforementioned competitions may be familiar to the average football fan, many other companies have taken the bottom-up approach with lower leagues. Some have invested in creating an OTT-specific platform and others are leveraging an existing hardware product to create a turnkey OTT solution.

Streaming providers and solutions are rapidly populating the marketplace but major broadcasters such as ESPN still value the chance to work with the long tail market. For example, the ESPN+ digital service gives viewers the opportunity to consume men and women’s collegiate football.

The sports OTT phenomenon is just only finding its place at the premium end of the sport, but already its effect is permeating the broader sports landscape. The benefits of digitising live sports content - unprecedented accessibility, creating stronger engagement with fans and players, linking with social media platforms, and of course monetisation - are just as evident at the more modest levels of sport as they are for premium properties.

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mycujoo and the digital transformation of sport

It is here that mycujoo distinguishes itself. When most long tail specific solutions try to figure out at what level they should erect barriers to access content - in the form of a paid subscription for some, or an expensive piece of content production hardware for others - mycujoo is destroying these barriers altogether. Access to content? Free for 99.9% of the content produced by our partners, and adding the possibility to distribute outside of our own platform via media player embedding. Cost of production? Close to none, as our technology allows any content rights holder to start streaming with the use of a smartphone and an internet connection.

These are the initial consequences of the advances made technologically in terms of streaming quality and dependency. mycujoo itself has been working on its new “streaming platform” that will allow us to scale further and further, supporting thousands of simultaneous streams and millions of concurrent users. An exponentially growing scale which is enabling us to both improve our unique product features, while keeping the access to our content production and consumption solution free.

Going further, mycujoo will heavily influence the digital transformation of football. While OTT providers will focus on the chase for premium content, we are introducing our entity-based structure which will allow us to fully contextualize all content and data. mycujoo is entirely focused on building community, facilitating user-generated content and ownership as well as the commercialisation of data while putting a strong focus on metadata over content and on highlights. Our vision and model, laying the foundations to create the largest sports community in the world, are at the forefront of the trends driving the future of sports content.

The consequences of these trends are yet to be fully realised, but already certain clues have emerged. Content that once carried inflated media rights values is feeling the impact - both on the premium and subpremium levels. New, enriched ways to engage with and around sports content are key. Providing the best balance between users’ desires and behaviours and leveraging sports communities, aren’t the key challenges of tomorrow. They’re already here, today. mycujoo is driving this change.

Dave Greene
Partnerships & Content Manager - North America