The turmoil in the RSN market may have people wondering if sports can make anything like the same amount of money from streaming as it did from traditional television. But streaming’s flexibility and reach could help uncover previously unrealizable revenue streams.
Malik Khan, Co-Founder & Executive Chairman of LTN Global Communications, told me that sports providers are finding ways to create new rights that previously would have been unsaleable. He cited how TelevisaUnivision purchased the right to distribute all UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League soccer matches in Spanish. The company is live streaming all the games through the Spanish-language Vix+ subscription service.
Buying only the Spanish rights would have been difficult or impossible to monetize fully in the traditional TV world. That is where the internet’s ability to aggregate massive audiences from far-flung places comes into play. A single streaming platform can reach all Spanish speakers around the world.
Another challenge is that the live game feeds come with non-Spanish commentary, closed captioning, and graphics. However, LTN technology replaces them in real-time with the Spanish equivalents.
When a company buys the rights to a sport or league, it doesn’t only include the right to distribute the live games. Usually, shoulder content is included, such as coach and player interviews and friendly games. However, some content couldn’t attract a large enough audience to justify broadcasting them.
I spoke with Backlight Streaming’s co-CEO Ed Laczynski and Chief Marketing Officer Matthieu Loreille about how some of their clients find value in previously valueless assets. For example, the World Cup is perhaps second only to the Olympics in popularity worldwide. Games attract huge audiences, including the last World Cup final, which attracted an estimated 1.5 billion viewers.
But how many people are interested in watching the draw allocating the teams into groups for the qualifying round? In many regions, too few people would watch to warrant broadcasting it. But Mr. Loreille pointed out that the cost structure and reach of streaming made it worthwhile. This previously valueless right drives real revenue in the streaming world.
Backlight Streaming, which combines the Zype and WildMoka products, is well qualified to opine on the opportunities for sports. WildMoka handled the digital distribution of the Olympics in France.
The Backlight and LTN Global examples illustrate that sports rights holders need to think outside of the broadcast box to realize the full value of their assets. But as Greg Morrow, General Manager, Streaming Media Group (SMG) at Bitcentral, pointed out, hybrid monetization could also be key. Combining ads with subscriptions is a common approach, particularly with sports content. But he suggests rights holders can go further. For example, they can combine tickets to live games with subscriptions to streaming services.
The good news is that streaming provides unprecedented flexibility. As sports increasingly turn to streaming to deliver, expect rights holders to test the bounds of their license rights and try new approaches to monetization.