Traditionally, sports content has been integrated within wider OTT offerings, along with movies, TV Shows and so on. But more recently, things have changed. It’s now a lot more viable for OTT services to create independent applications and provide sports content in its own right. Most commonly, these applications provide a variety of different sports alongside those of a more popular and generic nature, like football for example. However, the problem with this is that some sports attract a pretty niche audience, and simply assuming that because one user is interested in golf, he/she will also want to watch tennis is a pretty outdated way of providing OTT content.
With this in mind, it can be difficult to design a user experience that caters to the sheer range of sports, whilst also considering the different ways fans engage with these sports. Viewers with an interest in cycling, for example, are unlikely to want to invest time and money into an OTT service which provides them with a whole host of content they don’t want. So delivering a sports OTT experience is not as simple as it sounds.
Increasing Audience Engagement
Increasingly, spectators around the world are willing to pay for subscriptions to access niche sports content, presenting a big opportunity for sports OTT providers. The same can be said for specific, one-time events, such as world tournaments. More and more providers are recognising a demand for stand-alone applications for sporting events such as these, and are looking to offer, alongside live content, other supplements like news, schedules and results, stats and fan-base content. This in itself is a huge opportunity for OTT sports providers, especially given the desire from sports fans to engage with additional content.
With the productisation of OTT services, it is now possible to create single use or ‘use-and-throw-away’ applications for specific events, as well as cater to niche audiences. In the past, it was simply too costly to build, from scratch, bespoke, throwaway applications for one-time events. A lower cost of entry, particularly for niche sports, means it is much more viable to provide dedicated applications.
Second screen applications are another way to enhance the experience of the audience. Certain sports, car racing for example, creates a lot of race-specific data which is of interest to viewers. This can include a driver’s top speed across a track, his fastest lap, breaking speed and other statistics. When Sports OTT providers can provide this information via a second screen, viewers become much more immersed in the race and are less likely to lose attention.
Creating second-screen experiences is also highly valuable because not only does it win loyalty, but it also encourages viewers to engage with sports on a deeper level. Of course, a second-screen experience also offers further monetisation opportunities for advertising or sponsorship.
In the Sports OTT space, there’s a much bigger range of options when it comes to personalising the way users navigate and are presented with content. The choice is highly dependent on a number of factors, aside from the actual viewing behaviour of the user.
In conventional OTT application design, in the case of movies or TV shows, for example, there is almost a standardised way of organising content. There are categories (drama, comedy, action and so on), with further drop-down details including chapters, series, episodes and synopses etc. However, in the sports world, viewer preferences vary greatly depending on the type of sport being viewed. In European rugby union, for example, the Guinness Pro14 tournament is completely different to the Aviva Premiership, and yet they are both rugby union competitions.
Then, sports OTT providers must contend with more granular information such as the user’s favourite team or athlete within certain sports. Of course, in theory, all teams and players are equal and have the same chance of winning the competition. But this couldn’t be further from the truth in the user’s eyes. To tackle this, it is common to have a survey just after registration where the users select which is their favourite team or player so they can follow their progress. The app should be dynamic enough to display the content tagged with this team but also show generic curated sections with the most important news from the other teams. The ability to personalise offerings to this degree of granularity is absolutely essential within the sports world.
Live content is clearly very important for any sports video application. But there is huge value in the ability to provide other, non-linear content, not least the ability to keep viewers on a platform for longer.
The demand for this content does, however, depend on a number of parameters. For example, ahead of a big game, a football fan may want to watch news relating to the game or a press conference with the captain and the coach. After the game, he or she may be interested in post-match analysis and interviews, as well as catch-up highlights. All of this needs to be available at the user’s fingertips and, of course, be personalized to their preferences.
For the video app provider, what’s really important is being able to easily adapt the layout and structure of their OTT application. This way, they can quickly react to whatever is happening at one time and what piece of sports content is relevant.
Dedicated sports OTT offerings are on the rise and for good reason. Sports is big money, with audience sizes and broadcast rights in the billions. This makes it more important than ever that the OTT user experience is dynamic, intuitive and fit for purpose, especially if we want sports OTT platforms to offer more bang for the user’s buck, so to speak. By offering truly personalised user experiences and more opportunities to engage with sports, we can increase the value of OTT offerings and keep fans loyal. That’s a win-win for everyone.