How can sports rights holders turn fans into customers and improve their services in the CTV era? To find out, Colin Dixon, Founder and Chief Analyst at nScreenMedia, hosted a panel at Connected TV World Summit where he was joined by: Ashwin Desai, Head of Digital Media Rights at Formula 1, Simon Brydon, Senior Director of Sports Rights Anti-Piracy at Synamedia; and Joe Nilsson, Chief Commercial Officer at SportsTribal.
How the F1TV Pro app super-serves its hardcore fans
Formula 1 is currently enjoying a renaissance, with Netflix’s hit Drive to Survive documentary and a robust F1TV Pro app driving engagement among audiences – even in North America where interest in the sport typically trails behind Europe. So, how has Formula 1 used its OTT offering to maximise reach?
The F1TV Pro app supplements, rather than cannibalises, the existing broadcast experience, Ashwin Desai explained. “F1’s quite a unique sport in that broadcasters have the world feed — a fully-produced feed by F1 that showcases the relevant action from an overall championship standpoint. At the same time though, there are many other drivers on the grid and on the track. Most action will be to two or three cars, but there are another 17 there that have their own team and driver followings.
“The F1TV Pro app allows you to follow any of those drivers. It has onboard cams from all 20 drivers, it has a data feed, a new pit lane channel, it has various additional commentary feeds in different languages… It gives you access to all the telemetry that’s within the live timing app that we’ve had on the market for a long time. It really super-serves the fans, both from a primary screen perspective but also, with the tie-in product, with the second screen experience.”
Converting consumers of pirated content into paying customers
Piracy costs the sports industry $28 billion a year in convertible value. Simon Brydon (Synamedia) argued that to win back this lost audience, rights holders need to understand that viewers of pirated content are consumers like any other, who are sensitive to price and convenience. They are not averse to paying for content – Brydon noted that 74% also pay to subscribe to a legal service.
Speaking about the pirates themselves, Brydon said: “It’s extremely easy to steal [OTT] content. These professional criminals will aggregate everything: the entire works of live sport, Hollywood studios, Netflix, everything — and they’re just offering a replacement service… With so much pressure on the wallet and the multitude of services you need to buy, if you can get everything ever made in the world, live, VOD, etc., for £10 a month, it’s a really attractive proposition.”
Price and fragmentation aren’t the only factors driving consumers to purchase pirated content. In many regions, known as “dark markets”, consumers simply aren’t served any legal content and have no other way to access it. Brydon urged rights owners to improve their distribution models to fill these gaps, otherwise these sophisticated piracy networks will continue to profit. It’s these networks that need to be targeted, rather than implementing digital rights management (DRM) that inconveniences legitimate users.
“If you make it really hard [to steal content], you drive up the cost of delivering and you drive up the inconvenience, and you can drive certain businesses out of business because as the cost of aggregating it goes up, the cost of distributing by the pirate goes up and resellers will drop out of the market because it gets too expensive. If you do it properly, the pirate consumer does buy legal content.”
Deliver on UX to keep fans engaged on OTT apps
In a marketplace that becomes more crowded each year, OTT apps need to find ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. One crucial aspect is the user experience, as consumers will quickly bounce off a platform that is inconvenient or, worse, non-functional. Joe Nilsson explained what approach SportsTribal — as a new AVOD sports platform — takes towards delivering an elegant user experience.
“The bar is set pretty high by a lot of the other people in the OTT space. People have an expectation set by Netflix for a user experience,” Nilsson commented. “So, that’s the Gold Standard in the industry, if you can get to that. There are others that are not that. We’re en-route — a classic startup — we have to start somewhere, and we started with the most critical pieces of our product.”
Once the video player itself was up and running, SportsTribal’s next step was keeping the content coming, especially for sports programming which fans will often have playing continuously in the background of their day-to-day life. “It’s extending that user journey and making sure that when they fall out of that sports piece, and they stopped watching, they fall into something that extends that watch time, making that journey seamless.”