How Barstool Sports, Conor McGregor Are Reaching Fans Directly To Monetize Live-Streaming Video

Promoted heavily, events are put behind a paywall shortly before their start

As the proliferation of distribution outlets and consumption devices continues to accelerate exponentially from year to year, sports-content owners are finding increasingly unusual strategies to monetize their live-video assets. Online outlets like Barstool Sports and athletes like UFC star Conor McGregor are monetizing premium content by promoting heavily via social media and then putting high-profile one-off events behind a paywall just before they begin. 

“There has been quite a lot of change, with an avalanche of content coming online over the past few years, and people have been happy to pay for it,” InPlayer CEO George Meek said during a session titled “Monetizing the Local Live Video Opportunity” at Streaming Media East last week in New York. “The internet is now the broadcast network, so you have broadcast-quality content, which people are willing to pay for. You also have the ability to get directly to your audience like you never have before. It’s very simple to market and deliver that content now, thanks to Facebook.”

One quintessential example of this new dynamic is Barstool Sports, which put up a paywall just two days prior to one of its Rough n’ Rowdy Brawl events in Pennsylvania and saw massive success.

“Barstool Sports is a very viral business and very good with social media. They worked with us to put up a paywall within two days of the event and promoted it heavily,” Meek explained. “They ended up getting tens of thousands of subscribers and probably made 20 times more money on that than they would have with normal advertising.”

In addition, InPlayer worked with UFC star Conor McGregor to leverage his following on Facebook Live to monetize one of his interviews. McGregor heavily promoted a rare one-on-one interview he was planning on participating in on Facebook Live, and, then just before the interview began, the Facebook stream was cut and redirected to a subscription-based video player, drawing tens of thousands of paying customers.

“That was interesting because of the scale,” Meek noted. “We had to manage tens of thousands of people coming in and looking to transact at that one time.”

He added that examples like Barstool Sports and McGregor reflect the rapidly growing opportunities to monetize one-off sports events via OTT live streaming.

“Using all the tools you have today, you can create a Showtime of your own. There is no reason why Floyd Mayweather can’t do his own broadcast online and pocket every single penny,” he said. “We have the network to support that now — maybe not for the Super Bowl but for close to anything else we can do today.”

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