Guest Column: Five Ways 5G Will Change Sports-Media Marketing by 2025

Research predicts $1.3 trillion in wireless-revenue opportunities within the decade

Sports-media marketing and advertising have undergone major changes in the past decade. Through the growth of broadband WiFi and new digital and social networks, technology has created vast new opportunities for communication and has evolved touch points for fans of every sport, creating new levels of audience engagement.

Mike Kelley

New research from Ovum and Intel has predicted that, within the next decade, media and entertainment companies will be competing for wireless-revenue opportunities worth $1.3 trillion, thanks to the introduction of 5G networks. With download speeds of up to 20 GB (more than 1,000 times faster than a typical 4G connection today), by 2025, according to the report, the majority of global mobile-media revenues will be generated by the ultra-fast 5G network. Here is how the realm of sports-media marketing is likely to look in this landscape.

1.Mobile video content will evolve, and consumption will accelerate. Consumers regularly use mobile devices to browse video on the go across an array of social-media platforms and mobile apps, on top of extensive use in the home on local Wi-Fi networks. Federations, clubs, athletes, and brands across sport are already capitalizing on this behavior, offering premium video content — such as real-time highlight clips — for free on social platforms, mobile apps, and websites, driving consumers to higher-value OTT and paid subscription services.

The sustained growth in short-form–video viewing on social platforms creates new revenue opportunities, too. In-stream and preroll video advertising, for example, are now available on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

On 5G networks, latency and buffering will be vastly reduced, and organizations will be able to deliver video in hi-res, VR, AR, and 360, making these services more accessible to consumers across multiple devices and platforms. Publishers face stiff competition for online-video views across a number of genres, and those that develop the most engaging and innovative video experiences will capture the largest digital audience.

In 2025, organizations will need to offer a wide range of tailored video content across platforms to remain relevant and win new customers. We are already seeing growth in shoulder content, such as behind-the-scenes or training-ground content. Online video is already an important marketing tool, but, as network speeds and download times become less of a concern for consumers, improving video production and distribution strategies will be critical to success.

2. Social and streaming video will lead the way. Social-media platforms are rapidly moving toward video-focused services, keeping users active longer by expanding to become a destination for entertainment as well as networking and communications.

The viewing habits of younger generations, millennials and Gen Z, are driving this change. Many are watching match highlights on social media as they happen or very soon after, instead of waiting for highlights packages from traditional broadcasters. Video-based platforms, such as Snapchat and Instagram, are fast becoming the app of choice for these demographics, with Facebook and Twitter competing for users by developing advanced video offerings. However, all are still a long way from competing with YouTube: more than 1 billion hours of YouTube videos are watched daily in 2018.

As more consumers access 5G, real-time video content on social-media apps will grow even faster. By 2025, consumers will expect a range of choices in how they access sports content, and social video will lead in achieving high levels of reach. Live broadcasts of matches, press conferences, and interviews will become popular, as communal online watching becomes the norm and buffering issues become a thing of the past.

Sports fans on social media are already highly engaged in live video, watching longer as they comment, discuss, and participate with the content. Audiences for Facebook Live generate three times more comments than VOD videos with watch times more than 10 times longer on average; live polls and audience interaction will be key in winning and retaining viewers. Sports media will need to encompass memorable live experiences across social media, as well as real-time clips and highlights, to keep consumers interested.

3. Social video will drive direct sales. The question “where can I buy that?” will be a thing of the past in 2025. Currently, Instagram and Snapchat allow publishers to include links to e-commerce sites within images posted to the site, which helps drive the sale of tickets and merchandise for clubs and athletes. With 5G network adoption, though, marketers will be able to use social video to include links to products and services, including premium satellite and OTT subscriptions. This capability, along with interactive features like voting and live data, will drive deeper engagement and longer watch periods.

Video content will soon be an essential feature for any online marketplace or service. Media and entertainment providers will be able to combine this with content and network propositions, offering premium content in the form of interactive live streams or short clips, with marketing options to drive consumers to premium OTT subscriptions and other commerce channels. This will also open up opportunities for brand partnerships, offering more value for sponsors and drive ROI with measurable metrics on brand impact and conversion.

4. AI will help curate the customer journey from the beginning. As the quality of video and networks increases, so will development of AI-assisted video production. By 2025, we expect automation to be a key part of video-production workflows. Editors will be able to define triggers and context variables that will allow automatic creation of clips and highlights from live match feeds, reducing the time it takes to create real-time updates for such events as sports, music festivals, or entertainment-award shows.

AI will also help consumers find more-relevant content. As algorithms improve across social media, discoverability will improve for organizations producing the right content. As 5G drives growth in digital-video consumption, AI will enable digital teams to keep up with demand.

5. Mobile-ad spend will continue to grow. According to eMarketer, digital-ad spend will pass 50% of global ad spend by 2020. Today, mobile ads already account for nearly 70% of total spending, with more than 50% of digital budgets allocated to video. By 2025, mobile video will be a highly rich source of opportunity for media-rights holders to monetize digital-video content.

Acutely aware of the reach and engagement of digital and social video, sponsors, especially in the sports business, are proactively looking for digital-media partnerships. As audiences grow, ad spend is following. The introduction of 5G will accelerate this trend. Activating sponsors and taking advantage of native social-media advertising will allow all content-holders involved in sports to be able to increase returns on content while generating new revenue streams.