MediaKind D2C Report Analyzes Headwinds for Broadcasting, Tailwinds for OTT
The year 2020 has already shown how D2C can impact the entertainment industry and technology and services provider MediaKind undertook a large study that pulled together thoughts looking ahead to 2021 from leading sports rights holders and properties, including FIFA, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and NASCAR. The report explores a wide range of trends in the OTT D2C sports space, including the use of live content, fan engagement, and monetization.
“The headwinds of the pay TV bundle are starting to dismantle,” says MediaKind Head of Product for D2C Video Solutions Dheeraj Ravula. “That affects greatly the sports franchises the most because they are primarily using broadcast licenses as a way to generate revenue. And as the PTD market shrinks they are starting to look at alternate ways of monetizing as well building a strategy that protects what they see as a future erosion of value for their content.”
The MediaKind research (to download the report click here) shows that while most of the 40 rights-holders analyzed still define their D2C platform as complementary to broadcast coverage, most now see it as an essential part of their future distribution strategy for live sport and building direct touchpoints with fans. Almost three-quarters of the rights-holders analyzed offer some form of D2C service to their fans today through subscription packages, utilizing one or more of seven entry points.
One goal was to understand secondary monetization strategies, technology deployments, and how to address the challenge of dark markets where a TV rights holder might not exist. Many rights-holders expressed concerns about how their future streaming service will stand up when faced with a high volume of concurrent live streams despite recent technological advances.
“What surprised us is the, the concurrency that we’ve seen in D2C offerings [with respect to concurrent streams],” says Ravula. “Most of them are preparing for these concurrency rates to start increasing and increasing dramatically and they have concerns in terms of solutions that have been deployed in the past or are being deployed right now. They’re basically pulling together multiple vendors to create an end-to-end platform and that brings up quite a few challenges. The first one being the stability of the platform itself and not being able to control the end to end because you’re kind of dependent on multiple vendors.”
The findings reveal a 50-50 split between rights-holders. Half use their D2C service purely as a supplementary content hub, focusing on delivering high-quality video. The other half concentrates on making full use of OTT’s interactive possibilities, embedding fan engagement features into their services. 58% of the rights holders analyzed have a standalone D2C web domain, with the remaining 42% providing D2C services via a sub-domain of their main website. Just over a third of the total rights-holders offer their D2C service through a standalone mobile app.
From the MediaKind perspective one of the goals was to help see how to leverage its own technology and services portfolio and offer a turnkey solution that can help, for example, rights holders experiment within dark markets.
“They will be depending on turnkey solutions that are robust,” he explains. “And once you test it at scale, they would have to be robust and have to scale globally. They’re not targeting a particular region; they’re trying to cast a wide net. So that also came as a big surprise is the focus on solutions that are robust and scalable.”
Many have looked at sports betting as a key driver of revenue for leagues, teams, and federations but none of the rights holders analyzed offer an integrated betting service. At the same time, features such as ticketing (utilized by 3% of rights-holders), merchandising (5%), and advertising (8%) remain rare, with greater priority placed on delivering a high-quality viewing experience and user interface.
Ravula says they’re also being a little careful about how to introduce betting because they don’t want to look like a casino.
“Low-latency does unlock the potential for sports betting, but closer-to-the-action bedding which doesn’t happen today because the latencies can be anywhere from a minute and more,” he adds.
With respect to revenues, Ravula says ideally everybody wants a yearly subscription because it creates stability of revenues. But there are increasingly a number of subscription options available.
“That’s why the yearly subscription is cheaper than the monthly, which is cheaper than if I only wanted to do pay per view,” he says. “We’re also seeing that they want to sell by the quarter or sell a portion of the game. That allows them to make sure that they can monetize as much as possible.”
For those instances where a league or team is entering a dark market the best bet is to enter with a free service that is ad supported.
“That way you’ve not forcing a buying decision but eventually you can stick a paywall to upgrade them to the subscription,” says Ravula. “That actually creates a much smoother path because that allows them to test and build monthly active users. You can test the market; you can do all kinds of things.”
And then there are the opportunities to engage with fans in new ways that don’t replicate a broadcast model where someone else decides what you can watch.
“You’re actually increasing the value of the content by placing options right in front of the consumer,” he says. “If you can choose the stats, camera angles, split screens…those kinds of things are engaging and that’s really the big foundation stone.
As for the relationship between traditional rights holders and a D2C package, Ravula says that they will feed off of each other.
“I believe it’s more of a need than a want to be directly in touch with the fan,” he says. “That way they can create more value because they have the feedback cycle from the fan. And the broadcasters can see the same value in going direct to consumer, because they can personalize, customize, and monetize with ads that are much higher value than what’s being put in the broadcast space.”