Winning formula: How leagues and federations can take control of live sports content distribution

August 9, 2023 by Colin Moran, VP, Production Products

The sports rights landscape is evolving faster than ever. Bold new market players are entering the fray to compete with established sports broadcasters for premium rights, turning a once predictable market into more of a feeding frenzy. Players like Apple, Amazon, and Google’s YouTube are investing heavily in premier sports to attract viewers and drive ad revenues, while traditional media companies are experimenting with new monetization models and rights-buying methodologies to keep consumers signed up for video services.

Across the board, media organizations are thinking creatively about domestic and global sports rights strategies to widen their reach and engage new consumers. As a result, niche sports are becoming more accessible and popular for wider audiences as rights holders look to provide unique, personalized experiences. With more investment and experimentation than at any point in the industry’s history, 2023 is a great time for sports leagues to capitalize on the pace of change and take control of their live sports content distribution strategies.

Taking control of your destiny

In a more traditional sports rights landscape, mid- to lower-tier sports leagues and federations are hungry and willing for a large media organization to knock on their door and take exclusive ownership of their content rights — including the production itself. While bulk-selling content rights in this way provides a quick and simple way for sports brands to grow their audience and amplify their media presence, they’re missing a trick if they don’t consider a more creative, ambitious approach to sports content distribution that puts them in the driver’s seat. By retaining control over production and following a more fragmented distribution model with multiple rights buyers, sports organizations can monetize their content in their own way, empower creativity, and seamlessly deliver their content across platforms and geographies in a spiderweb fashion.

Maintaining ownership of production and controlling your rights at the source provides the creative foundation to experiment with new production techniques while driving efficiencies through automated technologies. In a constantly shifting and unpredictable sports market where emerging technology is reshaping consumer experiences and the business models that support them, it makes sense from both a commercial and technological standpoint to keep creative control over your valued live sports assets.

Designing a futureproof sports content distribution strategy

While time-to-market is critical in a fast-paced sports market, leagues and federations need to ensure that they carve out the right strategy to achieve the best long-term business goal — and that is no simple task. Affordable access to advanced technology is granting rights owners more flexibility than ever before in terms of how they produce high quality content. Meanwhile, organizations are exploring more potential monetization avenues than they could have ever imagined. Gazing out across a sea of choice can be overwhelming. Brands need to think strategically about the optimal ways to create, distribute, and monetize their content, and it won’t surprise you to hear that this is by no means a one-size-fits-all equation.

Let’s face it: the sports market is far from being immune to the economic headwinds affecting the global media and entertainment market. This means that identifying price points that work best for your organization amid ongoing commercial challenges from rights buyers and broadcasters can be difficult. Having a clear vision for securing ROI is a top priority. Harnessing highly efficient IP-based technology workflows to underpin your strategy can help make your vision a reality.

New technologies are making it cheaper and easier for brands to launch their own direct-to-consumer platforms, increasingly deploying D2C offerings as part of a hybrid sports content distribution strategy. In addition to exploring other business models and distribution across newer digital, over-the-top (OTT), and free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms, organizations need to carefully consider how their audiences are consuming content: Where in the world are they watching from? Are they watching on-the-go via mobile, or in their living rooms? Are they data-driven fans looking for immersive, live betting experiences? All of these factors play a fundamental role in deciding how content owners should shape their production and video workflows from camera lens to consumer. Starting from the end user perspective and working backwards, organizations are empowered to explore new creative production techniques and content versioning capabilities which help them to deliver a greater amount of customized content experiences with maximum efficiency.

Data-driven foundation for global scale

Achieving an effective spiderweb model for live sports content distribution means enabling efficient customization and localization at scale. Scale is critical in today’s market to help drive ROI, but it also requires complex and highly robust technological infrastructure. Sports leagues and federations can harness IP-based, multicast-enabled video transport and digital live event versioning solutions, such as LTN Arc, to creatively tailor their production for any device, platform, or region. Rights owners can seamlessly prepare content with watermarking, slating, video insertion, and SCTE triggers for localized advertising, while deploying remote announcers or voice-overs in the local language. Along with adding custom graphics, active video clips, highlights, and decorated event recording, content providers have all the tools required to deliver customized viewing experiences while maximizing monetization.

Aside from customized video elements, such as platform-specific graphic overlays or language-tailored commentary, the data that lies embedded into video streams is also key to fueling customization at scale. Data triggers that power downstream viewing platforms are playing an increasingly important role in facilitating cross-platform consumption and hyper-localization while enhancing operational efficiencies. With a vast understanding of parsing metadata for downstream distribution, technology partners like LTN are helping rights owners seamlessly meet diverse platform requirements while also unlocking creative ways to monetize content.

The media landscape in 2023 is wide open, with new platforms emerging daily and audience shifts redefining the status quo of how everyone consumes live content. In a fast-moving and often chaotic sports environment, now is a fantastic time for leagues and rights owners to build their brand and take control of their future. Change brings opportunity, but only if you are agile enough to keep up with the pace.