Live sports distribution: Maximizing ROI with an IP-first foundation

August 30, 2023 by Sara Khan, General Counsel & GM EMEA

With the Women’s World Cup 2023 just behind us, the Rugby World Cup set to kick off in France next month, and the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics right around the corner, the premier live sports calendar is as busy and exciting as ever. The sports market is evolving rapidly as global consumption skyrockets, and the broadcast models required to serve a feverish digital demand are changing as a result. While the biggest live sports events regularly draw in millions of concurrent viewers, the technology and business requirements to support global, cross-platform live sports distribution are becoming increasingly demanding.

In the meantime, surging costs and competition for premium sports rights are pushing broadcasters and rights holders to find new ways to reduce operational costs, drive efficiencies, and secure maximum ROI. While media leaders weigh in on creative sports rights deals and pioneer high-quality viewing experiences to grow their audiences, adopting an IP-based approach to video transport is a game-changing play that underpins any successful live sports distribution strategy.

Fragmented distribution challenges

In a fast-paced sports landscape with complex rights deals and fragmented distribution models, media companies need efficient means of delivering multiple versions of live event content across a range of digital platforms and geographies. As legacy broadcast workflows and infrastructure cannot provide the scale or flexibility required to meet the demands of multi-platform digital audiences, sporting federations and rights must shift their focus to direct-to-consumer strategies and distribution across OTT and FAST platforms.

Delivering an effective live sports distribution strategy means making the most out of your rights investments by tailoring multiple versions of high-value content to fit diverse language and platform requirements while adhering to complex business rules and licensing agreements. Today, rights owners can harness automated live event versioning solutions with scalable tools for custom graphics, watermarking, slating, video insertion, and SCTE triggers for localized advertising, while deploying remote announcers or voice-overs in the local language. Adopting an intelligent IP-based approach to video distribution also enables media brands to integrate complex business rules, rights management, and blackouts directly within the transmission network, saving time and operational resources.

Intelligent tech underpins business efficiency

There’s no hiding from the fact that content costs are rising, especially for live sports. While sports rights show no sign of becoming more affordable for broadcasters, organizations need to find ways to reduce their operational burden and drive ROI. Trying to cut costs and increase revenue while keeping up with the pace of change in the digital era requires a forward-thinking technology strategy. Sticking with inflexible, legacy technology workflows provided by traditional satellite and fiber-based distribution models doesn’t make business sense anymore.

Underpinned by a managed, multicast-enabled transport network, an IP-based live sports distribution strategy provides the foundation to seamlessly integrate with full-chain video workflows from production to agile cloud playout systems. Automated ad signaling and metadata triggers that power downstream monetization and personalization allow rights holders to optimize ad revenues while alleviating pressure on in-house resources. Simplifying complex and siloed ecosystems and minimizing operational costs is unfeasible without a proven IP network backbone and scalable, interoperable technologies. These technologies should seamlessly integrate with existing infrastructure and various first and last-mile protocols as required.

A proven, managed IP network for live sports distribution

Many global media companies have recognized the limitations of satellite-based video transport and migrated to IP for a more flexible, cost-efficient alternative. At the same time, a number of organizations across EMEA are rooted in inflexible fiber agreements that lack the reach, redundancy, and content tailoring capabilities required for a modern content distribution strategy. A managed, multicast-enabled IP network with proprietary architecture and intelligent routing and versioning protocols removes the need for any physical infrastructure except at the endpoints, delivering higher redundancy and infinite scalability.

Although some organizations are experimenting with unmanaged IP network transport, standard internet routing architecture and protocol-only solutions fail to provide high reliability and low delay. There are no second chances with live sports distribution; delays or interrupted streams are unacceptable for viewers. Particularly when it comes to live betting scenarios or interactive, game-like content experiences, the stakes couldn’t be higher — content providers need to trust their distribution partner to deliver low latency and high reliability at all times.

Reliable foundations for live sports success

Live sports is the most valuable form of live content, and all rights holders and broadcasters know the importance of maximizing profits in a hotly-contested landscape. While many media companies are considering their next move in a fast-paced rights buying market, the first step to long-term commercial success is moving to an IP-based approach to live sports distribution. Business leaders know they won’t be able to reduce the cost of sports rights. But they can increase ROI on costly investments by enabling efficient multi-platform distribution, optimizing downstream monetization, and reducing operational costs.

If you’d like to find out how LTN can help your organization move to IP-based video distribution and future-proof your sports business, we’d love to meet you at IBC — schedule a meeting here.