The future of live sports distribution

August 16, 2023

It’s an exciting time to be in live sports distribution. Globalization is changing where the game is played, and the rise of hybrid and remote production models are changing where the broadcast is produced. Broadcast engineers have more technology at their fingertips than ever before.

Yet sports broadcasting is also an industry in flux as viewing habits change and engineers need to handle more feeds and workflows. Here are our predictions for what the future holds.

The future is digital

Live sports distribution is currently fragmented between linear and digital, but the trend is clear: customers are moving away from cable and traditional broadcast to OTT channels. In fact, 30% of all fans — and 46% of millennials — have paid for a subscription to a sports streaming service in the past 12 months.

Case in point: the first NFL Thursday Night Football game on Amazon Prime Video this year attracted 13 million viewers, 56% more than a game near the same date in 2022 that aired only on NFL Network.

The shift to digital is one of the biggest challenges to monetizing live sports distribution. OTT infrastructure can be a big investment in terms of hardware, software, and the teams needed to engineer broadcasts. And new technology can complicate tech stacks and workflows.

LTN Arc can help remove some of the challenges of investing in the proprietary OTT infrastructure and staff that you need to enter the digital age. Arc is a fully managed service that handles large-scale ingest, aggregation, normalization, and monitoring for digital event versioning. You get a technical project manager and events manager, plus a dedicated service team operating from our always-on technical operations center. Our technology does the rest.

The future is cloud-based

If it seems like everything is moving to the cloud, that’s because it is. Cloud-based production is convenient, flexible, scalable, fast, and efficient. For sports broadcasting, this trend was accelerated by the pandemic, but it shows no signs of slowing down.

Today you can perform many aspects of live sports distribution in the cloud, from aggregation, normalization, and video transcoding to signal distribution, transmission, and production. Large-scale enterprises need large-scale bandwidth and infrastructure to support their content without buffering or poor-quality feeds.

Arc leverages LTN’s industry-leading IP-based transport infrastructure to acquire and deliver feeds from thousands of connected sites all over the world, then provides next-level aggregation and normalization in the cloud. With our cloud-based solutions, you can increase your routing capacity to aggregate and distribute even the most complex input and output feeds. And that means you can scale almost any workflow.

The future is global

People around the globe are more connected than ever, and nowhere is this more apparent than sports. 39% of sports fans outside the US say that they watch or follow basketball. Soccer is experiencing a global boom: 20% growth in China, 9% in Japan, and 6% in America. And the number of UK sports fans who follow the NFL rose 8% between 2022 and 2023.

The UK is exporting a sport, too: America is a growing market for Formula 1 racing. Races returned to ESPN and ABC in 2018, and viewership has grown since, reaching an average of 1 million fans per race in 2022. It’s such a success that the 2023 race schedule has three events in the US, more than any other country.

Global opportunity abounds in live sports broadcasting — for those who are prepared to make a play. That means having the ability to centralize and distribute feeds to and from anywhere in the world, flawlessly.

Arc is built on the industry’s only fully managed global network. We can send a flawless feed across our global footprint to any screen, every time. Our ultra-reliable, low-latency network enables unlimited scalability — and that means unlimited monetization.

The future is personalized

Soccer and basketball aren’t the only sports on the rise: cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world, and other niche sports like rugby and judo are growing. The way people watch is changing, too, especially the Gen Z and millennial generations, half of whom prefer watching sports on their smartphone. (47% of this younger demographic also regularly watch content on two screens at once.)

There’s an opportunity to present more diverse feeds tailored to niche sports and different viewing platforms. But all of those customized feeds mean that you need more versions — and versioning that much content puts even more load on your team and your infrastructure.

Arc gives you more customization capabilities, including versioning services, watermarking, slating, as well as video and ad trigger insertion. You can manage complex metadata insertion to deliver the right ad at the right time, in any market and on any platform. And you can add active video clipping, highlights, and feed decoration.

The future is flexible

Sports are seasonal, so there’s always been a need to scale up and down. But today, with the proliferation of channels, platforms, and versions, live sports production requires even more agility. Traditional, fixed CapEx models simply aren’t built for flexibility: constantly having to upgrade your infrastructure and scale your workforce up and down is the opposite of efficient. That’s why OpEx models are growing in popularity.

Buying hardware, building infrastructure, and hiring a team is costly, but outsourcing everything is also a hassle, and you may not get the quality you need. What if there was another solution?

Arc is a cutting-edge platform backed by an experienced team of operators that becomes an extension of your team. Our state-of-the-art technology enables a single operator to handle 4 or more feeds at once, providing highly customized feed decoration and signaling that lets you do more with less. And always-on dedicated technical support means that you get the same quality and service you’d expect from an internal team.

Live sports distribution is moving forward at a rapid pace, and you don’t want to entrust your live versioning to just anyone. You want the best of the best. At LTN, we’re more than a vendor. We’re a true partner. Reach out to us for a demo today and let us show you what we mean.