Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Amazon are leading a paradigm shift in the live sports content consumption as the rise of digital players is giving tough competition to television broadcasters for content acquisition.
The trend of the live sports content consumption among the millennials marking a landslide shift from the TV to the digital has led to the global digital streaming and social media platforms like Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and Youtube betting high on sports media rights.
The foray of the global digital players in the sports broadcast is led by Facebook that embarked on a serious note to acquire lucrative rights of the world’s most coveted sports events and professional leagues. Just a month after acquiring the LaLiga rights for the Indian Subcontinent, the social media giant has now acquired the rights to Champions League for the Latin America to tap on markets dominated by Spanish-speaking community.
The LaLiga will be Facebook’s first football-specific media property and a maiden sports content acquisition for the Indian Territory after Sony Pictures Network, the incumbent La Liga rights holder in India, had decided against retaining the rights in wake of the aggressively high pitch by Facebook. Sony had acquired the broadcast rights for the Spanish top division football in a $32 million deal four years ago that ended in May 2018.
Facebook had given first hints of its aggressive entry into sports broadcast business with a ₹3,900 crore, albeit unsuccessful, bid for the Indian Premier League digital rights last year. Ever since it has been on a major acquisition and hiring spree. Facebook has got two sports broadcast veterans on board – Eurosport’s former chief executive Peter Hutton and Eleven Sports Asia former MD Joyee Biswas.
Hutton heads Facebook’s global live sports programming division with a brief to increase the platform’s sports offering, while Biswas is in charge to boost Facebook’s sports and entertainment portfolio in the Asian market.
The fear of digital players taking over the traditional broadcasters was also a reason behind the world’s biggest media company acquisition as 21st Century Fox partially merged into Walt Disney in a $71 billion deal for the former. “The one that’s coming at sport is Facebook. They unsuccessfully bid just for the digital rights of half of the Indian cricket for $600 million, so that was a warning shot you know,” media mogul and Executive Co-Chairman Rupert Murdoch said earlier.
Internet giant Amazon, not so long ago, acquired the rights to stream 20 Premier League matches from 2019 in the United Kingdom. Its premium OTT platform Amazon Prime Video also owns the rights to some of the top-notch year spanning tennis action including ATP finals and all the four Grand Slams for the UK and Ireland. After it recently acquired the rights to Laver Cup in more than 200 countries and territories, Amazon Prime Video has established itself as a one-stop destination for premium tennis content in UK.
Another social media platform in the game, Twitter, owns the digital rights to one of the popular sports content primarily from US professional league giants such as NBA, WNBA, NFL, PGA Tour and esports events by ESL. It first won a bid in 2016 for non-exclusive streaming rights to ten NFL Thursday Night Football games in a season that year. In the same year, it had partnered with the NBA for original live programming on Twitter and Twitter-owned Periscope.
In just the first two quarters of last year, Twitter had streamed 800 hours of live premium video content across more than 450 events, driving an audience of 45 million unique viewers. Interestingly, 55% of sports streaming viewers on Twitter were below the age of 25 years. Twitter is currently focusing on the US market as it is evident from the fact that the region has over 72.3 million active users, as of April, the most in any country.
YouTube TV, since it was announced by Google’s video platform last year for US customers, has also been dialling up various rights deals to target the wide-based US markets. The OTT MVPD-style subscription service has till now added the NBA Finals, MLB, MLB World Series, Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, FIH Hockey World League finals among few others in its media rights portfolio. YouTube TV has also tied up with Major League Soccer franchisees Orlando City, Seattle Sounders, and Los Angeles FC to stream exclusive content. Youtube has also entered into a partnership with the top division of French football Ligue 1 last year.
One of the major factor attributed to the rise of digital players in the global sports broadcast arena is the precise and accurate measurement of the online metrics. Availability of minuscule level data such as an actual number of viewers, demographics of viewers, at what stage people stopped watching the feed, regions where traction was high or low etc has led to the increased traction among the sponsors and advertisers allowing them to leverage full value for their ad-spends.
With 1 in 2 internet users now watching sports coverage online, the digital players are all poised to have an upper hand in the global broadcast market in the near future. This includes watching live sports and catching highlights on-the-go via social media. A research by GlobalWebIndex shows that almost a fifth of internet users are now following sports events via social. 14 percent of users in North America, 22 percent of users in South America and 19 percent of users in the subcontinent including India, rely on social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook to supplement their regular coverage for sports events.