The Switch – Pushing the boundaries: Evolving live event media rights into the streaming era

The Switch – Pushing the boundaries: Evolving live event media rights into the streaming era


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The Switch – Pushing the boundaries: Evolving live event media rights into the streaming era

Journal Article from Fabric

Mon 19, 09 2022

Robert Szabo-Rowe


SVP Engineering and Product Management

As the live events landscape heads full-throttle towards social media, streaming, and video-on-demand (VOD), rightsholders urgently need to find greater value from their media assets beyond the realms of traditional, live broadcast TV.

The rise of direct-to-consumer streaming platforms and the popularity of on-demand replays of major live events online via catch-up services and social media has made for a far richer content landscape. As such, traditional broadcast services must accommodate each consumer’s streaming preference.

Despite being among the most expensive media assets to acquire, live content ironically has traditionally had the shortest shelf life when compared to films and TV shows. This situation begs questions for broadcasters and content owners paying hundreds of millions or even billions for a sports season, esports league, or entertainment event – where does the true value of that content lie, and are they getting the most out of their rights acquisitions?

Today’s comprehensive live TV environment spans pre- and post-game shows, red carpet interviews, studio interviews with celebrities and talent, and new creative forms of shoulder programming, creating a content continuum that extends far beyond the 90-minute Premier League football match, a 48-minute NBA game or two-hour awards ceremony. This content continuum of live and on-demand elements creates exciting opportunities for rightsholders to experiment with their assets and deliver engaging and relevant programming to a range of target audiences.

From live to on-demand

The exodus of traditional broadcast viewers toward digital platforms has been widely published in analyst reports. Deloitte Global, for example, expects 2022 to be the last year traditional broadcasters retain the majority share of viewing hours in the UK, with other global markets expected to follow suit quickly.

The emphasis on linear coverage and the acquisition of rights on the basis that the live broadcast is where the true value lies has to be seriously rethought as viewing habits continue to evolve. Thankfully, advances in cloud-based technology for live production, clipping and editing, streaming, and video processing is making the transition towards rapid on-demand highlights creation on social media and streaming services easier than ever.

Broadcasters and rightsholders now have the tools and resources needed to seriously re-evaluate how they approach the acquisition of rights. The value of primetime live programming will always persist – particularly for high-value content such as the NFL football, The Oscars, Major League Baseball and top-tier European football. But the burgeoning streaming market calls for siphoning some live broadcast rights to a whole host of new content platforms.

Finding a flexible approach to live rights acquisition

Separating live broadcast rights between social media and streaming platforms could create an engaging, tiered offering, maximising the value of the ‘live’ content with a VOD platform allowing for streamed and catch-up views. We’re already seeing this trend emerge with platforms such as Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime, which have recently acquired the rights to MLB and NFL, respectively. The content owner’s D2C app could show clips in real-time, with streaming and social media apps offering an on-demand broadcast.

Near-live clips are where much of the value of live sports may reside moving forward and the faster content owners and rightsholders realise this, the quicker they can start monetising the process and growing their viewership. Media companies are already generating revenues from these applications through sponsorship, advertising and subscriptions.

Accessible solutions for the whole industry

While the development of the content continuum is shaking up the rights picture for major national and global sports leagues and top-tier entertainment event organisers, it is likewise impacting regional and niche events where, generally, the only content available is often from fans videoing and posting content themselves.

The fast-growing capabilities of cloud technology mean sports federations, teams, esports leagues, and other events organisers of all sizes and types can create their own broadcast-quality content at a fraction of the cost of traditional TV production. They can create a gateway through which fans can consume either live streams or VOD assets, as well as highlights through an app or a social channel.

Consumers now want more control than ever over the live content that’s available to them for all the content they view, and rightsholders of all sizes must evolve their business models to accommodate this change. Doing so also protects the future of this content by cultivating new audiences, reaching more platforms, and ensuring content remains relevant and engaging for the modern audience and younger generations.

This is not to say the media industry should wave goodbye to the live broadcast – far from it. But rightsholders must recognise we’ve gone past the point of no return when it comes to the popularity of on-demand highlights, clips, social media posts and game/match replays across time zones. The live event is simply the centrepiece of an entire content continuum of live and on-demand elements. By recognising how their market is evolving, leagues and rightsholders can open up new revenue streams, engage fans in new ways, and ensure their content remains relevant for the digital future.

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