While innovation has been associated with sports broadcasting for many years, the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the speed of technological advancements in the industry. For sports fans across the globe, many have looked to OTT platforms and live streaming to provide an alternative viewing experience due to the closure of stadiums and venues. With this new broadcasting landscape comes increased consumer demand, rights costs and competition in the market, so it’s now more important than ever for broadcasters to devise USPs that will bring in new customers, such as more options for personalization. Looking to the year ahead, what else can we expect to see?
Fan experiences with a difference
We’re certain to see an influx of new OTT platforms enter the market this year, particularly as content continues to grow and lockdowns proceed globally in 2021. A case in point is the increased diversity of sports streaming platforms that are expanding across numerous countries such as Dazn, which is aiming to become the “Netflix of sport” and compete against established broadcasters such as Sky and ESPN.
With this increase competition, sports broadcasters are now developing unique innovations for their OTT platforms in order to stand out in a crowded market. Many of these focus on providing a memorable fan experience to help viewers at home feel like they’re part of an event. Advances in technology has for the development of concepts such as ‘fan walls’, where videos can be shown of fans from home to replicate the ‘live audience’ atmosphere which many are currently missing out on.
The power of personalization
In addition to recreating stadium experiences at home, OTT also provides the potential for personalized experiences, which looks set to be a key element for differentiation between brands. It is likely in 2021 that we will see further advances in AI technology and processing which enable additional content on streams to be tailored to each viewer, such as instant replays, interactive video panning, traveling, zooming or audio options such as sports announcers and stadium sound.
Customization will also be key, with viewers likely to benefit from highlight reels that can be edited to feature a favorite team or sports star, with integrated language options, plus the ability to control which on-screen stats are shown. With social media allowing fans to communicate with friends, family and fellow fans during lockdowns, expect to see greater integration between live events and social media posting. Personalization can also provide opportunities for increased revenue, such as tailored advertising for certain groups of viewers.
Should they go ahead as planned this year, rescheduled global sporting events such as the Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2020 will provide a prime opportunity for broadcasters to explore innovations such as personalized content. However, with uncertainty still surrounding these events, flexible, cost-effective, and scalable solutions will be on the cards. It’s likely that remote production will be required to minimize those ‘on the ground’ should lockdowns or social distancing measures still need to be in place.
Beyond the big-name events, advances in technology will enable broadcasters to be agile in response to last-minute changes or restrictions on production, leveraging cloud, AI and improved video compression techniques in order to deliver high-quality, low-latency streaming.
Maintaining privacy and security
While content offerings will continue to grow this year, so will the potential avenues for piracy. Lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have created fresh opportunities for pirates to attract consumers to illegal streams given they are unable to attend events in person. As the costs to stream high-value content continues to increase for broadcasters, there is a potential for increased piracy through methods such as stolen credentials, and solutions will be needed in order to protect significant investments.
The industry is however making strides in combatting piracy, with solutions and standards such as BISS-CA for linear broadcast and also Reliable Internet Stream Transport as an alternative to ARQ proprietary solutions helping to make a difference to content protection. Secure Reliable Transport for public internet transmission is also another option for broadcasters. Furthermore, the increased implementation of royalties on content is another avenue that broadcasters can explore to ensure their investments are protected. Broadcasters should look to react quickly to potential piracy threats with software that can be adapted and evolved quickly.
Potential changes in the future
For sports broadcasters to continue to thrive this year, agility will be key. Core to this will be adopting the latest software, as opposed to hardware, to facilitate the most opportunities for flexible innovation, particularly as IP and Cloud continues to show promise. With lockdowns set to continue for at least part of 2021, technology will sit at the core of how broadcasters can meet viewer demand for bigger and better content at home to replicate the experiences they are missing out on. This will entail a focus on creating unique and personalized experiences for consumers will be particularly important with uncertainty remaining around the prominent events that are scheduled for this year.