Boosting Fan Engagement and Monetization Through the Public Cloud

The way sports rights are packaged and sold is being radically rethought in the digital era, as sports rights-holders recalibrate their content strategies towards streaming-first models. Sports rights are traditionally sold to broadcasters worldwide for a one-off payment, enabling them to air sports content on their TV channels. However, sports fans are increasingly migrating to digital and direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels that offer more interactive and dynamic content. Rights-holders can now tap into streaming technology to venture into new markets and fan bases, exploring areas where broadcasters are unlikely to pay for rights.

For tier two rights-holders such as minor league baseball or college basketball leagues, the public cloud offers the chance to reposition and market sports content to broader audiences, selling portions of a game via an OTT app. For more prominent players, such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) or the English Premier League (EPL), streaming opens the gateway towards new regions, merchandising opportunities, and more dynamic ways to monetize their assets.

Leveraging the benefits of the public cloud

Sports broadcasters looking to transition their content offerings into the public cloud must ensure that each integration point is made as frictionless as possible. An end-to-end live streaming workflow can ensure that any integration with a single cloud provider is relatively easy. While multi-vendor approaches offer some benefits, introducing external services – such as TV platforms – requires many different integration points and frequent communication when these integration points change. If the external vendor switches provider or changes any aspect of the workflow, the cloud provider must do another integration test to ensure it still works.

Any sports streaming service needs to operate across both production and pre-production platforms. The public cloud makes this operation significantly more straightforward because the cloud service provider simply needs to order double the resources. For the rights-holder, this means they can access either platform as much or as little as they need depending on the demands of the game. For this reason, having no fixed resources as a result of operating in the cloud is a huge benefit.

Turbo-boosting the viewer experience

Video solutions leverage greater functionality and efficiency of resources in the public cloud to bring several key benefits to the end-user. For example, it enables more camera feeds to be delivered from live events, giving fans the chance to select a particular view of the game and curate their own experience.

Another example is the capability of time-shift and catch-up viewing, which enables fans to pause and rewind live games. While broadcast TV offers this, it requires bulky hardware to be installed within the home, which is becoming increasingly less favored among fans. Streaming allows any browser or tablet to provide time-shift and catch-up simply by requesting historical content from cloud storage.

Venturing into sports betting

Sports betting is quickly growing in popularity worldwide, particularly in the US, where individual states are embracing increasingly relaxed gambling laws. As such, there are immense opportunities for in-game betting within TV streaming. Support for minimal latency is needed to enable more time-sensitive betting use cases to be supported and to avoid someone attending the game from sharing intel on the action before it lands on the screen. There have been major scandals within sports in the past, such as tennis, where courtside spectators have leaked game updates seconds before the refreshed scores appear on TV.

Integrating these interactive features requires complex technology considerations to get it right, meaning that broadcasters must make some compromises. Technologies such as Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), which enables web applications and sites to capture and optionally stream audio or video media, often mean the broadcaster has to sacrifice viewing quality for low latency – or vice versa. This is an interesting quandary for content owners and broadcasters to balance their offerings between lower quality, ultra-low latency viewing that allows gambling use cases or premium quality video streaming with a small amount of latency.

As consumer viewing habits become increasingly fragmented, betting content now needs to be delivered to potentially millions of devices. There are numerous challenges associated with scaling up this type of delivery up to enormous numbers of fans. What end-users deem acceptable with this type of content is currently in a phase of experimentation and evolution.

Powering a future of immersive sports content

The public cloud offers a reliable way for sports rights-holders to first test and later scale media delivery, enabling them to appeal to the modern sports fan and create more forward-looking revenue models. An end-to-end approach to live sports streaming can handle everything from delivering camera feeds from the stadium or arena to how they’re delivered to the consumer. That includes the platform and the client Software Development Kit (SDK), the software that the consumer user interface is built around.

When considering all the other feature add-ons that fans value, including live content to Video-on-Demand, advanced advertising, and live streaming at scale, the result can be complicated and numerous considerations for rights-holders. A managed service and end-to-end streaming solution in the public cloud removes the headache from live sports streaming, enabling rights-holders to focus on delivering great sports content.

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