Declining viewership for traditional sports broadcasts has stifled the move to individual digital distribution, threatening the central and largest revenue stream for the pay-TV broadcasting industry.
The share of the segment of Americans who reported watching television via cable or satellite has fallen by 20 percent in the last 6 years. Among these respondents:
– 71% say they do not use cable or satellite TV services because they can access the content they want online,
– 69% said the cost of cable or satellite services was too high.
These statistics are alarming for traditional broadcasters and are part of an ongoing trend that is expected to increase in the coming years. With increasing competition, convenience and cost of streaming services, viewers will need to prioritize their entertainment investments. Research shows that they have already started choosing online streaming content over traditional cable.
This pattern and general preference is even more pronounced among the younger age groups. The same survey found that 91 percent of young adults (aged 18-29) said they don’t get cable or satellite because they access digital content online. Moreover, only 30 percent of these respondents have subscribed to cable TV in their lifetime, which shows that this medium is becoming obsolete for the younger generation. As time goes on, this is likely to lead to a continued decline in cable and satellite subscriptions, undermining the traditional revenue model that has been a reliable foundation for both broadcasters and leagues alike.
In Poland, streaming and sport have a difficult beginning so far, because there are definitely more people complaining about Viaplay or Polsat Go than praising it. No one believes, however, that a stuttering image or interruptions in transmissions will make streaming unpopular in our country. It may be quite the opposite and soon, when another foreign company sees the problems of the current streaming giants in Poland, it will decide to enter our market with a better product and offer.
Going digital is the solution… in a way.
Of course, the industry is aware of the demise of cable TV and exclusive broadcasting models. As a result, there has already been a strong shift towards digital content and the adoption of direct-to-consumer strategies. It is estimated that the growth of sports media consumption on social platforms will increase by about 86 percent, and the growth of streaming will be about 85 percent.
Major streaming services like YouTube, Apple TV, HBO, etc. are trying to fill the gap left by cable, and have been very successful so far. For example, Apple recently signed a ten-year agreement with Major League Baseball (MLB) to exclusively license content for their Apple TV+ platform.
While the use of streaming platforms as partners is likely to continue to be a major element of sports media strategy, the structure of exclusive streaming licenses is rather similar to the old model and retains all its shortcomings. Streaming platforms have tremendous negotiating power due to their ability to “guard” access to millions of fans. This can make it difficult to deliver content to audiences in a way that provides control and revenue share to the satisfaction of rightholders.
Social media platforms are certainly powerful tools for connecting brands with audiences and disseminating unique and engaging content. Ultimately, however, such reach is difficult to monetize, and attempts to do so can lead to unofficial or even pirated content.
It is estimated that unofficial streams will grow by less than 50% – less than the overall growth of social media and streaming, but it is still a growing threat that floods the internet and reduces the value and uniqueness of exclusive streams on streaming services.
Despite these and other challenges, the impact of these platforms is undeniable. Content owners should use both avenues to distribute their content. However, you should remember about their limitations and do not make the mistake of throwing all revenues into one bucket.
Viewers want more
Increasing content saturation overwhelms viewers with endless choice, making it harder to stand out as a content producer and even harder to maintain viewer loyalty. Viewers want more expansive and comprehensive experiences that match the technological possibilities of the modern age. Viewers want to know more, have full and informed choices, and be more connected to the content, teams, and events they watch. They don’t want to be limited to a single match or point of view; they want to dive deeper into the statistics of the players and connect with other viewers.
However, audience interest is dynamic. While surveys and research allow us to see a broad trend in user behavior, what each individual fan in the audience values at any given time is probably a mystery.
How can anyone know what their audience wants when it consists of many unique individuals? Without clarity, investing in innovative content or distribution strategies is uncertain. On the other hand, every day of inaction and reflection is another day of losing customers in an increasingly competitive landscape.
That’s the whole challenge. The audience today is less and less engaged and still shrinking. The question is what to do about it?
Improving experiences and powerful fan experiences
There is no doubt that the fight to maintain viewer loyalty will be more competitive and dynamic in the future. Therefore, the platform used to distribute the content should be flexible enough to adapt to the preferences of the audience and allow fans to enjoy the content with unprecedented depth.
Three key conclusions can be drawn:
“Viewers want to be more engaged, and content owners need the tools to deliver the best. This starts with creativity in content strategy and ends with a platform capable of delivering more than just traditional viewing.
– Content creators need comprehensive and frequently updated analytics to ensure content is tailored to audience tastes and preferences.
“Competing in this landscape requires adaptability, which is much easier when you have control over your content and its distribution.
The next generation of viewer engagement tools is here and fans are waiting with bated breath to see how sport will use them. Those who effectively use new technologies and opportunities will overtake those who cannot adapt. The challenges continue to grow, but with creativity and targeted investment, they can be turned into opportunities.
It’s time to take your audience to the next level and technology is the key here.