Is live-streaming a ticking time bomb for sports broadcasters?

Will platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook become the natural home for live sport, Gideon Spanier asks.

Sky and BT have spent £5 billion for the English Premier League TV rights for the next three years
Sky and BT have spent £5 billion for the English Premier League TV rights for the next three years

Brands and broadcasters are both gearing up for a maxi-quadrennial sporting year with Euro 2016 in France and the Rio Olympics taking place this summer, but could the global TV audience for these events have peaked?

"Live-streaming is the ticking time bomb for sports broadcasters right now," Pedro Avery, the global chief executive of Havas Sports & Entertainment, said on a panel at Advertising Week Europe, as he pointed to the rise of over-the-top video platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. "All the sports channels have got to think hard about their role in the OTT marketplace. Advertisers are really appreciative of the potential to do a lot more segmentation through digital channels."

Avery is not the first agency chief to warn that broadcasters risk being bypassed by the millennial generation whose first instinct is to go online to watch entertainment.

But TV stalwarts insist live sport is "DVR-proof" because viewers want to watch live, usually on a big screen – rather than catch up later (and scroll through the ads) on a digital video recorder. It is why Sky and BT have spent £5 billion, or an extra 70 per cent, for the English Premier League TV rights for the next three years and Discovery has bought the pan-European live TV rights for the Olympics from 2022.

Arguably the greatest challenge for broadcasters is whether they can persuade pay-TV viewers to stick with their platforms in the online and mobile environment when Google and others are increasingly offering quality content.

In the US, where the TV market is facing intense disruption, Twitter has agreed a deal with the NFL to stream a number of live games ex-clusively on the platform.

Jackie Fast, Slingshot Sponsorship’s managing director, thinks broadcasters have a lot in their favour because their high production values keep viewers tuning in. But she notes that such "expertise and knowledge can be purchased" by anyone with deep enough pockets. "OTT providers have more data about their audience than broadcasters, enabling them potentially to build on the ‘live moment’ to create richer, more engaging content," she says.


Jackie Fast, managing director, Slingshot Sponsorship
"Broadcasters have expertise, knowledge and ‘ownership’ of the sporting moment. Although people can now watch Periscope and other types of OTT platforms, the packaging of the content is what keeps consumers coming back to TV."


Sophie Goldschmidt, group managing director, CSM Sport & Entertainment
"The key is building a partnership of mutual benefit between the rights holder and broadcaster. This helps the sport optimise its presence in a competitive market and benefits other commercial relationships such as sponsorship."


Misha Sher, head of sport and entertainment, EMEA, MediaCom
"The millennial generation increasingly sees digital as their preferred means of sport consumption. However, the likely scenario is that [such platforms] will exist, at least in the medium term, alongside traditional sports broadcasters."


Steve Martin, chief executive, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment
"The issue is more about who’s buying the sports rights, rather than the medium. You’ll still have the traditional broadcasters because they have huge customer bases that generate revenue."

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