When staying alert to the latest trends, a three-day visit to Monaco during October is never a bad place to start. Once a year, leagues, suppliers and broadcasters descend on the Principality for Sportel, all looking to tap into the next big thing on the sporting landscape.
For Genius Sports, this year’s event was the perfect opportunity to showcase our new brand following the successful merger between SportingPulse International and Betgenius earlier this year.
Anyone in attendance will surely agree that OTT deals and streaming were difficult to ignore as a key theme this time around. It was the topic of many conversations throughout the week, and several panel discussions tackled the trend, including whether Facebook or Twitter is winning the fight to be the premier second screen experience for live sports. The race to be the so-called ‘Netflix of Sport’ appears to be well and truly hotting up.
While it was betting operators who initially stole a march on sports streaming to provide a more engaging experience, the demand of today’s consumer – driven by mobile and social media growth – means technology is now connecting sports fans around the world with live content in countless ways.
Indeed, viewer habits when it comes to sport have changed rapidly. And as tools designed to keep people constantly up to date across all areas of their lives, Facebook and Twitter are naturally well positioned to be at the forefront of the shifting sports consumption landscape.
Even at a time when Twitter is being forced to slash almost 10% of its workforce, Jack Dorsey and co. are still attracting over three million viewers for Thursday night NFL games. All the while, the league’s commissioner Roger Goodell is being forced to defend the NFL’s TV ratings falling by 11% during the first six weeks of the season. Even the English Premier League has seen a marked decline in TV viewing figures so far this season, compared to 2015.
The bubble for traditional TV broadcasters hasn’t burst but the need to evolve with the times is brought into sharp focus by even a small drop in viewing figures. Whether streaming the Champions League final on YouTube was part of BT Sport’s initial plan in 2013 as they embarked on spending £2bn in rights is debatable, but it does show an awareness of the changing world around them including the amount of fans who would have viewed the game via illegal transmissions anyway.
Broadcasters have to engage the internet-dependant generation, otherwise viewers will simply find another site to watch the desired content. As products initially targeted towards this generation, Facebook and Twitter are ideally positioned to capitalise on the craze for live streams, with the latter willing to bet big on potential success during an uncertain time.
On the surface, this year’s Sportel could have seemed like many before it with world’s largest sporting leagues, including the NFL, the NBA, MLB, LaLiga and the Bundesliga, once again battling it out for attention and prestige.
Underneath the Monaco glitz however, the tables have begun to turn with a likely scenario emerging next year where Facebook and Twitter will join the sporting big boys on the stands.
Sportel will continue to attract the biggest rights holders, leagues and broadcasters in sport but the pendulum is swinging and while leagues can sleep easy knowing they’re still the team in possession, OTT and streaming look set to change the game.