To be a sports fan these days, it’s getting more confusing and expensive to watch live sports on TV. For me, it seems that way. With the growth of on demand TV or streaming content, the numbers of people watching live TV seems to be dwindling each year. At the same time, service providers are on the hunt for more and more content to include in their packages to try and fight off the competition.
Live sport on TV still draws viewers as the number of people who watch TV is slowing down. Sports is not something that you can download or watch on demand as you will inevitably find out the result or what happens which diminishes the enjoyment of the occasion. It’s like finding out the ending or plot twist in the movie - the experience is just not the same.
So that’s why service providers are purchasing rights to sports content. Take for example BT sports in the UK or eir sports in Ireland. When eir have an advert on TV, it’s not about how much data you get or how fast the broadband is, it’s about the sports content that they provide. They know that this is the differentiator. This all sounds great that your service provider is giving you access to sports content as part of your package. Sounds like a win. Maybe not so much!
The challenge is, if you are an avid sports fan that watches a multitude of different sports and follows many sports teams, you are now being limited by how you can access this content. Because service providers are purchasing the rights to sports content, you have to be a subscriber to the service provider to get access to the content. But what if you are not a subscriber? How do you get access to the content?
Additionally, we are seeing the likes of Amazon, Facebook or even Netflix wanting a piece of the live sports pie. Recently, the USPGA gave the European rights to the golf tournament to a company called Eleven Sports. So that’s another subscription service that you need to sign up for separately to your Netflix, Spotify, TV subscription etc., to access content. In Ireland for example, if you want to watch a lot of sports content, you might need to have up to 8 different subscriptions, which could costs up to €100 a month on top of your broadband and TV package. I don’t know too many people who love sport that much to be willing to part with that much money a month. This is a challenge for service providers.
Service providers need to work together to share access to the content. By putting up barriers to access content, you run the risk of some people trying to access the content through illegal avenues which is a challenge that the music industry has experienced over the last few years. But that hasn’t been straight forward as this content is not cheap and if it’s your differentiator, you are not going to give it up that easily. For example, in Ireland, Virgin Media customers don’t have access or the ability to access eir sports on their TV package because the two companies don’t seem to be able to come to agreement on payment terms.
As the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Netflix are looking to get involved in this action, this is where service providers need to think of their content partnering. Give customers the option to free rate the data of a match being offered on one of these platforms for starters. Why not work with these platforms to make access to this content part of your package. But service providers need to work together to allow people to have access to sports content otherwise you are running the risk of driving some people to access the content by other means which you might not be able to monetise. Also, not all service providers can afford to outright own access to sports content so the larger service providers should licence access to this content that the smaller service provider can then pass on to their customer as an additional revenue generator or part of their package.