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The Rise of Live Streaming in Sport

When you think of live streaming sports, the first thing that may come to your head are words like buffer, lag or delay. A few years back that was generally the case when watching a sports stream. They were typically found on illegal websites accompanied with never ending ‘pop-ups’ and the odd computer virus. These sites were always hunted and closed down by the broadcasters and television networks who held the television rights to televise the actual sport. With the birth and growing popularity of the live streaming era on social media platforms and other services, the whole live sport broadcasting landscape is changing.

Should traditional television networks be worried about more and more sports signing lucrative live streaming deals with the social media giants and online streaming services?

We have seen sports such as NFL, NBL and major European football leagues such as the Spanish La Liga and the French Ligue 1 signing such live streaming partnerships with social media sites. Of course the pioneers of this new and very popular trend are Twitter & Facebook. Both have made major moves in the market, securing partnerships across the sporting world, streaming numerous sports to ensure they are offering something for everybody.

Twitter

The site best known for its 140 character limit has invested heavily into its sports streaming strategy. In an unprecedented move by the social site, Twitter paid  $10 million to stream 10 NFL games on Periscope, the Wall Street Journal reported. With the live stream being free to all users you begin to ask the question, what is in it for Twitter?

It has been well documented in the past that Twitter is struggling to increase its registered users which is affecting the company’s revenue and attractability to potential investors, which has then lead to its stocks plunge in value. As well as a boost in advertisement revenue directly from the stream, Twitter’s main goal is to open up awareness of the social platform itself. By encouraging fan engagement and conversations it is hoped that more and more sports fans who don’t want to pay the expensive traditional television fees will turn to watching their beloveded sports on the social site.

Facebook

Ten years ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “most of what we shared and consumed online is text.” At a Facebook conference last month he went on to say, “Now it’s photos, and soon most of it will be video. We see a world that is video first with video at the heart of all of our apps and services.” This is evidently at the forefront in Facebook’s current strategy as it keeps up with current trends and how people use social media. Facebook’s deals so far include a partnership with USA’s Major League Soccer and Spanish La Liga. The NBA’s minor league system streams games on Facebook, and over the summer, Facebook also streamed pre-Olympics basketball games for USA’s men’s and women’s national teams.

Closer to home and perhaps a glimpse into the future, Facebook recently live streamed Wayne Rooney’s testimonial football match at Old Trafford. The stream pulled in 3.7 million viewers worldwide. Although a one-off game, filled with star-studded teams, it makes you wonder how many viewers Facebook could rake in if it had the rights to stream a Premier League football match, the most watched league in the world. This is where traditional broadcasting corporations should be worried. In 2012 BT Sport rocked the Premier League TV rights war by closing a deal that was a 77% increase on Sky Sports. BT did this because it had the resources to outbid the likes of Sky and BBC. So what is stopping Facebook, one of the top tech gross earners in the world from entering the fold and blowing all competitors out of the water with its almost infinite resources?

DAZN

Dubbed the ‘Netflix of Sports’ and described as the ‘the world’s first dedicated live sports streaming service’. Providing fans with unlimited access to watch live sports on multiple devices. Available to European sports fans for €9.99 a month, with no fixed contract. Fans have access to a host of major sports and major football leagues such as Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Calcio A and even select premier league matches. DAZN has plans to stream more than 8000 live events in its first launch and also have good quality on-demand content available alongside that.

It seems the German tech firm has identified the current trend in the up and coming ‘tech literate’ generation. People now want to watch their sports on-the-go and DAZN’s multi-device functionality is the perfect platform for this. Along with sky-high TV fees, younger audiences are turning to online streaming services like DAZN to watch their sports. If DAZN does indeed enable its service across the world then you could see a big shift in audiences from conventional TV viewing to online streaming services in the very near future.

Conclusion

Going back to the original question… should traditional TV networks be all that worried? The short answer is yes. We are beginning to see changes and shifts in markets of all kinds, and live sports is no exception to this. We are very likely to see Facebook and Twitter make bolder moves in securing streaming rights and partnerships across the sporting world, which will only increase consumer awareness and fans will start to realise they can watch their team on their social feed instead of paying a TV subscription fee. Live streaming today may only seem a small-scale thing in comparison to TV viewing, but in years to come could potentially see it become the norm and it can become THE way we watch our live sports.  

What are your thoughts on the rise of live streaming in the sports industry? Tweet your thoughts to us @mporium, or drop a comment in the box below.

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