Live sports remains a primary staple of pay-TV due to existing long-term distribution agreements between sports leagues, college sports and broadcasters.
Although a handful of rights-holders, such as Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and FIBA (soccer), have been operating proprietary SVOD services for years, over-the-top video distribution of live sports remains a nascent market. Most sports rights holders distribute highlight clips and other short-form content on third-party platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
Germany’s pro soccer Bundesliga is reportedly eyeing launch of a SVOD platform in the Middle East and North Africa where the league has no pay-TV presence. Boxing-themed DAZN, dubbed the “Netflix of sport,” just launched global access in 200 countries with a £1.99 monthly option.
Regardless, live-sports streaming is a market SVOD behemoth Netflix thus far has no interest in entering. Rivals Disney, via ESPN+, Amazon Prime Video, through its NFL Thursday Night Football streams, and YouTube TV with MLB, offer streaming access but with limited content selection.
The reason: Money. Global sports media rights revenue hit $51 billion in 2019, and is projected to reach $56.1 billion by 2022, according to the Sport Business Global Media Report 2019.
New data from MediaKind suggests the next five years could see live sports increasingly migrate away from the current pay-TV distribution model to a hybrid option including streaming video.
The report contends sports rights holders have four options for consumers: free access; free access featuring content as part of, or an alternative to, pay-TV (i.e. ESPN+ and Amazon Prime Video); free companion services — those provided as a free adjunct to pay-TV; and subscription-based access (i.e. MLB.tv, NBA League Pass and NBC Sports Gold).
“With a handful of exceptions, most sports D2C services are still dealing with a low number of simultaneous live streams, but this is set to change,” read the report. “D2C services will become more central to fans’ media consumption as more rights-holders carve out content from traditional linear broadcast agreements or use them to light up dark markets. More fans will consume live video streams simultaneously, and rights-holders need to be prepared.”