“Live event television is what’s drawing audiences. It’s PVR-proof. Fans are 100 percent engaged in live-sports television” – Scott Moore, President Sportsnet & NHL, Rogers Media
Sport is inescapable. Whether getting mobile notifications from The Score App, listening to Grantland podcasts on my way to work, streaming an HD feed of live-sports events (like this summer’s World Cup on CBC.ca), or reading Sports Illustrated on the jon, as a sports fan I am always connected to sports content.
Over the past couple of decades consumers have observed a shift in media consumption patterns. Before the Internet boom, sport was mainly consumed through television and print mediums. Although Disney’s ESPN is still the most valuable channel in US cable packages, the sports media industry is evolving. Most notably sport has more available platforms for consumption, it is more interactive, and it is on-demand.
More Platforms for Consumption
The modern sports fan has many options in how they choose to follow sports. These include: TV, radio, websites, podcasts, mobile applications, online streaming, and print mediums. With TSN’s recent addition of TSN3, TSN4, and TSN5 there are now at least 18 television channels in Canada, vying for live-sports content.
Aside from TV, which remains the most used platform for consuming sports content, digital platforms including online (websites and streaming), mobile, and social networks are being used more and more by sports fans.
Global Sports Media Consumption, 2013: Percentage of sports fans who use each platform in order to follow sports.
Several examples of emerging digital platforms include:
The Score Mobile App: Since Score Media Inc.’s sale of The Score television network to Rogers Sportsnet in the summer of 2012, the company has focused exclusively on their digital products. The Score Mobile App has been wildly successful in bringing users up to the minute updates on a wide range of sports. The app has over 5 million users (each month) who use Score Mobile 155 million times per month as a group.
Bleacher Report (Social Media): Bleacher Report is a sports news organization that uses social media to bring followers round the clock sports information. BR currently has over 922,000 followers on Twitter and over 2.3 million followers on Facebook and rapidly expanding.
Grantland (Podcasts and Interest Articles): NBA writer Bill Simmons created Grantland.com in 2011. Grantland, which targets a younger sports fan by piecing together equal parts humor, pop culture, and sports, has grown exponentially in popularity. According to comScore data, Grantland reaches over 4.7 million unique users a month.
Modern sports platforms are trying to go beyond simply engaging their consumers as passive observers, they are trying to captivate them as active participants. This active participation allows the sports platform to reach people in the user’s network, which might be difficult to access otherwise. Examples of platforms actively engaging their users are: social media campaigns, mobile applications (like ESPN’s betting challenge ESPN Streak for the Cash), as well as fantasy sports hosting sites like CBS and Yahoo (as written by Jeff Kennedy here)
The aspect in which sport consumption has changed the most in recent years is the shift to on-demand content. Sports fans can now access sports content when they want, where they want, and on the device of their preference. The Internet provides consumers with the opportunity to both follow sports through websites and social media, but also to watch live-events through streams and over-the-top (OTT) content providers. According to the Ipsos Canadian Inter@ctive Reid Report, 50% of Canadian TV service subscribers compliment their service by subscribing to at least one additional OTT product.
The major OTT player in Canada is Netflix as nearly a third of English-speaking Canada now uses the service. This is set to change as a recent partnership between Rogers and Shaw has led to the release of Shomi, an OTT product designed to obstruct the Netflix monopoly.
OTT has also begun to invade the sports scene as 120 Sports has launched a first-of-its-kind OTT sports platform that allows users to access sports video highlights for free and without subscription. 120 Sports partners include NBA, NHL, MLB, NASCAR, and Time Inc. (Sports Illustrated). Next year, 120 Sports hopes to debut a subscription package that allows subscribers access to premium content from its partners. OTT providers, like 120 Sports, Netflix, and Shomi, offer subscribers access to premium content available at their convenience. These a la carte services may pose a threat to the current bundled cable television model.
The sports media consumption landscape will continue to grow and evolve with technology. New platforms are allowing fans more options, more control, and more accessibility. The challenge for providers now becomes breaking through a cluttered sports media landscape where consumers are constantly bombarded with content, options, and competing marketing messages.