For as long as anyone remembers, major sports brands have appealed to audiences outside their home territory. Whether it’s Man United fans in Xiamen, or Pittsburgh Penguins in Basingstoke, brands attract loyal followings in the most unlikely places.
But where it was once hard to reach out and engage far-flung supporters, today’s sports brands have the tools to reach into new territories, find new audiences, and engage their support across the world. Social media creates dialogue between brands and fans irrespective of location. Meanwhile, over-the-top (OTT) distribution services offer new avenues for content delivery, and the potential income and influence of a worldwide audience.
Sports brands as media companies
To make the most of the opportunity, sports brands need to reinvent themselves as media companies. They must manage and exploit their content assets in more than just their own back garden. Content strategies need to evolve beyond single-channel domestic deals, with organisations positioning themselves as content producers that sell their product on an international scale.
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Going over the top
We’re in the middle of a fundamental change in the way audiences consume content. With consumers more connected than ever, the loyal broadcast audience stands to become a thing of the past. In its place, today’s audiences want content on demand, and are flocking to the new services ready to deliver it.
OTT providers have been fundamental in freeing audiences from the constraints of region and scheduling. This opens up access to greater amounts of fresher content than broadcast models allowed. But OTT also allows for the democratisation of distribution, giving content producers and controllers new routes to new and growing worldwide audiences. For sports brands, it’s a powerful opportunity to grow reach, influence and revenue.
Major sports franchises are already exploring OTT distribution as a key route to internationalise their brands. In January 2020, incoming Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino outlined a vision for the future in which the league would become an internationally competitive media company. Already in partnership with subscription OTT distribution service DAZN, Dal Pino explained that Serie A’s next three-year rights sale would again involve OTT providers, including DAZN and Amazon Prime.
OTT ‘outta nowhere!
But leveraging the strengths of OTT distribution doesn’t necessarily mean partnering with existing OTT brands. As the Premier League repositions itself for the streaming age, it’s expected to test a new streaming service, dubbed Premflix. The trial is mooted for Singapore, where fans would enjoy an on-demand alternative to their current subscription-based choices. Meanwhile, the league would potentially open up a new, direct, route to its audience.
In this way, OTT distribution is a powerful tool for sports, leagues and clubs looking to extend their reach within a region. In the UK, for example, a recent deal by BT Sport saw it acquire rights to show two National Hockey League games per week, broadening access to the league beyond its existing pay TV partner, and potentially allowing it to reach new fans.
In some sports, OTT providers are already displacing single-channel broadcasters as the preferred route to a regional audience. This is again demonstrated by BT Sport – the provider recently acquired full live rights to WWE wrestling for the UK market.
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Manage and monetise content
But opening up new territories isn’t the same as successfully building an audience there. To succeed in new markets, sports brands need to tailor their content to meet audience expectations. Additionally, the typical sporting rights holder has amassed months or years of archive footage. All of this could be repackaged or repurposed to help launch and grow the brand in a new market.
To seize the opportunities presented by OTT distribution, sports brands need the ability to distribute large, broadcast-quality files to regional partners - or direct to consumers. And they also need a method to manage and monetise their archive.
It’s here that a digital asset management (DAM) platform such as Imagen becomes invaluable. With infinitely scalable storage, a cloud-based DAM lets you ingest your full archive - even if it dates back decades. Using extensive - and even automatically generated metadata - powerful searches let you quickly retrieve whole matches, individual sets, or key highlights.
A cloud-based DAM also provides the ideal collaborative platform for in-house or multi-agency video production. This allows you to coordinate and control access to your content while you work with agencies to polish or package clips for different markets. Granular, identity-based access secures and protects the archive. And full versioning support ensures you can manage multiple content streams such as regionalised or translated content.
Extend your reach through distribution
This degree of content management is essential to organisations seeking to internationalise their sports brands, but it’s only part of the story. It’s key to be able to distribute content rapidly and securely to regional distribution, broadcast or OTT partners. Or even to go directly over the top to your own audience. For this you need a distribution platform - or a DAM such as Imagen which incorporates one.
Imagen’s Accelerated File Delivery feature allows sports brands to distribute at speed to global partners, whether it’s content from the archive or live streams from tournaments or events. At the same time, Imagen powers direct-to-viewer OTT distribution via fully branded, viewing portals. Featuring secure payment technologies that support both ad-hoc and subscription-based payment models.
Platforms like Imagen are enabling a new generation of sports brands to become sports media companies. In this way, sports brands can reach, engage and monetise new audiences alongside or in place of traditional broadcaster partnerships. It’s an exciting time for ambitious brands, who now have the tools to grow their fan base and attract new investors without being tied to single-channel deals.
Imagen helps you securely distribute your footage to new audiences worldwide, increasing your brand’s reach in worldwide territories. Secure, measurable and unbelievably quick, discover how leading sports brands like the Premier League, IMG Replay and ATP Media rely on Imagen to publish and monetise sports content internationally.