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Can sports capitalise on the growth of short-form highlights?

Changing viewing habits and evolving media consumption behaviours are causing the media rights market to grow in unexpected ways. In-play clips and short-form highlights are prime examples.


Viewing habits are changing, and it’s not just because of a shift to on-demand digital channels. Consumers expect immediate entertainment, on demand, anywhere and everywhere. This insatiable appetite for device-agnostic immediacy might be a relatively recent phenomenon in broadcast terms, but it is having a measurable impact on the media landscape.

Short-form content value rising

A recent analyst report found that the value of in-play clips (+76% to $1.7 billion) and short-form highlights (+101% to $3.2 billion) is expected to rise at a faster rate than the value of live rights (+18.7% to $49.1 billion) over the next five years as a direct result of this trend. These revenues will be generated by sports rights holders licensing their clips to broadcasters, through agile subscription-based and on-demand media asset management services.


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The dichotomy at the heart of this is that while live rights currently make up 86% of rights holders’ revenues, the average sports fan is only watching 55% of the total sports content they consume in real time. According to media analyst firm Two Circles, even that percentage is set to drop to 53% by 2024.

Digital competition intensifies

Certainly, part of this boost in value is a logical result of changing consumer behaviour. While live rights to key sporting events are traditionally the ‘crown jewels’ for a media company, the focus has shifted, resulting in a new set of bidders in the market for short-form content.

Household names such as Apple, Facebook and Netflix are all rumoured to be actively bidding on rights, while Amazon Prime Video has already got in on the act. The leading streaming video provider was recently awarded the rights to Package F of the Premier League’s live broadcasting rights in the UK. This package includes 20 live matches per season from one Bank Holiday and one midweek fixture programme.

Another good example is the recent $100 million partnership between the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Facebook. This deal sees Facebook become the exclusive digital content rights partner for ICC global events in the Indian sub-continent, including the vital post match recaps and in-play key moments through to 2023.

If the price seems surprising, consider that short-form digital content of the CWC19 alone delivered the ICC a total of 4.6 billion views across owned channels and licensee partner channels.

From live to archive

Facebook is just one successful bidder. A separate cricket-related sporting rights deal between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the BBC will kick in from 2020. This will not only see English international and domestic cricket live on BBC TV for the first time in 21 years, but also explicitly includes in-play video action clips and short-form highlights on the BBC Sport website and app.

Will Pitt, Imagen Head of Sport says: “Sports fans across the board are keen to supplement live viewing with on-demand content, and cricket in particular fits this trend very neatly. However, the commercial value of clips and easily-digestible, easily shared short-form video is exponentially rising for all sports rights holders.”

The touchdown opportunity for rights holders

NFL’s RedZone channel is another example of the evolution of short-form content as a valuable asset in its own right, not merely as a ‘teaser’ or incentive to engage with live NFL matches. In addition, the easily-shared and low-friction content is enhanced and amplified with a close connection to mainstream social channels. This creates a compelling environment for sports fans to consume and actively engage with their teams and peers.


Meeting fan demand through technology

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As Imagen’s Will Pitt explains: “We’ve seen an increased focus from customers using the Imagen platform to generate exactly this type of immediate and convenient content. Indeed, short-form is one of Imagen’s core strengths. There is a huge opportunity for leagues, sports broadcasters and rights holders to create content from live sporting events that capitalises on this growth. But, crucially, it is a complementary opportunity that does not directly cannibalise existing live revenues.”

Technology offers smart solutions

The downside of rising consumer demand for short-form is a corresponding rise in piracy. There is already an active piracy market for this type of short-form content, ranging from illegally recorded clips shared on social media to more organised operations. But, just as music streaming services converted millions of illegal P2P streamers to subscribers, so video rights owners stand to gain by providing easy-to-access, short-form content in a friction-free format.

Technology is part of the puzzle, especially where older, storage-orientated media systems stand as a barrier to monetising fast-paced sporting content. In contrast, Imagen’s powerful search and meta-tagging features enable customers to locate and package short-form content far more quickly than with traditional media library platforms. This ensures that rights holders can capitalise on their content before pirates damage the opportunity.

Scaling success is key

WTA Media – a partnership between the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and global sports media company, DAZN – already provides supporting content for their live feeds. In WTA Media’s case, it provides the latest idents, player profiles and interviews in a near-live, media centre format. This enables partners across the world to build high-quality programming in their territories.

ATP Media, the global sales, production and distribution arm of the ATP Tour (the elite, worldwide men’s professional tennis circuit) has also seen significant short-form benefits in this area. The company was able to expand the volume of assets available to partners from 100 per tournament to 300. And by using clipping tools within the Imagen platform, in-house teams have been able to create in-match clips on-the-fly for social media and marketing purposes.

Finally, ATP Media’s vast 150TB trove of semi-final and final content (stretching back to the 1990s) has been made searchable and usable for in-house teams and partners alike. This archive content is particularly important for sports rights owners with a long heritage, such as the ATP Tour.

Limitless future opportunities

The fact that consumers are already deeply entrenched in on-demand viewing on multiple devices, and actively engaged by sporting clips on social media is not a mere flash in the pan.

As faster home and mobile internet rolls out, and UHD-capable devices become more widely available, the expectation of immediate delivery of short-form content will only increase. But for rights owners that have their short-form A-game ready, there’s a $4.9 billion opportunity up for grabs over the next five years.


Interested to find out more? See how modern viewing habits are changing and how this is changing the media landscape. Read our exclusive report: ‘Switched on Superfans’.

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