With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, we suddenly live in a very different world. After healthcare and financial support, the public needs reassurance, escape - and the deeply social experience of getting wrapped up in sport and entertainment.
Yet it’s an irony of our situation that the restrictions fuelling these needs are the same ones preventing sports brands, studios and other producers from creating fresh content. Live entertainment has ground to a halt. Sporting calendars have stalled. Even TV soap operas have been furloughed.
When creating fresh content poses an unacceptable risk, content producers, rights holders and broadcasters need new ways to meet the demand. As a consequence, archive video has become invaluable, while the ability to deliver it is now a key part of business continuity. While many businesses face existential challenges, content producers such as sports brands have the opportunity to protect their revenue and build for a better future.
When you can’t do ‘normal’
If you’re a sports brand or broadcaster, your entire business is likely built on the availability of fresh content. From live games, through transfer news to the face off at the weigh in, the world of sports turns on athletes rocking up and getting on with business as usual. The fact that they can’t, turns business on its head.
But sports brands and broadcasters are sitting on huge video archives of content. And while nobody wants to revisit a dismal goalless draw, every rights owner has their fair share of extra-time classics and ‘where were you when...’ highlights.
This fact isn’t lost on bigger brands, many of whom have moved to meet the audience demand for content. Eurovision Sport, the sports arm of the EU’s free-to-air broadcasters, recently announced it had secured archive video rights to show content from high-profile European and world events. Its members are now free to air archive material from competitions including the FIFA World Cup, the Tour de France, and the World and European Athletics Championships. The BBC is among the beneficiaries, with the corporation particularly focusing on feel-good tournaments including Euro 96, Wimbledon and the London Olympics.
Sporting bodies have also been quick to react. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has opened up its archive, allowing existing rights-holders to re-show memorable matches and highlights from the vaults. But the ICC is going further, creating ‘watch parties’ on its Facebook page in an attempt to engage fans and strengthen the sport’s community bonds.
Social, so good
In fact, the wrapping of archive video content in a social layer is a key tactic for leagues and brands who seek to reach fans in this time of need. Sports are usually a social experience, so the ability to present them in a social context makes them particularly rewarding in otherwise isolating times.
Several rights-holders are using the opportunity to amplify archive video content through branding. For example, the NHL has launched Pause Binge, a multi-channel campaign that resurfaces classic documentaries - and games from as far back as the 1950s - across the NHL’s website and social channels. Supporting the content, the NHL’s content team are also creating activities and contests to further engage fans.
Steve Mayer, the NHL’s chief content officer, sums it up: “Content, right now, is what people are yearning for and desiring. We’re trying to provide people at home, who are going through some really difficult times, with joy and entertainment.”
Back of the net!
But while many brands, rights-holders and broadcasters want to satisfy the demand for archive video content, not all are geared up to meet it. FIFA’s chief commercial officer, Simon Thomas, recently explained that the governing body had only been able to move quickly in the crisis because of an earlier decision to bring its archive management in-house.
“If we were dealing with an agency... we probably would have had a more complicated set of conversations around the financial implications,” said Thomas. “[Instead] we were able to react much more quickly and say: ‘this is the right thing to do’.” At the time of this SportBusiness interview in March, FIFA’s archive matches had already been viewed 1.5 million times.
Supplying classic content also demands that the content is organised, broadcast ready, and available for quick and secure distribution to audiences or broadcast partners. It’s here that media asset management (MAM) and distribution platforms such as Imagen become invaluable, providing a secure and centralised cloud repository from which to serve and distribute video.
Game, set and match for archive video
As an example, the International Tennis Foundation (ITF) recently chose the Imagen platform after completing a project to digitise its content catalogue. The foundation has moved from shuffling physical tapes around, to instant, high-resolution access to its entire sporting archive. Internal teams can now find and prepare archive video content quickly, uploading daily clips to social media to entice audiences. Customers like the ITF also benefit from Imagen’s direct-to-social features, allowing them to more easily wrap archive material in the social environment that turns an event into an experience.
Clearly, large sports archives have the power to connect, entertain and unite us in the current crisis, but their relevance needn’t be dimmed as live sports resume. Fans’ appetite for classic moments and matches pre-dates the pandemic, so investments in archive video management and distribution will continue paying off.
The power of the archive video
Putting COVID-19 to one side, sports brands already face changing models of media consumption. Traditional single-channel broadcast rights look increasingly long in the tooth in an omnichannel, over-the-top world. Content streams are eroding the geographical and rights barriers that separated teams and leagues from new global audiences. The smartest brands are jumping on the chance to reach new markets.
Slowly, sporting organisations are making the shift from rights holders to broadcasters. A key enabler in this transition is the ability to store, search and distribute live and archive video content direct to fans - wherever they are. While the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis threatens much in our industries, investing in archives helps provide continuity now. Just as importantly, it will help reach and create new audiences and revenue streams once the world begins to return to normal.
Imagen helps you securely distribute your footage to new audiences worldwide, maximising the reach and revenue from your archive content. Secure, measurable and unbelievably quick, leading sports brands like the Premier League, IMG Replay and ATP Media already rely on Imagen to publish and monetise sports content internationally.