While TV may, out of necessity remain the platform of choice, OTT is becoming the preferred platform. According to the Nielsen Report, from 2019- 2021, OTT subscriptions grew by 61%, with 32% of that growth happening in 2019-2020.
Findings in the Nielsen Report, show that in the US, for example, audiences spent 32% of their TV viewing time, watching sport on different smart devices. Other developed markets are not that far behind, and as WI-FI and 5G roll-outs accelerate, growth in numbers is to be expected.
One major reason for the growth in the use of OTT platforms is clear customer preference for a service that offers convenience and control. For rights holders, there is a clear advantage here and this can be seen in the rapid growth in the value of online rights. Across the top 5 football leagues, there have been increases in value from 4 to 23%, and from 5 to 23% for UEFA matches (Champions League and related competitions).
Watching sport online can be an immersive and engaging experience for fans. Some OTT platforms give real-time analyses and links to extra information that can be precisely targeted to each individual’s interests. This option to access data like past highlights to information on individual players to chat forums, gives sports rights holders the ability to analyse fan behaviour and better engage with fans.
The Nielsen survey also shows that 31% of younger fans are looking for more content, such as “behind the scenes moments” so that they can get under the skin of the clubs, the teams, games, competitions, people and situations and more in-depth knowledge and insights.
Access to data has become part of the sport fan experience, as well. 51% of younger fans look for and consume live statistics during play, and that number goes up to 55% for Gen Z fans. There are major opportunities here for sports brands that want to engage as closely as they can with younger fans.
Live event times and dates have been staggered over recent decades for most sports; this makes it possible for fans to watch many different games. This shows that many fans want to plan and manage their own schedules around the games they want to watch . It also explains why these fans are moving to OTT/on demand platforms, as these give in more flexibility.
Nielsen’s survey reveals seven activities that digital savvy fans engage in at the same time as watching sports. These include sending emails, playing online games, forums and social media chats, playing fantasy football and other apps, ordering food online, texting and speaking on the phone.
Over half (54%) of fans are chatting and commenting/reading commentary online with other people during a match. Interestingly, 47% of people streaming sports coverage via an OTT platform are likely to have their television on at the same time. The choice to have a screen on “in the background” is classic Millenial and Gen Z and behaviour.
In order for sports brands to connect with fans, they need to focus on deeper, stronger engagement with fans, digitally.
A fan in the stadium remains the same person when they watch highlights or analysis on their smartphone and sports brands need to have ways of attracting, meeting and interacting with fans no matter where they are.