Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 9:47 AM ETPosted by:Chris Wagner
EVP and Co-founder, NeuLion
The streaming industry is currently undergoing incredibly exciting and important changes that are affecting the way viewers consume content. As 'appointment TV' continues to fade, the fact is live events and sports are some of the only real appointments consumers are keeping. These live events are the driving force shaping the streaming industry; giving way to a new era of live interactive digital viewing and monetization of content with added benefits of increased time spent online, more user analytics and ultimately revenue growth.
The reason behind this is that people generally prefer not to miss a live game, have the game spoiled by seeing the final score somewhere and then watch an archived version knowing the outcome. It is nothing like experiencing the event in real-time while interacting with the action and other fans through social media. Not to mention, with the way consumers are constantly connected in today's world, it is nearly impossible to bypass all media in which game content and outcomes are broadcasted for spoiler-free viewing later on. As a result, fans are tuning into online streaming services to watch the action in real-time and taking it with them on-the-go.
In order for them do that, rights holders must deliver digital streaming services that enable fans to watch anytime, anywhere and to a deeper degree, in order to keep them coming back for more, provide an interactive, engaging and personal experience. All the major sports leagues understand this movement and are providing global digital services that allow their fans to watch live events anytime, anywhere.
Take the UFC for example. UFC.TV takes full advantage of UFC's live pay-per-view events coupled with first-to-market interactive features not found through traditional broadcast TV to deliver a global, multi-screen digital product to fans worldwide. Edward Muncey, VP of New Media and Technology for the UFC has said "Leveraging extra screens, the different audio feeds, new additions of fan scoring between bouts and live stats during the event is something we recently added. There is no doubt fans absolutely appreciate it and want more."
The major sports properties are driving this revolution and the industry has seen the average time spent watching live events online grow to more than twice that of on-demand content. Consumers spend more time online watching live sports and in bigger aggregated numbers than any other form of content.
Major League Soccer's digital product MLS Live has experienced this shift in desire for live content. Chris Schlosser, VP of MLS Digital has said, "In the last five years we have seen remarkable growth rates across all of our platforms. Each season fans can stream 230 of our games across various devices and this year we basically doubled our subscribers across those platforms."
The success of each digital strategy will ultimately depend on knowing what the audience wants. With digital, the amount of detailed data and analytics that are gathered about the audience has proven to be a great benefit. Information such as exact location, time spent watching, device used, broadband speed, quality of video stream, top program and more are extremely useful when determining marketing tactics, content strategies and enhancements to the service.
Steve McArdle, Head of Digital Media and Strategic Planning for the NHL has said, "We use a two pronged approach to determining features and functionality that engage the audience for longer periods of time. We're tracking everything in the apps and in the Game Center Live broadband experience to keep very close tabs on what features and functionality are being clicked on, consumed and then analyze this to the nth degree. We're keeping a very close eye on actual usage metrics and we also do a lot of fan-facing research."
These factors lend themselves to an exciting and ever-changing time in digital. Live events are now permanent fixtures in today's 'always on' society. Personalization and interactive viewing will drive the winners of new digital networks as viewers continue to push towards the ones that offer the best of these experiences. After all, viewers just want to feel like they are participating in the LIVE event no matter where they are or regardless of the screen in front of them.
For more insight from industry leaders visit our Digital Dudes page for a broad range of on-demand shows and upcoming live Digital Dudes shows.