Today’s guest columnist is Fred Santarpia, president of Endeavor Streaming.
Video streaming has overtaken cable as the dominant form of media distribution and consumption. With Thursday Night Football now on Amazon Prime Video and Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+, the sports world is taking heed of shifting viewing behaviors. In this era of cord-cutting, we’re seeing more sports invest in digital, direct-to-consumer (D2C) businesses by building out premium over-the-top (OTT) destinations that unlock new revenue streams and better engage fans beyond game day. NBA League Pass and UFC Fight Pass come to mind.
As sports teams, leagues and federations build and fine-tune their superfan’s paradise, complete with locker room content and added functionalities in addition to live games, they should also have a specific strategy for leveraging the unique features of mobile-first viewing.
As of November 2022, 60% of all web traffic came from mobile devices—marking a trend towards mobile-first media consumption. A common mistake that sports leagues and federations make when crafting OTT video streaming destinations, however, is taking their responsive web experience and simply making it available for mobile. In doing so, sports entities aren’t taking full advantage of everything mobile viewing offers.
The viewing experience is an important part of a streaming app, but it shouldn’t be the only part. When consuming sports content on their TVs or laptops, fans want a lean-back viewing experience. On their mobile devices, however, they want interactivity and personalization. By building native apps for mobile, sports leagues and federations can build superfan experiences that unlock new levels of engagement, team affinity and monetization.
Opportunities in Mobile Streaming
Sports organizations’ D2C OTT strategy should strike a balance between (1) providing a premium end-user streaming experience that’s ubiquitous and device agnostic, (2) removing friction for the end user, and (3) optimizing the OTT offering for each platform by leveraging its unique advantages and user behavior.
The third point is particularly important when strategizing for mobile. Mobile devices are inherently interactive, and there’s a lot of utility to them as compared to TVs. Interactive features and overlays can be distracting in a lean-back TV viewing experience, but on mobile, these features help to appease users’ fidgeting fingers and restless swiping. In optimizing a mobile experience based on the medium’s specific affordances and user behavior, I see two main opportunities.
The first is integrations. Mobile enables sports leagues and federations to natively integrate with other apps to create a more compelling and interactive experience leveraging the full league ecosystem. For example, mobile apps can integrate with betting platforms, fantasy leagues, social platforms and commerce partners so that fans can bet, transact and interact with fellow fans both during and outside of live games.
Second, mobile apps create an opportunity to experiment with personalization and gamification at new levels. The nature of mobile viewing lends itself to features such as multi-game viewing, the ability for users to select their preferred camera angles, advanced analytics, and live community chats, along with the integrated features mentioned above. Within hyper-personalized OTT destinations, fans can integrate their fantasy lineup for personalized stats or receive customized commerce and betting recommendations based on past behavior.
By crafting a mobile-optimized superfan platform, sports organizations can build habits and create an impetus for fans to engage with their app and brand on a regular basis outside of game day. Ultimately, the more user touchpoints, the more opportunities for engagement and monetization, which in turn drives up revenue per user (RPU)—the golden metric of streaming success.
Unlocking New Revenue Streams
The streaming video space is shifting from measuring success by number of subscribers to measuring success by overall profitability. While not exclusive to mobile, streaming offers sports leagues and federations several avenues for monetization and increased RPU, including:
- Data Analysis and Predictive Analytics: Mobile platforms can leverage data to stay current on service performance and predictive analytics to cater directly to particular audience segments. For example, they can offer premium add-ons to highest-value cohorts or discounts to those most likely to churn.
- Marketing and Promotion: Tools like push notifications and in-app messaging drive increased engagement for existing users and off-channel distribution (e.g., FAST, Google OneBox, premium third-party media properties) to drive new users to the platform via seamless integrations.
- Targeted, Next-Generation Advertising: With a wealth of user data at their disposal, sports organizations can take advantage of in-app targeted advertising that generates premium cost per thousand impressions (CPM). Additionally, next-generation ad formats could create new inventory without disrupting the viewing experience (e.g., picture-in-picture ads during live broadcasts).
- Sports Betting: Sponsorships and integrations with sportsbooks for in-app betting unlock additional monetization avenues.
Shifting to a Mobile-First Model
Mobile viewing will be an increasingly critical part of sports consumption. Creating a standout D2C streaming app in a fragmented market is not without its challenges, however. The user has seemingly endless entertainment options on their mobile device, is often multi-tasking, and can only download a finite number of apps. The challenge is to ensure an app’s content and features are so compelling that it’s worth a fan’s time and mobile real estate.
Therefore, a mobile-first content delivery strategy is especially important. By taking into consideration the specific benefits of mobile viewing and building to them, sports leagues and federations can create a superfan’s paradise that benefits everyone: Fans get a more robust mobile-app experience filled with interactivity, personalization and community features, and in turn, sports leagues and federations build a deeper connection to fans and garner insights that help them paint a 360-degree view of users. By better understanding the points of intersection across digital and offline product offerings, sports entities can better optimize their offerings to increase RPU across their entire business.
Santarpia, a digital media and business transformation expert, spearheads Endeavor Streaming’s global expansion strategy. Before joining Endeavor Streaming, he was chief operating officer at Moda Operandi and, previously, chief digital officer at Condé Nast, where he founded and launched the digital arm of Condé Nast’s entertainment division.