With the rise of OTT platforms, sports broadcasts become the only live TV event that matter. Gamifying the whole experience can bring many surprising benefits.

Sports broadcasting has always been a big business. However, its nature is changing dramatically. For example, this year’s Super Bowl drew a TV audience of 98.2 million viewers, which is a 5% decrease from last year. This may be partly attributed to the attractiveness of the particular game, but it’s by far not the whole story.

While TV viewership dropped, streaming hit a new record: The streamed event was watched across 7.5 million unique devices, a 20% increase from the previous year.

What does this tell us about the future of sports broadcasting? Viewers no longer want to be just passive spectators: They demand flexibility and interaction. This is where gamification comes in: Moving past traditional betting, it invents entertaining new ways to hook the viewer from the beginning until the end of the game. Not only does it skyrocket engagement, but it also offers outstanding opportunities for monetization.

OTT as the Front Runner

While the demand for traditional television services keeps dwindling, over-the-top (OTT) media is on the rise. In 2018, 51.7% of the US population were already subscribers to some of the OTT streaming services and this number is likely to grow by 7% in the next three years. The benefits are obvious: Viewers can access a wide range of content at a fixed price, anytime they want, from a multitude of devices. But how does sports broadcasting fit into these shifts?

Sports practically remains the only live TV event that matters to viewers. But sports fans are no longer just at the receiving end of the monologue: The future of sports broadcasting lies in fans engaging digitally, sharing their insights, answering polls, drawing predictions, and assessing analysis – all in real time. Even just a one-time engagement can build a connection: Let’s say that a viewer gives an opinion about the result – they are likely to stick around to see how accurate their prediction was.

To the dismay of broadcasters, most of these valuable interactions usually happen on second-screen platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Fantasy League. This drives traffic away from the original source and fails to build a sense of community that would keep consumers coming back.

But what if all that could happen on one platform? Modern technology gives broadcasters the chance to find new opportunities in the redefined fan environment and provide true all-around engagement. Gamification needs to be a part of the sports experience: It goes in line with the fans passion to engage while bringing monetization opportunities to the broadcaster. To get every viewer involved, the set-up must be simple and accessible from any screen – be it PC, tablet and mobile phones – that are actually becoming the most popular consumer devices for video content.

Bringing Viewers Into Play

It’s no secret that viewers crave conversation. A broadcaster who can create organic chatter between the host and the viewers will score a big win. But beyond that, they should cultivate a multi-directional dialogue among the viewers themselves. Whether answering polls, filling out trivia, betting on who’s going to score the next goal – viewers can interact both online and in the spectator’s location – making them feel like they’re a part of something bigger, a true fandom community.  

Sports is all about unpredictability. For a captivated fan, the individuals on the field aren’t mere players – they are heroes – and winning is suddenly all that matters. The adrenalin rush of awaiting what is going to happen next is exactly what drives the popularity of predictions. Their charm is keeping the viewer hooked the whole game, not only waiting for the final results but also the development in the next few minutes. And tempting the viewers to bet a small sum on it can make it perhaps even more exciting. Is Ronaldo going to score in the first half? Or is Messi going to be the one dominating the pitch? Just wait and see.

Polls, quizzes, and questions can also do wonders for engagement. They can revolve around the popularity of players, trivia, simple surveys or statistics. Broadcasters should customize these according to sports. For example, American football offers great opportunities for trivia, while in baseball, knowing the batting average of a player is essential. And in the rising star of esports – with only a short history – popularity surveys may be a safe bet.

Another ace in the sleeve of broadcasters can be tapping into the viewers need to compete. Their desire to succeed is exactly what makes us come back again and again for content. Introducing achievements and badges for the most active viewers is definitely something worth considering.

Rooting For Technology and Big Data

None of this would be possible without modern technologies. Behind the most advanced gamification strategies and innovative platforms, there are set-ups utilizing artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive algorithms. Smart solutions, such as data real-time optimization multi-players have the potential to lead key question selection in a way that brings the most relevant data.

You may ask: Why should broadcasters even care about the data collected through the questions? It’s simple: By engaging on the platform, viewers are giving away great amounts of information. And it has a crucial role in a smart monetization model that brings a great opportunity for broadcasters. The data empowers teams and organizations to track performance, make predictions, and direct strategic decisions. Off the field, analysts, commentators, fans, and marketers are constantly revisiting the data, too. Different actors are paying to access it: In fact, there are multiple companies trading the collected data and helping broadcasters streamline the data collection.

Particularly useful for marketing and sales, fan opinions matter significantly. For example, the perception of popularity can significantly impact the value of a player on the market. Likewise, brands can decide on the number of merchandising products to introduce to the market for each team or players, as their popularity is directly linked to the demand for these products.

Sports have the power of connecting community. Broadcasters can additionally boost it by introducing innovative features that both improve the fan experience and bring profit. Whether with trivia questions or prediction add-ons, turning a platform into the ultimate hub of information and entertainment will make the viewer stick around for more.

Gio Punzo

Gio Punzo


Gio Punzo is the CEO at Streann Media..