Sports content rights can be a double-edged sword. Although they do offer immediate access to a captive audience, success isn’t guaranteed like it once was. It used to be that those who held those rights could predict a surefire viewership. Now though, with OTT sports growing much more prevalent and more options available to the average consumer than before, the game has irreversibly changed.

It’s no longer enough to simply offer access to live sports content, meaning the user experience has become the new MVP. Get things wrong and even the most content-hungry fans may throw in the towel and go elsewhere. And that’s a huge risk to contend with given the upfront investment needed to secure these rights in the first place.

So, what can the industry do to tackle the problem? In the age where content has been dethroned and the user experience is king, and with OTT making it possible to target individuals rather than a general TV audience, engaging consumers in a way that’s tailored to how they follow and experience the sports they enjoy holds the answer.

Catering to the needs of different fan types

The reason behind this is that a one size fits all approach to content doesn’t work. Consumers have come to expect flexibility with what they’re watching, and they’ve grown to expect a deeper level of personalisation too. This is all the more important with OTT sport, not only for getting viewers engaged in the first place but also encouraging them to continue to part with their hard-earned cash in the long term.

However, since not all fans are created equal, achieving success with sports streaming stems from having a much better understanding of the audience than with linear TV or even a regular VOD service. After all, the expectations of a casual fan will be different to a die-hard fanatic, so keeping different types of viewer on side depends on being able to deliver the right user experience to the right consumer, on the right device, at the right time.

Whether it’s offering options for viewing angles, supplementing the sports feeds with social media commentary, or showing different screen overlays to fans of different teams, it all boils down to being able to adjust the UI on the fly in order to take advantage of the action as it unfolds – and in a way that benefits each different viewer group.

Putting the UI at the heart of the UX

With this in mind, it’s clear the future of OTT sports is in making it easier for fans to follow their favourite teams in the way they want to. Making it happen at the speed that live sports requires, though, is difficult. One way to address this challenge is by putting an advanced user experience platform at the heart of a sports streaming service, placing the power back in the hands of those on the front line, such as content schedulers and marketers, to manage what the viewer experiences.

This is the key to making personalisation work in real time, particularly when it’s paired with individual subscriber preferences and other data points to create a better picture of what each viewer wants. By adjusting content feeds based on viewer habits and behaviours, and by altering the UX pre-game, in-game, and post-game to enhance the emotional journey at the heart of live sport, OTT players stand to attract and retain the most loyal followings.

The impact on marketing and the bottom line

Getting the user experience right in this way is a catalyst for reducing churn, but it also has a role to play for driving new revenues. Being able to alter the UI in response to the action as it unfolds opens up several opportunities for enhancing the bottom line through advertising that go beyond a typical pre- or mid-roll ad.

The most notable example of this in practice is what’s referred to as a sponsored UI. Here, more advanced content management and UX platforms can make it possible for content owners to sell the premium real estate that is their UI to brands. Sponsored rows, backgrounds, categories, and landing pages can be injected into the user interface as appropriate. It’s not a new concept in the grand scheme of things, and has been the staple of advertising on the web for years. Yet it is different to how advertising usually plays out with video streaming.

This is only scratching the surface of what’s possible, but it is representative of the direction that for sports streaming is headed in. Ultimately, putting the UX at the heart of the sports evolution like this brings us full circle; it’s the key to helping OTT players  recoup the investment they make into content rights more easily – thereby removing its double-edged nature for good.

Ron Downey

Ron Downey


Ron Downey, CEO at Massive