More and more people are cutting the cord, foregoing traditional television for online platforms. Watching sports is no exception. You can now tune into Twitter to see the latest game, and don’t even think about turning on your television to watch highlights the next, because YouTube has you covered.
It seems like sports events are going the same way as other television shows. However, the one difference between sports and other television programs is the live factor. “Sports is the last category of must-see-now content,” said Jeffrey Cole, founder of the Center for the Digital Future, in an interview, “fans are clearly shifting preferences, behavior and spending.” He’s right, more and more people, specifically young people, are cutting the cord in favor of viewing their favorite teams online, or even more radically on their phones.
This has lead to multiple social media platforms acquiring the rights to sporting events. Recently Facebook has acquired 22 soccer matches and 25 American baseball games to be streamed live on their platform. What’s even more surprising? In 2017 Facebook bid $600 million to stream Indian cricket matches. They’re not the only players trying to muscle their way into the sports market. Google and Amazon are both trying to make television extinct, as Amazon bought rights for the American football league, the NFL to stream some games, with YouTube also involved in the bidding.
What does this mean for viewers, and the leagues? With TV viewership on the decline, it seems like it would be a natural evolution to go from having live games showed on TV, to having them streamed online, and don’t even mention the highlights factor. YouTube sees about 5 billion of its videos watched every day, and you better believe that a lot of those videos are sports highlights. The Commissioner for the NBA, Adam Silver, said at a conference “We’re incredibly protective of our live game rights, but for the most part, highlights are marketing.” He’s right that highlights and next day game clips are free advertising for the league.
Now streaming live games and having highlights going up on YouTube are good for the leagues and the platforms that host them, but what about the advertisers who are trying to figure out a way to bring their advertising into the digital age? “The whole landscape is changing,” said Ryan Andreas, the co-founder of Quantified Commerce, a company focused on building e-commerce brands in India, “the advertising industry needs to change with it.” Andreas sees the way the live sports is going, and also knows a thing or two about advertising on Facebook and other social media platforms. “You have to think outside the box,” he said, “old commercial forms that play for thirty seconds in between the halves of a soccer match just aren’t going to cut it.”
So what is his answer to the quandary that advertisers find themselves in? “One huge aspect is going to be the social influencer,” he said, speaking of people, like celebrities, or athletes, who have large followings online. “Using influencers to work in conjunction with brands is going to allow you to advertise without even interrupting the streaming of a game.
But if you’re hoping to be able to watch a game commercial free, that’s not what Quantified Commerce’s Ryan Andreas is saying, “there’s still going to be room for advertising in the traditional sense, it’s just that Facebook is going to be able to target ads to who is watching,” he told us, “basically if you’re watching a game, and you were shopping online for shoes earlier that day, maybe you’ll see a lot of ads popping up for shoes on your live stream.”
It does seem like leagues still have some trepidations as to whether or not the risk of jumping to 100% is worth it, but Andreas points out that things are changing whether the leagues like it or not. “TV spending is down,” he said, “it’s just a fact that eventually everything is going to be digital”
While it remains to be seen whether or not live sports will only be available on your computer or mobile phone, it seems like Quantified Commerce’s Ryan Andreas is pretty confident that at some point it will happen. “I mean, just look at retail, more and more people are buying products online, why wouldn’t more and more people watch their sports online?” It may take a while for live sporting events to completely transition to online, but one thing is certain cord cutting is becoming cool.