Live sports have provided a much-needed last line of defence for pay-TV companies in the battle to retain subscribers but they now face another threat: the possibility of rights owners going direct to fans with OTT video content services.

This is the topic explored in a new WARC article detailing what the trend toward OTT means for the US’s National Football League (NFL) and European Tour Golf.

“One of the outcomes of the pandemic is that people are spending a lot more time at home and companies are getting rid of offices, so that gets rid of the commute”, said Charlotte Offord, NFL UK’s senior marketing director during a recent webinar.

“People are trying to find more and more things to fill their time, with the extra bandwidth that they have, so I do think that streaming services will increase.”

The aim, then is to ladder consumers up: “Ultimately, [the free tier] is about allowing people to see the value of the product. Our job from there is really how do we level those people up into a paid product in the future?”

Problems remain, however, not least how to square a direct consumer relationship with broadcast deals. In the UK, for instance, as part of a new five-year deal announced in August 2020, Sky will cover the games on a dedicated channel, Sky Sports NFL, developed in partnership between NFL and Sky.

Offord argued that the new channel is “testament to the growth” of NFL in the UK, a market in which sports like soccer, rugby and cricket have historically dominated. She also insisted that Sky Sports NFL and Game Pass can “complement” one another, with the streaming service offering a greater granularity of content for more dedicated fans.

“I think they both actually offer different services and different products. If you are a Sky Sports customer, you are probably a fan of multiple sports, and the channel is giving you the opportunity to consume more NFL on a daily basis”.

Sourced from WARC