Media fragmentation means that live sport’s traditional role as a deliverer of large-scale reach can no longer be assumed – but diminishing audiences can be targeted in a more tailored, addressable manner, according to a new WARC report.

The future of sports media, a WARC Trend Snapshot, argues that the sports media business is being upended by digital entrants in the same way as other sectors have been, notably entertainment (via Netflix) and music (Spotify, iTunes).

One of the first threats to the hegemony of pay-TV broadcasters like ESPN and Sky Sports came with the arrival of digital and social media firms into bidding wars for distribution rights.

Facebook signalled its intent to move into sports media when it bid (unsuccessfully) to stream coverage of the Indian Premier League cricket competition in 2017, before subsequently securing the rights to show properties including Major League Baseball, Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga. Amazon, too, has dipped into this arena.

Then there are startup streaming services like DAZN and kayo, which have quickly scaled and acquired the streaming rights for a number of major properties.

Christopher Vollmer, managing director of MediaLink (owned by WARC parent company Ascential), observes that fans are spending more time enjoying sports content, but all of the growth in consumption is occurring “outside the traditional pay-TV ecosystem”.

Formats benefiting most include social media, video games, ‘fantasy’ sports competitions and betting.

“Sports fans’ desire to go deeper with their favourite teams and athletes, the high price and scarcity of sports media rights, and the strategic value of sports fans themselves, relative to other media audiences and user groups, has driven a massive increase in the amount of non-live game sports content, particularly in social and on-demand video,” Vollmer says.

For brands, these developments open a variety of new opportunities to collaborate with media partners, rights holders and athletes on “more immersive, personalised and digital experiences” to drive both engagement and awareness, he adds.

“Advertisers will aim more of their sports video spend at OTT [and] connected TV environments, because that is where video consumption is growing, and OTT is where they can find younger users.”

Sourced from WARC