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Serving up superior connectivity for sports streaming

By: Richard Craig-McFeely

We’re just over halfway into 2019, and already we’ve seen more sports gracing our TVs and computer screens than a die hard sports fan could even dream of. Sunday 14th July was a particularly pertinent day for those of us who were forced to flick between Wimbledon, the Cricket World Cup and the British Grand Prix (how many of you were triple-screening?) According to stats from the BBC, a whopping 9.6 million people tuned in to see Novak Djokovic topple Roger Federer in a record-breaking, nail-biting five-set final. Add to that the 7.9 million people that witnessed England’s win over New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup final and an additional 2.5 million viewers that saw Lewis Hamilton speed to victory in the F1, and that’s a lot of eyeballs on sports content!

A new era for sports

Despite the ‘Netflix Effect’, which has steadily moved content consumption to an online streaming model, sports broadcasting has remained a staple of live TV – until very recently. Gone are the days of going to your local Blockbuster Video store and renting the latest movie; consumers now want content – movies, television, music, games – to come to them, rather than the other way around. The same can now be said of sports broadcasting, as cable providers dedicated to sports are seeing a steady decline in subscribers.

Live TV still undoubtedly has its benefits – sports broadcasts bring in large aggregate audiences that drive TV advertising and team sponsorship revenues. The reliability of traditional broadcasting also means it’s the preferred vehicle for delivering content without latency or buffering – no worries of missing that crucial knock-out or match point because the stream suddenly conks out.

But the reality is, the rise of streaming services have changed the way we perceive television. Consumers are driving new viewing habits and the response has been a growing number of digital players elbowing their way into the sports arena with over the top (OTT) viewing platforms.

Conventional players, such as Sky, have also adapted their offerings to keep up with the ever-changing industry. But it’s not smooth sailing – there are hurdles to overcome in order to strike the right balance between consumer expectations and streaming reality.

Going for streaming gold: opportunities versus challenges

The good news is that, for sports right holders looking to stream their content online to consumers, there is an opportunity to forge a personal and direct relationship with fans through customised content, on a global scale. Think on-demand content, en masse. This opens up potential new audiences, particularly mobile-first or mobile-only regions such as Africa and Asia, where consumers are watching content on their smartphones. The make or break factor for success in these regions, however, is a connectivity infrastructure that can stream content, without fail.

This is where the core challenges of streaming sports content lie: reliability. Buffering, poor picture quality, or even content that simply won’t load are unforgivable experiences for consumers that have plenty of choice in a competitive market. So how can rights holders balance the three key ingredients of successful sports streaming – reliability, latency and quality – to capitalise on the reach of OTT platforms?

Here’s where colocated data centres can help sports rights holders achieve the quality and reliability they need, through a wide range of connectivity and cloud solutions. Our highly connected Brick Lane data centre campus is at the epicentre of the London media market, catering for all styles of content across all platforms. It brings together Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and software solutions in a buzzing community, to support everything from production to OTT delivery. And as OTT streaming blossoms, and new technologies such as 5G and UHD place more demand on networks, we’re well-placed to help broadcasters navigate market change to deliver superior connectivity during bandwidth-intensive events.

Get in touch if you’re interested in hearing more about our pedigree in digital media!