The year 2019 will be a pivotal one for broadcasting and over-the-top (OTT) media services, with sports sitting squarely in the centre of the action. But of all the changes we will see in the space, I expect the most exciting to watch will be new OTT distribution options becoming available, improved user experience being prioritized, and the fight on piracy starting to take effect.
Check out my predictions for how these three growing trends will transform sports broadcasting in 2019:
Watch Out for the Platforms
Live sports viewing has always been the preserve of well-funded sports broadcasters. However, I expect that in 2019 we will see this change forever as large tech platforms, such as Amazon and Facebook, compete alongside the pure play sports OTT platforms, such as Perform Group’s DAZN, Eleven Sports and others, for rights to the most popular sports and sporting events.
Perhaps what is even more exciting though, are the direct to consumer (D2C) delivery approaches that these platforms are taking. Rather than going through traditional broadcasters to get in front of consumers, these platforms will begin to distribute digital media directly to consumers through streaming services. We’ve already seen this transition of services from ATP World Tour Tennis with Amazon, and I expect that we’ll continue to see more D2C services throughout 2019. One big player to watch in this space will be Formula 1’s F1 TV service, whose datacentric sports is ideal for customized fan experiences.
Focus on Latency
The negative effects of latency were brought to the attention of sports fans in 2018. In fact, it was the FIFA World Cup in Russia that attracted a huge online audience, who in turn were affected by user experience issues as a result. Many viewers were streaming games from the BBC but found themselves experiencing delays as long as 60 seconds. Imagine watching a major game at an outdoor watch party, only to hear cheers for a goal coming from nearby pubs several seconds before you see the play yourself.
Today’s status quo has broadcast feeds arriving tens of seconds before the online feeds, which is becoming a greater problem as online streaming continues to grow in popularity. Therefore, solving latency issues will be one of the hot industry trends for 2019. Many digital media companies claim to have a solution, so we can all look forward to reviewing the results around this time next year.
Chasing the Pirates
The shift to OTT brings with it the increased danger of piracy. In 2018 we already saw proof of this, with data revealing nearly five million illegal streamers during the just the UEFA Champions League knockout stages before the final in May. Digital media companies are becoming increasingly aware of piracy threats as more viewers turn to online streaming over traditional broadcast, particularly when it comes to sports.
In fact, we’ve already seen some professional leagues speaking out against piracy. The French Professional Football League (LFP) directly addressed the illegal broadcasting of its Ligue 1 Conforama by pirate channel 'beoutQ' earlier this year. LFP executive director general Didier Quillot noted that “Pirate broadcasts attack directly at the economic heart of the sport and we must unite in our struggle against this practice.”
In 2019 I expect we’ll see active discussions between leagues, content owners, distributors and content protection technology companies exploring how to maintain the value of sports content by combatting piracy threats.
It’s an exciting time to be in the sports broadcasting industry and it’s encouraging to see how technology is making advancements in live streaming possible, particularly as more players and platforms enter the space, OTT grows in popularity among viewers, and companies increasingly seek to ensure that regulatory measures are met. But what it ultimately comes down to is being able to ensure that the companies can deliver best possible experience for their viewers, and highly connected, cloud- and carrier-neutral data centres like Interxion make that possible. I personally can’t wait to see how the data centre’s role comes to fruition as these trends unfold over the next year.