Sports Leagues Look to Internet TV Distribution to Reach Those Post-TV Eyeballs

Niche sports leagues are testing the waters of direct-to-consumer OTT offerings to reach audiences that don’t watch TV on a TV set any more.

“We’re beginning to see a lot more live sports being distributed over the top. NFL doing things on Yahoo and Twitter, we’re also seeing niche sports beginning to test the waters with OTT services,” said Paul Hamm, CEO and president of Endavo Media and Communications.

Hamm was speaking at the recent OTT Executive Summit. Endavo Media is an end-to-end OTT platform.

“We’ve been in the business of serving broadcasters and service providers and content owners for the last eight or nine years,” Hamm said. “We’ve done a lot of VoD a lot of linear channels, UGC [user-generated content], multi-channel networks, beginning to do a lot more live, particularly sports.”

Finding Niche Audiences Online

Internet-delivered sports leagues can reach and aggregate audiences online in ways that aren’t possible with broadcast or pay TV.

Todd Meyers, VP of programming, acquisitions and development at pay TV network One World Sports, said that while the pay TV industry in the US is contracting, sports leagues are beginning to look online to find audiences. “My lens is looking at acquiring rights and then serving those rights up to the fans that are trying to find it,” Meyers said at the Summit. “As cord-cutting continues and skinny bundles grow, it’s becoming more challenging to find the fans. They’re still out there, the question is how do you reach them? With the proliferation of OTT options you have to decide where do you devote your resources to actually reach those fans.”

That’s particularly true for the niche sports leagues that don’t have large mainstream audiences in the States. “The more niche sports in the US – soccer, rugby, cricket – they’re the ones that are going to explore the OTT space and ultimately blaze the trail here for the NBAs and NFLs to follow along,” Meyers said.

Endavo Media in fact is doing just that. The company recently launched a direct-to-consumer subscription OTT service for USA Rugby and Rugby International leagues. “The whole idea is that if you’re a Rugby fan there are limited ways for you to get Rugby other than YouTube and an occasional broadcast event,” Hamm said. “OTT is a great example of an opportunity for them to reach fans.” By offering an online video service, those leagues are now able to target and market to members of the Rugby fandom. “Rugby is a community. They’re using social media, a lot of word of mouth. Launched in April, subscribers are in the thousands already,” Hamm said.

More traditional content rights holders, ie broadcasters and pay TV networks, are also exploring ways to leverage niche content rights. One World Sports, which is a traditional linear pay TV channel in the US, just this week launched a direct-to-consumer streaming OTT service with for the Hero Caribbean Premier League football (soccer) tournament.

Univision, a US-based Spanish language broadcaster, has taken a similar approach…

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