The history of business is littered with examples of organisations that fell by the wayside because they would not, or could not, adapt to a changing world.
Kodak was a pioneer in imaging but missed the boat when it came to digital photography, Blockbuster failed to identify the potential in digital distribution, and Nokia and BlackBerry were once market leaders in mobile manufacturing but no longer make phones.
Sport might feel it is immune from such pressures, but rights holders and broadcasters would do well to heed lessons from the wider world.
For more than a century, sport was largely an in-person experience and generated most of its revenues from ticketing. But advances in broadcast technology and evolving consumer habits eventually transformed sport into a live television spectacle with huge rewards and lucrative contracts for those who embraced the revolution.
In the new millennium, the rules of the game changed once again with the mass adoption of smartphones and enhanced connectivity. Suddenly, sport was no longer constrained by the geographic reach and capacity limitations of linear platforms, paving the way for virtually any event to be streamed around the world to anyone on any device.
Now the industry is on the cusp of yet another paradigm shift. Many fans aren’t just streaming live events, they are consuming bitesize clips on mobile applications and social media platforms – especially Gen Z and millennial audiences, half of whom prefer watching sport on their smartphone.
Fans are streaming live events and on-demand highlights from any location (Image credit: Getty Images)
This digitisation of sport is an unprecedented opportunity to increase awareness, reach new audiences, and drive engagement, all of which will add commercial value for partners and create new monetisation models.
But like any great shift, there will be winners and losers. Consumers only have a certain amount of time and money to devote to entertainment and there is intense competition for their attention. Rights holders must be able to deliver the content that consumers expect on the platform of their choice as quickly as possible.
Live content is still hugely important, as evidenced by the vast sums being spent on media rights, but fans no longer want the main event alone. They want to get closer to the sports, teams, and athletes they love with highlights, interviews, and behind-the-scenes content, or a second screen experience.
Others don’t watch live events at all, preferring to consume sport in bitesize chunks. Indeed, many new Formula One fans converted by the Netflix documentary series Drive to Survive don’t watch the races but instead follow events passively on social media.
More people than ever are choosing to watch sport after the event has taken place. Just over half of viewers consume sport as live and this figure is falling every year. Gen Z audiences are also more likely to consume highlights than any other form of non-live sports content, with 38 per cent watching short-form clips, with YouTube and Instagram the most popular platforms.
These changing consumption habits are reflected in the value of broadcast rights, of which highlights and mobile clips are the fastest growing segments. In the five-year period leading up to 2024, the global sports media rights market is expected to have increased 29 per cent to US$60.9 billion. However, the 18.7 per cent increase in the value of live rights is dwarfed by the 101 per cent increase expected for short-form highlights and the 76 per cent increase anticipated for in-play clips.
Unless rights holders have a highlights solution that is rapid, scalable, and cost-effective across multiple channels, they are going to miss out on the opportunities promised by the new, globalised, mobile-first world of sport and their very existence will be threatened.
This diversity of distribution is a huge opportunity to maximise the value of video assets, but ‘one-size-fits-all’ methods designed for a static, linear era of broadcasting are no longer sufficient.
Sport is only live once and each additional second it takes to capture, process, edit and distribute this content is another second that a viewer’s attention could be taken elsewhere. But a video clip created for a first-party app or YouTube will not gain the same traction as content created specifically for Instagram or Twitter.
Manual processes still have their place in the modern media landscape but are too resource intensive and lack the speed and scalability required. Intelligent, automated technologies that augment human capabilities are the answer.
Automation can deliver personalised highlights at scale (Image credit: Magnifi)
While audiences may have once been content with a single live stream of content on linear television, expectations have risen dramatically in the digital age. Major tennis tournaments now broadcast every single point from every single court, while every single shot at a major golf event is captured by the cameras.
That’s a huge amount of content that can be monetised and served to audiences around the world, but it’s a daunting task if tacked with only manual tools – especially when there are multiple channels to cater for.
Automation can transform the whole process. A new wave of Artificial Intelligence (AI) cameras can capture footage without the need for an operator, feeding into intelligent, cloud-based platforms like Magnifi which can automatically create packages of the most interesting highlights for each platform.
AI-powered solutions empower broadcasters to create new monetisation opportunities in real-time, increasing viewership and engagement.
It’s even possible to create personalised highlight reels for individual players across a single or multiple events, allowing fans to follow their favourite athletes across the course of a season.
“Perhaps one of the most valuable benefits of AI for broadcasting, baring automation, is its ability to create personalised and more engaging content. AI-powered solutions empower broadcasters to create new monetisation opportunities in real-time, increasing viewership and engagement”, says Vinayak Shrivastav, Magnifi chief executive.
The efficiencies and capabilities afforded to rights holders are obvious, but consumers are the ultimate beneficiaries. They receive more relevant, interactive, and engaging content with as little delay and friction as possible. This deepens the bond with fans and opens up new direct monetisation models through on-screen advertising and indirect revenue streams from ticketing, subscriptions, and merchandise.
Clubs, federations, and others also gain another valuable source of data that can be used across the whole organisation and strengthen their own digital transformation.
Content needs to be tailored to each platform to achieve optimum engagement (Image credit: Magnifi)
Automation is already being used in the sporting world, but many tools have limitations in how they operate or are expensive to use, making them the preserve of elite sporting institutions. However, a new wave of automated platforms is emerging, breaking down barriers to adoption.
Platforms like Magnifi can handle vast amounts of content more cost-effectively because they simply need a video feed to function. Video and audio recognition technology identifies objects, players, on-screen graphics, and commentary to apply meta-tagging and identify key moments from each game. There’s no need for a separate data stream which adds additional cost and complexity to creating highlights.
Magnifi is the most customisable highlight platform on the market. It can be fully automated or used in conjunction with standard editorial processes, with graphical elements added automatically. Different packages of highlights can be created for home, away, and neutral fans, complete with different camera angles and commentary.
The platform supports multiple content formats, including vertical video and web stories, and ball tracking technology means the most important action is always in view.
In the 202/21 soccer season, Magnifi helped a Uefa Champions League broadcast partner build and publish short-form content pieces. It used to take the broadcaster up to four hours to create such videos but with Magnifi reduced manual editing time by 70 per cent to 15 minutes and lowered video editing, graphic design, and data labelling costs. The broadcaster witnessed increased engagement, maximised the value of its rights, and generated cost savings of 80 per cent.
By lowering the financial and technological prerequisites for adoption, automation becomes accessible to any sports organisation at any level.
There will be cynics who maintain a mantra of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but such conservatism will not be rewarded. Where Kodak, Blockbuster, and BlackBerry stumbled, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and countless others seized the initiative and are thriving.
Digital content is essential for any modern sports organisation – it’s not a luxury. The time to act is now.
Speed: The ability to capture, process, clip and distribute content as quickly as possible.
Scale: Automation can be used to create content from multiple perspectives (e.g. home team, away team, neutral) thanks to cloud-based technology and intelligent algorithms.
Personalisation: Different content can be created for different user groups and different platforms, driving engagement and deepening bonds.
Monetisation: Automation allows for new content types and distribution models that would be impossible using manual methods alone, opening new revenue streams.
Efficiency: Automation allows for manual processes to become more efficient and deliver a wide volume and variety of content at a fraction of the cost.
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