Rights holders go digital to boost growth

A strong online presence is key to boosting growth for sports rights holders.

With viewership for sports competitions plateauing and early signs sports rights have hit a ceiling, rights holders are investing in their online content to provide additional forms of revenue and ensure TV audiences remain high. A strong online presence cannot be under estimated, it’s been proven to penetrate new markets, generate revenue from digital advertising and acts a key marketing tool - driving fans towards the linear coverage and attending live events. Social media metrics and website traffic are vital to the long-term success of every sports organization. As always content is king, but how the content is accessed, published and enhanced with graphics, will determine the success of the online platforms.

Whilst many sports organizations slowly come to terms with changing consumer habits, the NBA has grown exponentially over the past five years and trails only soccer in terms of international popularity. For the 2016-17 season the NBA hit $7.3 billion in revenue, up 21% from $5.8 billion in the 2015-16 season. At the heart of their expansion is a shrewd social media strategy. During the season they publish 15 plus clips per day across all platforms, including: match highlights, exclusive ‘behind the scenes footage’, archive and analysis clips with graphics. Undoubtedly the NBA has been the most progressive federation for access to players, but it’s the analysis clips (see picture), using Vizrt’s image-based software – Viz Libero - that drives fan engagement. Steve Hellmuth, EVP Operations & Technology at the NBA and integral to their social media strategy said: “We already do business with Vizrt, we use Viz Libero to provide a layer of graphics, any time people see a video that includes graphics, analytics…that’s what attracts them. That’s what takes it from 200,000 view to 2 million.” 3D graphics are used to highlight key moments, deconstruct facets of play or provide a better understanding of a team’s strategy. Player and team statistics are inserted into dynamically moving graphics, substantiating and enriching the analysis clips. Furthermore, the 3D flights between broadcast cameras provide an unparalleled ‘wow affect’. Hellmuth continued: “We’re in the business of compressing information using a lot of tools, so that people can get more in less time – which is really what it’s all about. You don’t just want to look at a naked video clip; you want some graphics and analysis.”

The results are staggering, they have over 1.4 billion likes and followers on social media, an additional 172 million fans within the last year and the social media views during the 2017 NBA finals were up by 44%. Most of their social media followers are male and aged between 15-25, a key demographic for any sponsor (think digital advertising) and most importantly, NBA Pass (OTT platform) or ESPN subscribers of tomorrow.

Many sports organizations are now adopting the same approach and investing heavily in digital content teams. But they are discovering conventional broadcast tools such as a linear editing software are not designed for high volume, short-form, ‘on the go’ content that social media demands. Viz Story, the easy to use web interface can create compelling video stories with full real-time, state-of-the-art 3D graphics. It strips away the complexity of linear editing and allows the user to publish directly to various social media platforms. It’s designed to be operated by a journalist or social media producer, without any compromise to high-end ‘broadcast quality’ graphics, key for sports properties, who spend millions on their branding.