TV networks need sport, but they should learn how to play with digital too

The sporting landscape is changing, and if TV doesn't keep up, the implications could be wider than you'd expect, writes PHD's Sasko Bosilkovski.

Is there a place for sport on digital platforms? The changing shape of sports rights, the close relationship to TV and the new competition from digital media owners and telcos is making the market more complex.

For years, TV networks have been a key pillar for sport audiences – setting trends and creating memorable sporting moments. TV is still a key medium for people to watch our major sporting codes as it continues to provide opportunities for brands. As highlighted in my previous article about the State of Origin Series: “Viewers will continue to congregate around TVs to watch one of sports’ greatest spectacles”.

While live TV sport viewing remains a highly engaged medium, it comes as no surprise that the introduction of digital has been slowing it down over the past few years. As technology continues to improve and broadband gets faster, there will be more opportunities to consume sport on digital platforms.

In America, TV agreements will expire for the two most-watched professional leagues: the NFL in 2022 and the NBA in 2025. It’s expected that digital platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon, along with mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T will all be in a bidding war alongside US TV networks including NBC, CBS, Fox, Turner and ABC/ESPN.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the time comes, because US TV networks have a long-standing relationship with sport, just as we do here in Australia. In saying that, Amazon paid $50m for the digital streaming rights for NFL “Thursday Night Football” in 2017 and has renewed for 2018/2019 at an estimated $65m per season.

TV networks want highly engaging content to draw a mass audience. Sporting codes want maximum reach to grow the game and deliver a high-quality experience for their fans.

The TV networks do this extremely well, as we’ve seen with SBS and especially with Seven and Nine. They know how to leverage sponsorships in sports and interact socially with engaging content to fans.

For a savvy network, female sport represents a golden opportunity to gain highly engaging content and increase mass audience. At the recent Seven upfronts, the network announced it will be broadcasting the Women’s AFL/Big Bash League and launch the Women’s Twenty20 following the AFL Grand Final. They are clearly jumping on the opportunity for their network and clients.

From a trader’s perspective it makes sense for a TV network to use sport as a platform to promote its other programming and get advertisers on board via the high reaching audiences it delivers.

As mentioned previously, Seven and Nine have been doing this well for years and giving marketers magnitude of opportunities for client brands – something we’ve also just seen SBS pull off in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

And, in an ideal world, TV networks and digital platforms would work together.

Sasko Bosilkovski is group trading director at PHD Australia.


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