Double Overtime: Streaming Strategies to Keep Fans on Their Feet Well After the Final Buzzer

watching sports
(Image credit: iStock)

In the world of broadcasting, live sports have always been in a league of their own. The production process is demanding, audiences are often less forgiving, and viewership can be as unpredictable and dynamic as the action on the field itself. These things have always been true of live sports broadcasting. 

But ever since the pandemic shuttered venues and sent sports hurtling towards the new frontier of digital transformation, the stakes and demands of live sports broadcasting have been dialed up to 10. 

Whether it was a blessing or a curse depends on who you ask. But one thing is certain—there is no going back. The mass migration of live sports entertainment from traditional, broadcast television to the digital realm is here to stay. 

As leagues, teams, and content distributors seek to differentiate themselves in this increasingly-competitive, fragmented landscape, certain content strategies and digital video technologies have proven spectacularly successful in the context of live sports. 

Whether you’re a world-famous brand, or a minor market franchise in a niche sport, the following strategies will help you grow your fanbase, and ensure fans don’t head directly to the proverbial exits once the final buzzer has sounded.

Make Live-to-VoD Your MVP
With few exceptions, the most memorable moments in sports defy our expectations. Whether it’s a walk-off homerun in the ninth inning, or a third-and-long hail mary-turned touchdown at the end of regulation, the moments that make sports special are both unexpected and can come and go in the blink of an eye. 

Live-to-VoD lets both you and your fans preserve and celebrate those can’t-miss-moments in a way that linear television and traditional live streaming never could. With Live-to-VoD functionality, viewers get the best of both worlds—being able to enjoy the immediacy and excitement of live play, without fear of missing any of those most iconic of sports moments. 

And that’s just the beginning. Live-to-VoD also underpins a variety of other digital video technologies and strategies that keep fans watching, and extend engagement beyond the field of play, and keep fans cheering long after the game’s come to an end.

Clip, Collaborate, and Listen
The ability to pause, rewind, and replay live events can be taken to the next level with the introduction of clipping software. These tools allow broadcasters and content owners to cut and stitch frame-accurate clips in real-time, and even develop custom VOD highlight reels as play progresses. 

With a rising portion of sports fans now engaging with a second screen during play, teams can offer this form of rapidly curated content in parallel to their live stream to drive engagement across devices and keep viewers engaged with the platform before, during, and after gametime. 

With the rise of real-time analytics and fantasy sports leagues, broadcasters can also augment these custom, live-to-VOD clips with metadata to display key statistics surrounding the teams and players in frame—such as the number of pass completions a quarterback has for the season, or a team’s current win-loss share. 

Finally, clipping and custom VOD highlight creation opens up a world of new possibilities for fans to share and discuss their favorite sports moments via social media. With many fans still being deprived of the camaraderie that comes from live sporting events, broadcasters can embrace social media as a way to engage fans collectively, generate discussion, and recreate the shared experience. 

Posting clipped highlights to social media in real-time can even help attract additional viewers to the live stream, dynamically boosting viewership as the excitement unfolds on the field.

Keep the Cameras Rolling
With a growing number of teams and leagues embracing subscription-based broadcasting models, the industry has found that the seasonality of spectator sports is particularly prone to the problem of churn. 

To combat this growing concern, teams are beginning to adopt a “come for the game, stay for the entertainment” approach to OTT sports. Player spotlights, exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes exclusives, and other forms of non-event content are quickly going from premium differentiators to par-for-the-course. 

The good news is, the vast majority of a sports franchise’s day-to-day activities happen outside of game day. And there’s little question as to whether or not fans are interested. 

The NFL’s and MLB’s long tradition of pre-season training camps are already being translated to the OTT space, for example. To keep fans interested and engaged year-round, and spurn the dreaded churn, teams need to train cameras on more of what they already do. 

You’d be hard pressed to overstate the role the pandemic has played in the sports industry’s mass migration to digital video. With sports venues shuttered around the world, and teams eager to find a replacement for lost ticket revenues, the industry was left with little choice but to make the move and make it quickly. In very short order, a full-fledged commercial ecosystem was up and running. 

Whether it was a blessing or a curse depends on who you ask. But one thing is for certain—there is no putting the genie back in the bottle. To ensure a winning performance, ensure your team has the right tools, technologies, and strategies at their disposal.

Femke Schurer
Senior Product Manager, Live Streaming at JW Player

Femke Schurer is the Senior Product Manager of Live Streaming at JW Player. With over 18 years of experience in sports broadcasting, Femke helps lead video strategies for the platform’s global customers to ensure they can capitalize on major live streaming events.