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Live streaming "a ticking time bomb for sports broadcasters"

21 Apr 2016  |  Ellen Hammett and David Pidgeon 
Live streaming "a ticking time bomb for sports broadcasters"

Left to right: Pedro Avery, global CEO Havas Sports & Entertainment, Hugh Weber, president NJ Devils and Simon Daglish, deputy MD commercial, ITV

The rise of live video streaming is a "time bomb" ready to disrupt the traditional sports broadcast model, Havas' global CEO of sports and entertainment has warned.

Speaking at Ad Week Europe on Thursday, Pedro Avery said broadcasters and sporting bodies have got to think "really hard" about their position in the market, particularly as brands increasingly opt for digital channels to reach so-called 'connected' consumers.

"I think live streaming is the ticking time bomb for sports broadcasters right now and I think all the sports channels, in the UK in particular, have got to think really hard about their role and their position within the OTT marketplace - and whether live streaming will overtake traditional live broadcast," Avery said.

"Because I think advertisers - and I'm certainly picking that up from the conversations that I'm having - are really appreciative of the potential to do a lot more segmentation and thinking a lot harder about getting back to smaller audience groups through digital channels."

Citing Coca Cola, which 20 years ago invested in 20 different sports but now supports just two, Avery said the conversation is beginning to move away from counting impressions as "fan engagement" becomes an increasingly key metric.

"[Coke] no longer just want to put their logo on a sport event; they actually want to understand audience participation, the ROI they're going to get," Avery said.

Avery's comments come as record deals to secure broadcast rights have placed many sports, such as boxing and some football leagues, behind subscription-only services that utilise DVR (digital video recorder) boxes.

Although this has offered huge returns for the sports, it has often reduced audience sizes and thus cost advertisers.

Taking a broader global view, the president of the New Jersey Devils, the US ice hockey team, reiterated that live streaming is set to "turn the traditional model upside down", adding that the disruption goes hand in hand with "much more discerning" advertising strategies from brands.

"Everything now, in the digital age is measurable," said Hugh Weber. "It means a brand can pinpoint a strategy, hit a target audience and know how effective each dollar is. That's what is changing the landscape of sports."

However, he added that this is still "the frontier stage" and that the sport content owners need to boost their understanding of the emerging possibilities.

"We need to figure out how we can take [sports] content direct to consumers, but maybe the distribution channels are cable companies or national broadcasters.

"But if you look at deals like the NFL did with Twitter, you can see we're going to be consuming sports content on different platforms - and some of those we haven't even dreamed up yet."

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