The Future of Broadcast from your Computer
Now, more than ever before, fans are turning to the internet to get their live sports fix on their computers, tablets or smartphones.
In a bid to improve engagement beyond the traditional linear experience and bring larger audiences to sport, games are now being live streamed on Facebook all over the world. In the US, Facebook has a deal with Major League Baseball to officially stream 20 games this summer and here in Ireland, TG4 and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association have just announced that the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Semi-Finals and Finals will be streamed, worldwide, on Facebook Live.
This will be the first time ever that matches will be available on the Facebook Live platform and in total, seven TG4 Championship Ladies Football knock-out matches will be streamed live on the TG4 Sports Facebook page.
As sports audiences and supporters’ habits continue to evolve, broadcasting to one of the largest audiences in the world through Facebook Live is said to give viewers and Gaelic Games fans all over the world the opportunity to see these matches, free to view, on another platform.
As a free to air channel, the move by TG4 is progressive and demonstrates an understanding of current consumer viewing habits. They don’t appear to be nervous about losing viewers and have said, the live streaming on Facebook has the potential to attract a larger audience while generating more online visibility for the LGFA and TG4.
That said, they must be considering advertising and brands who are looking for large audiences to be tuning for the ad breaks. In an ongoing situation, a loss of viewership could drive down the cost of broadcast advertising, putting TG4 sales in a difficult bargaining position. Long-term, it could be argued that lowered external financial help could affect their ability to provide quality programming.
Not helping matters, Ireland has one of the highest licence fee evasion rates at about 16 per cent. TG4 receives an allocation of the TV licence revenue and this is currently set at €9.245m per annum. The Minister for Communications Denis Naughten has recently ruled out an increase in the TV licence fee from the current annual cost of €160.
Facebook is gearing up to take advantage of their position, announcing a new home for original video content, to be produced exclusively by partners, who will earn 55 percent of ad break revenue while Facebook keeps 45 percent. The “Watch” tab and several dozen original shows were announced earlier this month and have begun rolling out to a small group of U.S. users on mobile, desktop and Facebook’s TV apps.
These shows are set to be mostly mini-documentaries, reality shows, and sports coverage, however, Facebook have said it is not broadening its horizons in going after exclusivity broadcasting rights with co-founder Mark Zuckerberg reportedly saying paying billions of dollars for exclusive broadcasting rights is not part of Facebook’s long-term goal (source, Bloomberg).
With Facebook Watch, it’s breaking out of the web to challenge traditional television, which is seeing viewership slide. As ad spends follow eyeballs from TV to the web, Watch could give Facebook and their partners a way to net more attention and dollars.
However, Facebook isn’t the only alternative to traditional broadcast with black market streaming on the increase. According to The Guardian (UK), a British study in April found 54 percent of millennials watched illegal streams for live sports, compared to only 4 percent of those over 35. However, due to its largely discreet nature, there is little academic research on black market streaming at present. It would be very interesting to know how many people found a way of viewing last weekend’s McGregor v Mayfeather fight on an illegal live stream.
Internationally the cost to independent broadcast operators is growing as viewers leapfrog over television bundles in favour of the best internet packages available and sports-focused television networks are feeling the pinch; In the US, ESPN lost 2.9 million subscribers in the past year, according to a May report from Nielsen.
With quality not always assured with live streaming, the new digital age of streaming isn’t replacing traditional broadcast just yet with broadcasters knowing, that for now, they can always woo their audience back with better convenience, quality and reliability of sports coverage with the flick of a remote.
– Donna Caden, Account Manager, Legacy Consultants