Sports SVOD Services: The Underdogs’ Game
Cord cutting and “the attention economy” are the landscaping trends reshaping everything video in 2019, and sports television – despite its reliably existent fanbase – is no exception. New sports proposition streaming video on demand (SVOD) entrants face hefty competition on all sides, from regionally established SVOD services with more varied offerings to tech majors waiting in the wings to buy up the biggest rights before moving onto the scene. In addition, they need to fight for attention and financial share among consumers who already have so many subscription services they’re starting to pare them down: consumers with three or more digital subscriptions decreased between Q3 2017 and Q4 2018.
The demand for sports SVOD is there, but niche, while the demand for film and scripted drama is much higher. Women, for example, make up 52% of SVOD subscribers, but only 29% of sports SVOD subscribers, highlighting the narrow target audience of sports SVOD services. Given a choice between a tech-major streaming service provider such as Disney, which is set to bundle ESPN+ with its other television offerings into Disney+, and a small-scale sports-only SVOD service, many consumers are going to choose the former for financial and pragmatic reasons alone.
Having inadequate rights offerings is the biggest threat here for sports SVODs. If a service can offer premium licensed content, chances are good for consumer adoption. If it fails, as with Eleven Sports’ being able to only offer non-exclusive Spanish football to UK consumers, engagement plummets. Sports SVOD services need to ensure that the rights they do secure are in line with the carefully balanced relationships of rightsholders and services already.
As a result of its poor bet on services, only 0.1% of consumers paid for the service in Q4 2018, and Eleven lost brand image and business by promising to be the UK’s “go-to destination for football” and then being clearly unable to deliver.
However, demand exists for the right content, particularly among younger audiences and cord cutting as a whole and sports offerings are directly linked. Those who retain cable subscriptions do not seek out additional sports SVOD services, but those who cut the cord engage with local sports SVOD services weekly. While SVOD sports viewing is not mainstream yet, its addressable audience is keen for the potential of valuable add-on sports content. It is up to the emerging sports SVOD services to play their cards right and win that ground.
This article is derived from MIDiA’s Sports SVOD Services Deep Dive report. The full report is available to subscribers here. Others can purchase the report here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.