A positive in increasing segmentation of sports media could be the corresponding rise in the popularity of sports outside the Big Four.
That’s what digital streaming service FloSports has in mind for a variety of sports, most prominently soccer in the United States. The company recently secured a multi-year agreement with MLS side D.C. United for coverage.
“We’ve always had our eyes on trying to get into soccer,” said Mike Levy, FloSports vice president of global rights acquisition. “Strategically, it really only made sense if we could do it with a really good, smart, strategic direction. We held out until we felt like we found it.”
FloSports started in 2006, largely with wrestling and track and field content.
Most of D.C. United’s home and away games will be aired on FloFC.com, the provider’s 25th sports vertical. The broadcasts will be in both English and Spanish. Also included in the deal with D.C. United is rights into original D.C. content, like behind-the-scenes programming.
“D.C. United is committed to providing fans with an innovative and high-quality viewing experience for all of their regionally broadcast matches,” said Sam Porter, D.C. United senior vice president. “Our deal with FloSports presents a new and unique opportunity for fans to get behind-the-scenes access to the D.C. United first team … while also providing a world-class broadcast production for viewers.”
Levy said the reason major professional sports have captured the American mindset is because of the previous media efforts and marketing. He said the future of other sports is up to the marketing and media opportunities presented to them — and soccer is in an ideal spot with its global popularity and U.S. youth participation.
Traditional media properties like NBC and FOX provide excellent live soccer coverage, Levy said, but there’s a deeper opportunity with the off-hour programming to explore and become a content destination.
“We believe you have to figure out how to create an emotional connection,” Levy said. “You have to do a lot more than just broadcast live sports. Any given Saturday night, there’s a thousand sporting events to choose from in the linear and digital stratosphere. And that’s just sports; there’s general entertainment and news too.
“All these types steal attention spans. So, we look for opportunities where fans aren’t getting that deep level of attention these sports deserve.”
Levy said FloSports will continue to seek other soccer rights deals to further prove soccer deserves the attention level the other major professional leagues receive from traditional media.
Other sports, along with wrestling and track and field verticals, FloSports has zeroed in on include Brazilian jiu-jitsu, fast-pitch softball, and rugby.
FloSports also has rights in basketball with the Euro League and Australian and German professional leagues and is a large platform for high school hoops.
“We’re looking to expand the international pro game in the U.S.,” Levy said. “Basketball is something we’re excited about.”
Football provides a large challenge as it is dominated by traditional media, but Levy said FloSports is seeking deeper penetration in high school sports, as well as some collegiate opportunities. Levy also said he sees tremendous opportunities in baseball at every level outside of Major League Baseball and currently broadcasts a variety collegiate games.
The proliferation of the internet and streaming services has provided the ability for platforms like FloSports to grab serious viewership in sports that previously saw almost zero coverage, even ESPN’s famous off-hour programming, in the past. Sports fanatics will devour content in their preferred sport if it’s available.
“There’s never been this level of fragmentation with this movement to digital,” Levy said. “Through that, we believe all sorts of sports have the opportunity to rapidly grow them as they get passionate viewers, and we can do our part to feed into it.”