How Live Video Is Helping Sports Leagues Reach New Audiences

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As the times keep changing, so do the ways in which people watch their favorite sports. This year, it is estimated that nearly 14 million households in the United States do not pay for a traditional cable or satellite television service — mostly due to the influx of on-demand entertainment services like Netflix and Hulu.

That gap in live sports entertainment, however, is now being increasingly filled by interactive live video platforms.

In the last year, for example, Stadium has partnered with Facebook Watch to broadcast well over 100 sporting events including, but not limited to, Division I college football and basketball games. Stadium will be continuing that this fall by broadcasting 14 more D-I college football games from the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA. Sports professionals who work closely with college athletic departments and their digital marketing arms anticipate this strategy paying off in an effort to increase their overall audience as well as reach younger viewers.

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“Creating great content is a must for these teams and leagues, but they also have to make sure they are positioning themselves effectively,” said Joe Centeno, art director of Team Infographics. “With more events finding their way to Facebook Watch and other live video platforms teams can possibly reach new audiences. With those familiar with Twitch and their success, it makes a lot of sense to start seeing these other platforms follow suit. The model has proven very effective with the Twitch audience that teams and leagues should see the same type of success for their coverage.”

Part of the reason that platforms like Twitch have been successful are the interactive elements like a chat or sometimes highlighting tweets or posts from influential viewers. Some platforms even have the capability to incorporate polls, furthering the team or league’s community management capabilities. In turn, the more personal approach is what speaks to younger audience members.

“Interactive elements like polls, questions, and featuring fans throughout the stream allows social platforms to become a more personal destination where friends watch and engage in live sports together, stay on the stream longer to feel the payoff of participation, and tune back in week after week,”said Nick Cicero, CEO of Delmondo.

“For the sports clients Delmondo provides analytics for, we see interactive live video on social channels like Facebook reach younger audiences; specifically in the past year (we saw) a heavy growth in minutes consumed, average watch time and engagements in the 18-34 age bracket. In many cases these interactive live videos drive more female audiences than some sports teams are used to seeing.”

Watching sports is, by nature, a social experience. That being said, more than half of Americans prefer to watch sports from the comfort of their own homes. So how do we create the social experience within a solitary experience? This is the question that leagues like Major League Baseball and the World Surf League are trying to answer.

“In general, watching sports is more fun when in the company of others – screaming, cheering, and sometimes crying,” Joe Nardelli, marketing director of NeuLion College, said. “Broadcasting events through interactive live video has the potential to turn a passive event into an exciting and engaging experience that can be enjoyed anywhere with the virtual company of others. If the data is captured correctly, interactive video also provides teams with a wealth of information about their fans that can be used for marketing purposes to promote upcoming games, ticket promos or merchandise discounts.”

In addition to live social video providing teams and leagues an opportunity to increase the size and opportunity of their audience, more outlets for live broadcasts also open up new revenue streams. Nardelli also provided some insight into this area.

“Tech companies such as Twitter, Amazon, and Google are paying big bucks for the rights to stream sporting events on their platforms, which provide a more interactive social experience than linear tv broadcasts. Just this past week Facebook acquired an interactive live-video startup called Vidpresso, to help bolster their Facebook Live product. I predict we’ll see more of these types of acquisitions in the future as interactive live video becomes mainstream.”

For much of social media’s lifespan to date, we have praised its collective capabilities for providing a second screen experience. But with changes like those above to the various social platforms, is it only a matter of time before the second-screen concept is streamlined into one thing? This is certainly something to keep an eye on as the age of live social video rages on.