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Streaming the action

Jenny Priestley looks at the rise of the sports streamers

There’s no getting away from it – sports live streaming is here to stay.

While consumers might still resist paying for live streaming, both major sports and niche are finding homes with the so-called disruptors.

Of the big tech giants, Amazon has been the first to show its intentions, signing a deal with ATP Media for the rights to 37 ATP World Tour events. It’s also said to have snagged the UK rights to the US Open, marking the first of the Grand Slam events to be available via a streaming platform.

Just recently, the BBC announced a deal with UK Sport to stream Olympic and Paralympic sports via its website, giving a huge boost to some of the less ‘sexy’ sports.

Plus, Sky and BT are obviously growing weary of the threat to their businesses from sports streaming, having finally agreed a cross supply of their TV channels. Is this a move by the big two pay-TV operators to prepare themselves for a move by the tech companies for the mega bucks football rights? Seventy-eight per cent of sports subscribers would consider cancelling if their provider lost the rights to their favourite sports – a figure that must be giving executives a few sleepless nights.

The next round of Premier League football television rights are out to tender right now, for the three-year cycle from 2019 to 2022. There will be an increased number of games – 200 – out of the total 380 matches each season, made available for live broadcast.

Bids are due in by the end of January, with the winning bidder set to be announced at the start of February.

The general consensus within in the industry seems to be that the OTT platforms, led by Amazon and Facebook, will lead the charge when it comes to bidding for sports rights. Will they look at the football rights this time or will they be put off by the sheer amount of money being bandied about?

Of course the biggest issue with streaming sports is latency. A recent report found that almost three-quarters of sports fans expect “bad service” when they’re watching via a streaming service. The YouGov report also found that found 64 per cent expect buffering issues, 42 per cent expect delays, 32 per cent expect poor picture quality and 30 per cent expect loss of service. That has to dramatically change if viewers are to put their trust in the streamers over pay-TV. Latency in particular is a major issue for the streaming services. No viewer is going to be happy with watching their team score a goal two minutes after it’s appeared on a pay-TV channel.

If the OTT platforms have the money and employ the right systems, then the way we watch sport could fundamentally change over the next 12 months. We just need to sit back and watch the action.