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For the past couple of years, pay TV subscribers have been in a steady decline. In Q3 2017, the biggest pay TV providers lost 405,000 net video subscribers, a massive increase over the same quarter one year previously, when they lost 250,000 net subscribers.

For the past couple of years, pay TV subscribers have been in a steady decline. In Q3 2017, the biggest pay TV providers lost 405,000 net video subscribers, a massive increase over the same quarter one year previously, when they lost 250,000 net subscribers. Satellite TV services saw the greatest losses in Q3 2017, of 475,000 subscribers, compared to their previous years’ 5,000 net increase in subscribers1. Taking the place of traditional pay-TV services is Over the Top entertainment, or OTT. Today’s estimates forecast OTT revenue to double from 2017 to 2022, rising from $46.5 billion to $83.4 billion2. In one particular sector, however, OTT has yet to make an impact: live-sports coverage.

Despite the demand there is for live-TV sports coverage, many still choose cable TV services to watch their favorite teams battle it out on the field. The relationship between fans and their cable TV providers, however, isn’t positive on both sides. One survey conducted by independent research firm Censuswide found that almost ⅔ of soccer (football) fans would switch from cable TV to a mobile platform if they were given desirable pricing plans for unlimited coverage. Across sports fans in the United States, 91% of those with a satellite or cable TV subscription profess that they subscribe solely for access to live games, and 82% of them would participate in the nationwide cord-cutting movement if they were able to get live-coverage elsewhere.

Since 2011, ESPN has seen a drop of 13 million viewers. For each customer that chooses to cancel their cable TV service, ESPN loses about $8 per month. In order to combat this loss in profits, ESPN has decided to debut an OTT video streaming version of ESPN for subscribers at a cost of $4.99 per month.Amazon recently signed a $50 million contract with the NFL to obtain the rights to stream Thursday night football coverage for Prime customers. Although this number is trivial compared to the $11 billion brought in each year through live sports coverage by traditional television broadcasting companies, it signifies a start to meeting the demand for OTT live-sports coverage, which is on the rise. For example, 30% of fans for this year’s World Cup intend to stream games via a mobile connection verses about 17% in 2014. Not only are the number of mobile content viewers set to increase, mobile viewers consume 20% more sports coverage in comparison to those with traditional TV services. This increase in consumption is likely due to the choice and niche content that OTT is able to provide in place of traditional provisioning services.

Nevertheless, significant obstacles approach OTT content provisioning in live-sports coverage. When it comes to sports coverage, every second of a game is crucial to a viewer’s experience. Fears of lackluster streaming quality are the primary reason why many fans are hesitant to switch over completely to OTT coverage of sporting events. Those lost minutes often transcribe into lost revenue, as 63% of subscribers to an OTT service who were forced to deal with delays, buffering, or poor image quality were reluctant or unwilling to re-subscribe to their OTT services the next year.

Aside from quality concerns, a major issue with streaming live sports are the digital rights management obstacles that come with it. In order for OTT providers to realize these profits, it is essential that they are able to properly protect their content and ensure that those who receive access to it and those who paid for access are one and the same. Additionally, providers must ensure that their services are compatible across a wide range of platforms in order to maximize their potential clientele.

To combat digital piracy and content theft, Intertrust’s ExpressPlay™ is equipped with forensic watermarking and end-to-end encryption to ensure that content is not tampered with or copied without authorization. ExpressPlay™ can be used seamlessly for a myriad of devices and platforms, making sure that no potential viewers are left behind. To allow businesses to monetize their viewership, ExpressPlay Ads can analyze the demographics and viewer characteristics of audiences in order to provide targeted advertising. In an advertisement industry by which mobile advertisements will contribute over $72.6 million by 2020, insights on user profiles are essential. Lastly, ExpressPlay can help combat the latency issues which operate as an Achilles Heel to OTT live sports coverage providers by using AWS’s Route 53 latency-based DNS, acquiring active-active failover deployment functionality.

2018 Global Overview of Live OTT Sports White Paper

Download the white paper

This white paper covers the OTT live sports markets in North America, Europe, India and China including statistics on the increase in viewership and which companies are capitalizing on this opportunity. Also discussed are the challenges and opportunities in scaling for millions of synchronistic viewers including support for large throughput, potential latency issues, content protection, delivery and media monetization.


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