How OTT Is Disrupting Sports Rights

Miles Weaver
Miles Weaver Marketing Director

An interesting development has happened in the once cloistered world of sports rights recently – it is no longer as closed and elite as it once was. Previously, the Sky’s, BBC’s and BT’s of the world would engage in highly competitive multi-million pound bidding wars for the broadcast rights for premier league football, tennis, golf and Formula 1 (to name but a few). But in 2018, an absolutely seismic shift has happened in the world of sports rights. The traditional broadcasters that dominated the scene, and carved up the viewing exclusively amongst themselves, have been disrupted.

The disruption began a couple of years ago, when Facebook began screening several sports broadcasts from its paid partnerships with Fox Sports for UEFA Champions League, Major League Baseball and Stadium. It made a bid of $600 million for five-year rights to Indian Premier League Cricket, but was beaten out by Star India. Facebook provided the trickle that would turn into the torrent that hit the sports rights market this year.

In May, DAZN announced a $1 billion partnership with Matchroom Boxing, that threatens to fundamentally upend how the US sports broadcasting scene operates. Then in June, Amazon won the rights to show every premier league football game from the first round of midweek fixtures in December and all 10 matches on 26 December as part of a three-year deal, shattering the grip that Sky and BT had so long held on the sport. Also in June, the PGA Tour announced a 12 year, multi-billion dollar deal with Discovery to launch a dedicated global streaming service of all their content.

It is hard to understate what an enormous change this creates across the landscape of sports rights. Some of the most heavily invested in sporting organisations in the world have decided to partner with streaming services, or in some cases to launch their own direct to consumer offering, in order to reach their viewers wherever they might be. Once again, we see the fundamental disruption that viewing any content anywhere confronts content owners and broadcasters of literally all sizes with, and in this case it signals that one of the last great bastions of the traditional TV stranglehold on content – major league sport – is crumbling, as digital viewing and a la carte consumption becomes the way the majority of viewers engage with the content they love.

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Miles Weaver

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Miles Weaver Marketing Director
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