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Antony Chang

By Antony Chang

Marketing Manager at Brightcove

3 Ways Sports Leagues and Clubs Can Use D2C Video


D2C Sports Video

Despite live sports content being a highly lucrative asset of linear TV, many traditional broadcasters are facing business model challenges with the rise of streaming. From Amazon to YouTube to league-specific offerings like NFL+, the distribution ecosystem is becoming increasingly fragmented, requiring a diversified approach to revenue generation.

To protect revenues and engage fans, sports leagues and clubs must have a direct-to-consumer (D2C) strategy. And with the right streaming technology, enabling D2C video across the following three tactics is comparatively easy.

Premium Content

Highly engaged sports fans don’t just want access to the sports events. They want premium content that can fully immerse them into the team, their favorite players, and the sport itself. The success of shows like NFL+ A Football Life, Netflix F1 Drive to Survive, or WWE Ride Along clearly demonstrate this.

However, exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes content may not be enough. Sometimes fans want deep dives from sports analysts and commentators or exposés on fan culture. The answer to what your audience would value as “premium” can be found by analyzing their viewing habits. The following metrics can help you start tracking down those trends.

  • Overall content performance. Several metrics are often used to measure content performance like audience size, total views, views over the past 30 days, and average completion rate. But to find candidates for premium content, it’s better to exclude disengaged fans from the results. For example, Brightcove’s Attention Index measures how many viewers stop watching early in the video against those who watch most of it.
  • Titles driving traffic. Titles driving the most traffic are a key factor, but you can take this a step further and identify patterns among your top performers. Analyzing them by theme, format, or genre may uncover deeper insights into your audience’s preferences.
  • Hours viewed by device. Understanding device type also provides unique insights into your content and how viewers prefer to consume it. For example, heavy viewership on mobile could suggest that users are on the go and prefer shorter, more digestible content, whereas those watching from their Smart TV may prefer longer, more immersive content.
  • Content viewers watch first. The content most effective at attracting users to your platform can also indicate what will increase both time spent on platform and long-term subscriptions.

Not every streaming platform offers a comprehensive suite of analytics, so you may need a few data pulls, spreadsheets, and a BI tool. Alternatively, our Subscriber Insights product aggregates all your data for you and visualizes it conveniently within the Brightcove UI.

Sponsorships aren’t a new form of revenue for sports clubs and leagues, but streaming video opens up targeting opportunities that make sponsored ads more appealing.

Unlike traditional broadcasting, streaming methods like client-side ad insertion (CSAI) enable real-time control of advertising campaigns. For example, the ads served can be based on user behavior during the current viewing session, which can significantly increase engagement.

Of course, CSAI has well-documented challenges maintaining fill rates. From buffering and latency to device compatibility and ad blockers, client-side’s issues have led many media companies to switch to server-side ad insertion (SSAI). Unfortunately, SSAI solves the aforementioned challenges at the expense of the real-time control and reporting accuracy that can make streaming ads attractive to sponsors.

To get the most out of sponsored ads, the best approach is hybrid ad insertion. Brightcove offers a few different options, depending on your needs.

  • Evade ad blockers. If ad blockers are the biggest challenge with your service, the best solution to retain some of client-side’s benefits is CSAI with server-side auto-failover. This does mean any ads delivered through SSAI won’t have the same level of control and reporting, but your sponsor won’t lose the impressions.
  • Improve the VOD experience. If buffering or device compatibility are your key challenges, the best VOD solution is client-side ad beaconing with SSAI. Your ads will be susceptible to ad blockers, but apart from that, you’ll get the server-side viewing experience with client-side’s better control and reporting.
  • Improve the live experience. If your live content has buffering or device compatibility challenges, then you’ll need client-side pre-roll ads with live SSAI. These ads are also vulnerable to ad blocking, but you’ll get better delivery, control, and reporting during the most engaged portion of the content.

If you’re unsure which approach will maximize the appeal of sponsored ads, Brightcove’s Ad Monetization service includes consultation with industry experts to optimize your ad strategy.

Marketing Merchandise

With YouTube and Twitch content creators selling their own merchandise, D2C distribution has become relatively easy and inexpensive—even at low volumes. All you need is a solid video marketing strategy.

For example, you can promote your merchandise in video content focused on things like tournament wins, MVPs, new signings, club anniversaries, or even fan birthdays. The key is to leverage tactics that fit within your current workflows while providing fans with a seamless customer experience.

  • In-video product page links. Videos with direct links to buy merchandise are an effective method for driving e-commerce sales. It saves the user clicks and hassle, and if your streaming platform integrates with your e-commerce provider, it can save you time.
  • Social media distribution. Even if your service has a built-in community, fans will still use social platforms to discuss their favorite teams and players. That’s why it’s important to meet them where they are, especially if you’re asking them to buy something. Integrating directly with social platforms or social management tools makes this easy, allowing you to manage your entire media library in a single solution.
  • Marketing Automation Platforms (MAP). For sports leagues and clubs that use a MAP, integrating it with your video platform offers an advanced approach to reaching fans with promotions. Together, they provide detailed analytics on a per-viewer and per-segment basis that can uncover who you should target based on content consumption. You can even design email campaigns that promote merchandise based on this data.

Not only is Brightcove a respected streaming technology provider in the media industry, our video marketing solutions are used by many top brands. Whether you need support for e-commerce, social media, or marketing automation, we integrate with many of the most popular tools.

D2C Video Drives Additional Revenue

Despite live sports media rights still heavily influencing revenue strategies, there is a huge opportunity for leagues and clubs to generate additional revenue. Streaming platforms can play a pivotal role by helping a sports brand grow their D2C video portfolio and build a direct relationship with their fans.

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