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Andrew Knox and Matthew Finnie | It’s time to unleash sport content’s long tail

The festive season is nearly here. Your present could be the monetising of the long tail of content for sport. Technology means that finally this could be delivered – but will turkeys vote for Christmas?

Andrew Knox

In many countries, the Christmas holiday delivers a feast of sport we can all sit down and enjoy. Here in the UK, it’s the busiest part of the football calendar, when title contenders emerge or fall away in a blur of festive matches.

The relentless drama of the English Premier League continues to deliver. Huge media rights deals have made its clubs rich compared to their continental brothers. It’s great TV and people want to pay for the right to produce and broadcast.

Compare that situation with the paltry £500m spent on the remaining 72 clubs in the English Football League. Of more than 1,000 games each season, roughly 153 are broadcast live, and those mostly from the second-tier Championship.

It’s easy to argue that Scunthorpe’s visit to Macclesfield on a rainy Wednesday night isn’t going to capture a global audience. And it’s true – but trite, and it masks a lack of innovation at the heart of sports broadcasting and production.

Andrew Finnie

In an age when digital has given content creators direct routes to market in music, publishing and retail, the world of live sport is stubbornly hanging onto production models, and rights models, of the past.

The cost of high quality 4K cameras is now at a point where a stadium could have five permanently installed with the associated processing for a capital expenditure of less than $30,000.

High speed connectivity is cheap, as is the cost of cloud infrastructure, meaning production can be centralised anywhere in the world with no people, or additional cost, on-site.

Moreover, pioneers in accessible broadcasting – like Oz Sports and others – are using AI to build a comparable experience to a game where the ball is tracked, and the main events captured automatically – zero on-site production staff.

It’s a real alternative to the multiple trucks, human-controlled cameras, and production staff, thus opening any live sport to the fanbase that actually cares.

The relative cost of production is 10 times less than even a modest traditional model and is one-off and permanent. Subsequent broadcasts of any event can be leveraged, at minimal additional cost, creating valuable revenue streams direct to the people who want to watch.

Capital spend can be recouped by selling simple every-game Netflix-style subscriptions to the club membership. Charging as little as £5/month, an average League One club could recoup its initial investment in months.

Direct-to-consumer services are inexpensive to implement, and clubs can leverage their popularity, and expand their revenue base, independent of a trickle-down model that is blocked at the source.

And the opportunity to embellish and expand the production through guest commentators, more cameras, & better software, creates multiple innovation options all based on a fundamental shift in the capital and running cost of the infrastructure, in the stadium, to capture the content.

The opportunity is there for live sport to radically change direction. Those in charge of the rights, and the lucrative trappings that go with it, are unlikely to embrace a model that puts the content in the hands of those who create it – but then all revolutions need a spark.

Maybe that can be the ‘other 72’, or rights-holders in a similar position in other sports, demanding control over their own content. You may now unwrap your present.

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