Despite having burst onto the scene less than a year ago, the impact of Moscow-based Sportrecs on the international over-the-top (OTT) space has already been significant.
The timing of the launch in February, a matter of days before the true, devastating scale of Covid-19 became apparent across the globe, inadvertently helped to broaden Sportrecs’ outlook.
As sporting lockdowns were introduced, rights-holders were swiftly forced to search for alternative ways to connect with stay-at-home fans. Sportrecs, a new and ambitious platform, offered an enticing and inexpensive streaming solution.
Free to use
Crucially, Sportrecs is free to use for rights-holder partners who opt to place their video content on the platform, with four service monetisation models available.
There is the opportunity to generate income through advertising, with classic in-stream formats and special live-streaming ad options, with rights-holders receiving a percentage of every 1,000 monetised impressions.
Rights-holders can also create paid products and set their own price – whether it is through a subscription or via pay-per-view – with Sportrecs receiving a percentage of each transaction.
Additionally, business-to-business services are available for rights-holders, and premium offerings for viewers can generate additional micropayments.
“We launched in the midst of the pandemic. For the first six months, it was difficult to increase viewing figures, as many countries and events were closed and inaccessible,” Sportrecs chief executive officer and co-founder Anatoly Vorontsov says.
“However, we actively worked on expanding our partnerships and developing the product, which worked out well in the end. When countries started to open and events returned, we registered a sharp surge in traffic and users’ interest in watching sports with us.
“To be honest, the pandemic worked to our advantage. While most sports rights-holders were sleeping, we were making the product. When everyone woke up, we were ready.”
The platform’s network of partners already spans more than 500 rights-holders and about 200 media outlets.
Having launched with a focus on the Commonwealth of Independent States that straddle the Eurasia dividing line, as well as Asia and North America, Sportrecs has grown to 15 countries, with plans to expand distribution to 50 territories in 2021.
“Sportrecs provides sports rights-holders all around the world with a large number of services for the efficient distribution of their content in every media,” Vorontsov says.
“With us, any rights-holder can get all the technology that the top leagues have, with just one difference – it’s for free. Every one of our product demonstrations ends up being converted into a partnership because we’ve already created the world’s best sports streaming service, and that’s just the beginning.”
Vorontsov’s confidence is borne out of experience.
He previously created the Eagle Platform, a content monetisation service that was acquired by the Rambler Group in 2017, while co-founder Mikhail Ilyichev has a track record of spearheading numerous major digital projects at companies such as Dream Industries, Rutube, Unisound and Data Screen.
Given their credentials, it is unsurprising that they have grand plans, with multiple industry award nominations this year already having recognised the start-up’s potential.
In the New Year, Sportrecs is targeting a fivefold increase in its number of rights-holder partners, as well as reaching the milestone of one billion views.
Vorontsov, outlining the goal of becoming the ‘Twitch of sports’, adds that live streams, amongst the variety of video content on offer, will be a particularly important driver of growth.
“Rights-holders upload highlights, as well as interesting interviews and promotional content,” he says.
“A large part of the service is live broadcasting, conducted by rights-holders from around the world on Sportrecs every day. We already stream about 1,000 live broadcasts per month. By March, we plan to increase that number to 3,000, which means about 30,000-50,000 live sports broadcasts on Sportrecs in 2021.
“As for fan engagement itself, we provide the ability to place a ‘click-to-action’ button right in the player, which can generate new customers for the rights-holder.”
The platform already incorporates certain fan engagement features, especially in terms of interaction, with live chats, votes and comment options. Viewers can also tailor their offering to enjoy a more personalised experience by prioritising specific sports and leagues whilst receiving notifications about new content.
However, more features are set to be added in 2021. These include options to allow viewers to watch live broadcasts in bubbles with friends, receive special offers on takeaway food via an embedded widget, and play online games whilst consuming live action through a ‘game clicker’, enhancing the platform’s gamification capabilities.
Rights-holder and media partners are presented with different options for embedding content into their own platforms. Codes for content players can be copied and placed in an article – described by Vorontsov as a “semi-automatic” approach, while fully-automated showcases can be integrated into websites, allowing all new content to be filtered automatically into a media outlet’s pages.
Tagging is the latest option to be developed, with the media platform inserting tags and relevant content from the Sportrecs catalogue into articles.
Furthermore, various technological developments are being unveiled on a rolling basis. In the final month of 2020 alone, a new ‘Visit the Country’ feature was launched, allowing users to explore content specific to a certain territory, while a floating window functionality designed to enhance the viewing experience was introduced, as well as an update allowing built-in chats to be posted alongside players via webpages.
Sportrecs is also ramping up its audience data capabilities, having launched the latest iteration at the start of December.
“We plan to be as open as possible to all our partners and provide them with data about the audience of both the entire service and their fans specifically,” Vorontsov says.
“We plan to provide analytics with maximum coverage of all social metrics, develop recommendation services for rights-holders, and eventually provide them with a direct-to-customer tool with a full set of features from A to Z.”
With more development projects in the pipeline and variety at the heart of the platform for rights-holders, media outlets and sports fans, Sportrecs is positioning itself for aggressive expansion. Having grown in spite of the turbulence of 2020, the anticipated resurgence of the sports sector in 2021 will only boost expectations of a bright future.