Study highlights slow uptake in French OTT sports sector

(Photo by Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A study published today (Monday) by the French broadcast and internet piracy regulators has found a markedly low appetite among the public to subscribe to a sports streaming platform.

The study from the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) and Supreme Authority for the Distribution and Protection of IP (Hadopi) found that just five per cent of internet users questioned had a “certain” intention to subscribe to an over-the-top sports offering.

It was also found that 24 per cent of internet users subscribed to at least one sports offering, be it via linear television or exclusively online. However, just one third of that figure accounted for those to have signed up to at least one OTT service.

Awareness of OTT-specific sports platforms was also very low compared to the public awareness of French subscription sports broadcasters and their own streaming platforms.

A total of 85 per cent of respondents knew at least one subscription sports broadcaster in France and 40 per cent knew that the respective offerings were also available as streaming services.

Canal Plus led the way with a 72-per-cent “awareness” rating, of which 31 per cent knew about the OTT service. The Vivendi-owned broadcaster was swiftly followed by beIN Sports (69 per cent/21 per cent), Eurosport (64 per cent/12 per cent) and the Altice-owned RMC Sport (58 per cent/15 per cent).

Only 26 per cent of respondents were aware of a “purely OTT” service available in France.

Pauline Blassel, secretary general of Hadopi, told L’Équipe: “These are quite often relatively recent offerings. They have not yet had the opportunity to entice subscriptions from internet users. They also sometimes bring new content and it takes time for consumers to get to grips with it.”

The NBA League Pass topped the list of sports OTT platforms with a 12-per-cent awareness rating (yet only 4 per cent were aware the service was only available via the internet). The NBA’s global OTT subscription platform was followed by Euroleague.tv (11 per cent), Discovery’s GolfTV (8 per cent), ATP Tennis TV (7 per cent), UFC Fight Pass (6 per cent), endurance and lifestyle sports platform HorizonSports (4 per cent) and French volleyball’s LNV TV (3 per cent).

The sports OTT sector in France is in many ways not as far advanced as other major markets with the LFP, the French professional football league, to launch its ‘MyLigue’ OTT platform this summer and the French Tennis Federation (FFT) setting up its OTT offering. Pay-television broadcasters have long-established streaming services, however, and Canal Plus recently launched its Premier League and Top 14 digital platforms.

Unsurprisingly, the OTT options attract a younger demographic with 60 per cent of subscribers under 35 years of age.

Internet users who watch illegal streams were also the most likely to sign up to new subscription services, the report found. Hervé Godechot, who oversees the digital working group at the CSA, observed: “Streaming fiction piracy fell sharply last year, but not sports. Perhaps because we are still watching this OTT market develop in this area.”

It was found that 17 per cent of French internet users (over 15 years of age) accessed illegal streams of sports content in 2019.

The inconsistency of streaming quality was also put forward as a reason cited by internet users to not sign up to an OTT service.

Godechot continued: “If the delivery is not very good, there is a risk of disappointment in front of a square ball or a frozen image at the moment of a goal. But the fact that more and more households will be eligible for very high-speed broadband as well as the rise of connected TVs will offer enormous opportunities.”

The study found that 24 per cent of French internet users would subscribe to an OTT service if the broadcast was guaranteed to be as good as on television.