Have we got your attention? That was the question burning across presentations on the first day of the Leaders Sport Business Summit in New York City and on the minds of an industry anxious about last year’s broadcast ratings.
The day's opener, Turner Broadcasting System president, David Levy, spoke of how the broadcaster was experimenting with different ad formats to hold consumer attention and provide more value for its advertisers.
TruTV, a Turner-owned entertainment channel which shows some March Madness college basketball games, had been trialling half-length commercial breaks during programmes and saw ratings and brand retention rise between 20 to 30 per cent, Levy said.
Another more direct, attention-holding strategy was 'Players Only', a new talk format on cable channel TNT which replaces ad breaks between the second and third, and third and fourth, quarters of live NBA games. The fledgling format was sponsored by payment services brand and NBA Partner American Express, with the company's logo placed along the lockers that adorned the background of the show.
Levy said early signs showed that consumers were less likely to switch channels and social engagement with the programme showed promise.
#TNF is HERE.
And the stream is live!
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 16, 2016
Twitter is another platform toying with ways of keeping its sports audience engaged and increasing the value of that audience. Anthony Noto, chief operating officer at Twitter, gave glimpses of the network’s vision for the future of its programming and spoke of pay-per-view and subscriptions as two paths the company could take.
Noto said that ease-of-access was the company’s first consideration when deciding how to distribute its sports content, which includes the National Football League’s Thursday Night Football games, but it is now looking at charging for its programming. “We will consider all possibilities but we need to do it in stages,” he said.
There are questions over viewing numbers on the platform following Twitter’s first full season with the NFL but Noto said the company was comfortable with bringing an “incremental” and different type of audience to the sport. He said that 30 per cent of viewership of the Thursday games came from outside the US and it registered a higher percentage of female viewers than traditional television.
Noto also said that the platform’s future focus would be on sports the company felt had an “under-served and passionate” audience, calling out darts and lacrosse as specific examples. It’s a strategy that has well-served partners of both esports and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but it remains to be seen the power Twitter can bring to bear at the second tier.
Rounding off the day, speakers from BuzzFeed and athlete publishing site The Players’ Tribune talked about using short and long-form content to engage their young audiences.
Joe Puglisi, director of branded content at The Players’ Tribune, told a stunned crowd that the average time spent on the site’s article pages was just over five minutes, a number that seems but a myth to right-holders vying to keep audience attention for a whole 60 seconds.
The key, according to Puglisi, is that The Players’ Tribune content is “real” and that, in a world with endless things to watch and read, consumers want something that is clear and authentic.
The challenge for the site now? To bring its production values up to that of a traditional media company and give itself a better platform to draw its audience in further, and for longer. A sentiment that cut to the core of what everyone in sports is looking for.