Nick Meacham, Managing Director, SportsPro Media | Who Holds The Future of Sports in CEE?

For now, sports streaming services with a monthly subscription are growing but most of them are not launched in CEE countries. What do you think, who will hold the future of sports in this region?

Don’t worry, they’re coming.

As issues surrounding business models and technology delivery are ironed out, more and more streaming services will come to the market. Ultimately, it’s hard not to think that the big global streaming giants – DAZN, Discovery, Amazon, Disney, etc. – will be the ones holding all the cards. They have the deepest pockets to buy the premium rights, and know the best ways to create immediate monetisation opportunities off the back of those rights.

That being said, the incumbents already have the audiences engaged, and have businesses built around the value audiences perceive of sports, so there is no doubt that major regional broadcasters will compete as much as possible regardless of the price.

Ultimately, premium live sports is the most valuable content available. That won’t change for some time, meaning these tech businesses trying to present themselves as media companies won’t go away.

What do you think are the biggest obstacles for new broadcasters coming into a new market such as this one, the CEE region? 

The existing infrastructure creates technology and delivery challenges, especially to handle the bandwidth required to deliver live sports to mass audiences seamlessly. Also, the fragmentation of the CEE region and the lack of premium rights available across the entire market stop it from being a priority to many major broadcasters and new players. But the time will come sooner rather than later.

How do you see the role of Big Tech companies in bidding for CEE market? Do you think that operators and sports TV channels have something to be worried about?

They’re competing more and more in every market across the globe, and won’t be going away anytime soon. They will drive up the value of rights to the point where existing operators will need to find alternative methods of generating revenue, and justifying the expense. It appears that Facebook is pulling back its investment into live rights, but others like Amazon continue to spend.

What will also be interesting to see is the growth of more direct to consumer sports channels, such as GolfTV, F1TV and NBA League Pass. UEFA is developing its own OTT offering. Will they start broadcasting live Champions League matches on the platform instead of selling the rights to CEE broadcasters? Probably not yet, but maybe sooner than we would have expected.

What urged you to launch SportsPro OTT Summit in Europe but also in Asia?

Both markets are exciting and undergoing huge transformation – but for very different reasons. Lots of question marks still exist on the best way for major European broadcasters, sports and tech companies to go to market and optimise engaged audiences.

In Asia the challenge for sports is very different. The way sports are consumed often differs completely from market to market, country to country – not to mention the challenge of monetising consumption despite the huge audiences. Asia also provides a largely untapped opportunity for many European and American sports to grow their fanbase, so hosting events in both markets helps us to bring together stakeholders from across the globe to tackle the opportunities available to them.

What are, in your experience, some of the hottest current trends in sports broadcasting, and which will appear in the near future? 

The proliferation of direct to consumer dedicated sports channels and the increased value of highlights content. The growth of the NBA’s global fanbase is a great example, and many attribute that to their flexibility with third-party social media sharing of highlights versus others – such as the NFL – who try to heavily protect clip sharing.

Also, it will be interesting to see how chat-style streaming solutions – like Twitch, the esports streaming platform – will improve engagement, and the overall online consumption of sports more generally.