Member Insights OTT Streaming

Member Insights “While all sports want to be on television, television does not want all sports”

November 28, 2022

Anthony Smith-Chaigneau, is the Senior Director Global Sports Marketing & Marketing Development at Nagra-Kudelski, in this Member Insights article he looks into the battle sports face for coverage.

An obvious observation: I hear you say! Well, not for everyone. Especially ordinary sports-fans who have no idea that TV is as complex as it is. Pay-TV business for sport, and all Pay-TV businesses compete for the same consumers’ eyeballs. We forget that almost all sports are behind a paywall—SkySports, BT Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, etc. Pay-TV considers sport part of its ‘premium content,’ and often part of a larger viewing bundle. 

As these pay-TV operators have paid handsomely for sports rights, the consumer must pay to watch it and therein the top nine sports dominate that offer. However, some lower-tier sports are on the fringes within Pay-TV, and those get the smaller broadcast rights deals. The reality is that just because a sport is on TV doesn’t mean it reaches the total available TV market in a territory at the times people want to watch. 

The actual reach is only a percentage of a territory (say 20 per cent market share). A Pay-TV service provider will claim they have millions of subscribers, but the Pay-TV operator does not know if your sport fans are paying subscribers to their service.

In sports on TV: broadcast trumps streaming (due to rights there is geo-blocking), but broadcast does not mean greater reach to the masses – Whereas unfettered D2C streaming does (no geo-blocking and total market availability). It does mean you can look to capture all your fans, but it’s not that simple a direction to go in, either. Many businesses tout apps as the solution but it is far more complex than building an app.

Broadcast v Streaming – A business issue based on a sport’s desirability, ability, and scalability. All sports want to be on TV (market desirability; but not all can be). Some sports do realise D2C streaming is the future (still market desirability), but are they able to do the following? 

A) If it is there, stop taking the broadcast money and commit to D2C streaming (investment ability). B) treat the D2C streaming service as if they were on broadcast TV with excellent content production, marketing, and all the wrappers that make a sport an entertaining spectacle (investment ability). C) Further invest in fan engagement and social media at a level that the sport is top-of-mind amongst the new generation of digital natives (scalability). 

The discussion should not be broadcast v streaming; it should be focused on the federation situation (size of the sport, market reach capability and desired new market reach, financial capacity, federation desire) and how they can build a future for their sport.


  1. I want to go D2C streaming! (Is my sport big enough? Does the Board of Directors get it, and will they back it?)
  2. Can I afford to go D2C streaming – Can I invest, and do I have a ‘team’ that can take it to market, or do I have to outsource? 
  3. What are the deeper investment needs (What are the costs of production, commentary, operations, etc.) – It is not just building an App and Website, and fans will come … see point 4.
  4. If I go D2C streaming, can I build out my sports offer as if I was a top-tier sport? (Tournament pre-show, mid-show, and post-show storytelling, multi-language, marketing, and live social-media content, driving conversion for a desirable premium content offer to the masses across the globe!)
  5. Can I charge a price that will allow me to attract fans, grow the offer and keep the lights on? If you have done stage 4. above, you can charge more!

Realising your sport’s business situation with good market understanding, BoD lobbying, planning, and investment is the way forward with a need for speedy decision-making and committed execution to deployment. Sports fans are not bothered by boardroom and industry business issues; they want to access and enjoy their favourite sports as they are accustomed to as digital natives. 

The modern fan understands streaming but does not understand broadcast rights complexities, geo-blocking, and all the nuances around this complex market situation. There is one thing for sure as fans get more Internet savvy – they know the latest URLs to the illegal pirate sites that seem to know how to stream sports better than many trying to do it in the media industry.

In business, farsightedness without politics and the ability to commit investment can grow any sport in a modern media world. Looking at it pragmatically and treating it as a journey – With a crawl, walk, run implementation for D2C streaming this can allow any federation to grow their sport significantly across the globe. But it comes with challenges and at a cost.

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Member Insights OTT Streaming