Sports Video Services Getting Back to Action

4 Key Areas to Monitor as Live Events Fully Resume

With live sporting events beginning to return to action, sports-oriented video services have an incredible opportunity to focus their efforts on how to create new and engaging content for and with their fans. Read further to learn about 4 areas of sports OTT video services to monitor to ensure engagement, retention, and success well into the future.

Last week we participated in the SportsPro Insider Series event focused on OTT and Broadcast technology and Innovation. Our session really honed in on data; how valuable it is and how it can be leveraged in many ways on the path to success for sports OTT services.

Our CEO, Marty Roberts participated on the panel, along with Tom Middleditch from Eleven Sports and Jason Thibeault from the Streaming Video Alliance. Leading up to the event, SportsPro Media had a Q&A with Marty to talk about some of our learnings through the global pandemic disruption, the challenges as live sports return, and how data has become an important tool that will guide sports video services as they look to the future for distribution rights negotiations and integrating digital into their larger strategies for the long-term.

Be sure to check out the Q&A and follow along here to understand why It’s no longer enough to rely on live events and throwaway content like pre-event chatter and post-event analysis to fill the programming guide or content library. Sports streaming services have an opportunity to learn from their data and exercise more creativity in the content they produce to win-over subscribers and members of their community for the long-term.

Insights to Boost Your Sports Platform

Understanding the different types of data your backend systems produce and having a strategy to use it is key to running any successful OTT business. The data informs many different aspects of a business; marketing, operations, editorial, content, etc. And implementing an audience insights platform solution can have a major impact on these areas, no matter what stage of growth your service is in. Analyzing the data and utilizing human interpretation of it can assist in making better decisions and taking action on it, driving better lifetime value with each audience member over time. Keep reading to learn how these insights can help your sports business grow, even in these tumultuous times, and then prosper into the future.


The key to keeping subscribers happy, healthy, and active on your sports platform is maintaining a proper level of engagement. Understand the marketing campaigns that are pulling people in and the shows that keep fans engaged. A community built around a brand, service, or sport is more likely to have members who feel connected to that community and therefore stay more engaged. This can be done through several mechanisms:

  1. Membership – Create members by offering benefits beyond core content. Understanding what your audience likes allows you to personalize promotions to them; sell tickets to games and matches of the favorite team, signed photos of their favorite players, jerseys of their favorite players, etc. Associate the data with the content they love and put the right content in front of the right audience at the right time. This is one way a video service can bridge the gap to keep fans engaged during a time with a dearth of live sporting events.
  2. Engagement Status – Tracking multiple levels of engagement to determine how to connect with each cohort appropriately. The Wicket Scorecard tracks every registered user based on their video viewing habits; New, Engaged, Recent, Re-engaged, Idle, and Inactive. Once the cohort is known, you can better discern their lifecycle with the service and take action to keep them engaged.
  3. Recommendations – Don’t let your subscribers get caught in the recommendation echo chamber. Once you know their engagement status, you can promote content the data identifies as compelling but may be stuck in your back catalog. These hidden gems give your fans a unique viewing experience!

Pay attention to your survival curve which provides analysis for when subscribers typically churn out your sports video service. The curve helps identify critical moments that should be scrutinized to combat the most precipitous drops in retention.

Identify Preferred Content

If 80% of the cost basis for running a video service is content licensing or production, how do you get to the threshold of profitability when sports is one of the most expensive? For many services, digital is part of the platform but they still need traditional media for profitability, with an eye looking toward digital as their future. The digital space provides more data with opportunities to understand what your users want.

Using the data from an OTT sports service can then be used to provide a better traditional linear channel. Use it as a proxy to find out what content is compelling and what’s really engaging with different audience members. This provides a rich bridge for enhancing the existing business on traditional linear channels and VOD consumption.

Likewise, when trying to identify which content appeals to your fans, just tracking video views is not enough. Some great ways to identify content your users prefer and inform your content acquisition and production strategies include:

  1. Attention Index – is simplified as a net promoter score for video content. There are examples of high-profile video content that receives a boatload of views but the majority of viewers move on to something else in the first 10 minutes. Attention Index quickly identifies the content subscribers enjoy regardless of audience size. Identify the “hidden gems” in the content catalog to promote additional titles of interest. This can be utilized in the recommendation process to surface appealing titles for fans to watch.
  2. Content ExplorerContent Explorer helps you to find highly-correlated content consumption at the individual user-level and recommend other specific content to users with similar viewing habits. Couple that with the Attention Index and the likelihood of engaging users with additional content increases dramatically.
  3. Content Catalog – The Content Catalog leverages the Attention Index in combination with the audience size statistics to provide an understanding of the full content library and how fans engage with it.
    • Explore your entire content catalog
    • Find any title easily
    • See the impact of live broadcasts versus linear content
    • Content can be organized by sport, league, season or event, and sorted by audience size, views, etc.
  4. Library Breakdown – A simple but powerful wicket for identifying gaps in your content acquisition/production strategy. Quickly see composition versus consumption and pivot based on content genre or content type. Ensure you have a balance across multiple genres and see how that content is being consumed, where you may be light, and where you have an overabundance in a particular area. This will help you to deliver what your customers are looking for.

A fan is literally short for fanatic, meaning “an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator.” These people are DE-VOTE-ED. Give them content appealing which appeals to their devotion that they will presumably share with the rest of their community. Test different types of shoulder content; classic matches, athlete-created content, and other original content. Each service is unique, so let the data be your guide in what works and what does not for your individual audience.

A recent article from OZY also recommends getting creative with fan engagement. Joe Favorito, a sports communications professional who has worked with the Knicks, the 76ers, and the U.S. Tennis Association says, “If you want to be disruptive and engage with your fans, this is a time they are literally sitting around waiting to hear from you.” A prime example of this was the MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers holding a fan engagement event that maxed the capacity of their Zoom call.

According to Dan Cohen, Senior Vice President of Global Sports Media Rights Consulting for Octagon, in a recent article from SportsPro Media, athlete-driven content, like The Last Dance, can also lead to better connections with fans. In addition to being fans of a team or sport, individual athletes garner their own fierce allegiances from fans. “Greater collaboration between sports broadcasters and athletes will lead to high-quality athlete-driven content and also greater audiences.” Sarah Flynn, General Manager of Thirty Five Ventures goes on to say, “Digitally-native athletes are natural storytellers, while their ‘wealth of sports knowledge’ is proving instrumental around the creation of non-live programming.”

Lower Subscriber Churn Rates

Churn is typically the largest problem subscription-based services face. We’ve recently posted many articles breaking down the different aspects of churn in addition to an updated comprehensive whitepaper on Understanding SVoD Churn & How to Combat it.

Operationally, three really important things have a causal relationship with churn:

  1. Search time vs watch time. Too much time searching gets frustrating
  2. Time to the first video frame. When people have finally decided what they want to watch, don’t make them wait.
  3. Rebuffer time as a percent of the overall video length. This is more frustrating with shorter clips. Live events have their own profile because people are more sensitive and don’t want to miss out on being a part of the live event.

If a subscriber is consistently on the “right” side of this behavior, they are generally happy. But if they’re on the wrong side, our machine learning model can prove causality for churn. It’s highly important for product teams to dig into this information and discover what is truly causing these problems. Then ask the question, “How does that map out into our product priorities as we improve the apps and sites?” We can use the data to improve the audience experience overall.

As fans’ attention refocuses on getting back to a somewhat normal way of life, churn could raise its ugly head again. Be sure to understand every aspect of how and why fans churn and what you can do to mitigate the losses. Identify the engagement level as people begin to drift away and develop save actions to pull them back into the service. Send messages or notifications, “We haven’t seen you in a while. Welcome back, here’s what you missed while you were away.” Or, “Here are three amazing matches you missed that we thought you’d enjoy!”

There are so many different facets of churn, we can’t discuss them all in this post but here are some other important articles to reference:

For further reading, you can read all of our SVoD churn articles on our blog.

Win Back Fans Who Have Left

Simply put, new subscribers cost more than reconnecting former subscribers. It’s imperative that your sports service has a strategy to win back fans that were formerly happy with your service.

Using a variety of combinations of CHI, Attention Index, Content Explorer, and understanding what fans watched with Subscriber Export before they left the service can provide solid guidance for the best ways to reconnect them to your service. Perhaps a new season of their favorite sport is starting up again. Or, perhaps there was a series they were a fan of and you have exclusive rights to stream it at launch. Let those fans know!

There are a variety of strategies to use for winning back former fans. You’re only limited by your creativity and access to the data and insights needed to run informed, successful campaigns.

Learn More About Our OTT Scorecard

With focused effort, sports streaming services can use data and creativity to surpass where their services have been up to the point of the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t just rely on live events and post-event analysis to satisfy your fans. You need to have a strategy for the different types of data your service produces and how you use it. Data will drive the business, both improving the viewer experience and improving the concept of community membership.

If you want to learn more about how Wicket Labs can help your sports OTT or broadcast service by turning data into insights, contact us today. We would be more than happy to answer any additional questions you may have and help you build a raving fanbase.

Employing an Audience Insights Platform

Download our whitepaper to see how the Wicket Scorecard provides unique insights locked within siloed data.
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