Real-Time Sports Streaming Opportunities Go Way Beyond Betting

·4 min read

Today’s guest columnist is Jed Corenthal, chief marketing officer at Phenix Real Time Solutions.

Much has been written about whether real-time streaming is necessary regardless of whether there is some form of interactivity integrated within the content. If you are “just watching the game,” then why does a broadcast need to be in real-time, and why is it important that everyone is in sync watching the game at the same time?

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This thinking misses a critical point—a majority of viewers already interact with each other all the time, and while watching nearly everything. According to Confused.com, 62% of viewers watch TV and use social networks simultaneously. Currently, it’s more likely than not that a game streamed with HLS Technology could be delayed by 30-60 seconds or more from the field of play. This creates scenarios where a viewer is receiving texts, tweets or push notifications from friends about a play he or she hasn’t yet seen.

For certain use cases such as sports betting, the benefits of real-time streaming are plentiful: to help prevent courtsiding (sending information from an event to a third party ahead of the telecast), avoid spoilers, increase handle for sportsbooks and open the world up to micro-wagering. But interactivity comes in many forms—directly within the content, as happens with sports betting, trivia, polls, multi-cam viewing and watch parties; and indirectly by way of social media.

Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have live, legal betting and another three states are legal but not yet operational. iGaming is live in six states, and New York is expected to be next. Once there are 40+ states with legal mobile sports betting, then things will move from local to national activation. At that point, broadcasters can leverage their sportsbook partnerships (NBC: PointsBet; Fox: Fox Bet; CBS: William Hill) in unique ways directly into the broadcasts.

Let’s step back for a moment and accept the proposition that real-time streaming should only be used for interactive content consumption. Is this use case alone compelling enough to drive broadcasters to change their tech stacks from traditional HLS technology (a streaming protocol introduced by Apple in 2009) to synchronous real-time streaming? The answer has to be a resounding yes. In a recent piece in SportsPro, Yaron Kottler states, “Active engagement features help increase viewership, support retention efforts, help meet content discovery goals and generate monetization opportunities.”

More and more users, especially younger ones, need and want to be more engaged with content; they interact not just with the content but with each other. Integrating interactive features such as prediction games and betting directly into the broadcast experience allows the user to have the first, second and third screen all rolled up into one device, which will drive longer view times and increase monetization opportunities.

Fans would be able to sync their mobile device with their connected TV and bet in one place—or, better yet, integrate a sportsbook directly into the TV so everything is controlled in one environment. Fans can place bets while watching their favorite game—most likely through a second feed specifically for betting so those fans not interested in betting can stay with the “main” feed—as data and video will sync in real-time, offering fans the ultimate watch-and-bet experience. Over time, peer-to-peer betting will become not only commonplace but could ultimately drive more gross gaming revenue than traditional sportsbook betting.

Broadcasters have seen this movie before, during the change from SD to HD. When Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to transition from analog to digital transmission, it took over 10 years for broadcasters (and consumers) to make the change. The result, however, was an exponentially better user experience. Broadcasters needed new technology stacks and consumers had to purchase new TV sets, but the long-term upside for broadcasters was dramatic.

More than 25 years later, the broadcast industry is at a similar crossroads: It can decide to change technology to drive viewership, fan engagement and its resulting advertising, sponsorship, and secondary subscription revenues, or it can stand still and not innovate.

The question is not if we will move to real-time streaming for all use cases, but when. Fans are flocking to social media to complain about stream delays, buffering and poor video quality. This will only increase until churn becomes a major problem for streaming providers and lost revenue increases dramatically. The content does not have to directly include interactive features; it is the simultaneous use of social media while watching a game that brings interactivity to the forefront.

Rather than being the main force driving change in this new world, sports betting, and the growth of micro-wagering on a watch-and-bet basis, will be the deciding factor.

Corenthal launched and spearheads the sports betting business for the Phenix, which builds global IP video solutions, delivering synchronous streams to broadcast-sized audiences in real time.

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