Sports streaming – coming up short?

Although the 2-IMMERSE project is ultimately about building a platform, two of our prototypes are focussed on sports streaming. So the current state of play in this market is obviously of considerable interest to us. The streaming systems developer Phenix has released a short assessment, The Streaming Wars: Sports Report, commissioned with the reputable UK-based research organisation Yougov, that makes sobering reading. The polling for the report was done with consumers in the USA (sample size 2,309 adults; online fieldwork 12-16 October 2017; figures weighted and representative of all US adults aged 18+), but it’s likely that similar attitudes would be found in Britain.

Jed Corenthal, CMO at Phenix, sums up the current problems:

In our “Sports Report,” it was obvious consumers understand they’re paying for services that don’t always meet their expectations. In fact, nearly three-quarters of sports viewers expect there will be an issue during their sports live stream! It’s understandable then that 63% don’t plan on signing up for a streaming sports service in 2018 and more than one in three (34%) would think about cancelling a service that was giving them an issue.

Findings from the research include:

  • Sports viewers have come to expect bad service – nearly three-quarters (72 percent) anticipate a latency issue while they watch a game.
  • 64% expect buffering, 42% delays, 32% expect poor picture quality and 30% expect loss of service.
  • 63% of sports watchers are reluctant to sign up or re-subscribe to sports live streaming platforms in 2018 and more than one in three (34%) would think about cancelling the services giving them issues.

Despite these significant concerns, the report suggests that ‘there’s ample opportunity for the streaming industry to not only solve the latency issues it faces, but use real-time capabilities to elevate the sports fan’s overall experience.’

  • More than 1 in 3 (36%) want to gain insights into player stats and information.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (30%) want the ability to watch in virtual reality (VR) to view the game from different angles.
  • More than 1 in 5 (22%) want to see updates from the locker room/sidelines.

And there are key takeaways for our 2-IMMERSE work:

  • 17 percent want to engage with other viewers, and crucially…
  • More than 1 in 3 (36 percent) want to stream more than one game on different devices, demonstrating the proliferation of the multi-screen experience.

Although not everyone would agree, this is Jed Corenthal’s conclusion:

The live streaming experience is broken, particularly in the sporting arena, where latency issues abound. The industry must address the frustrating issues, such as buffering, delays, poor picture quality, loss of service, etc. plaguing everyone’s experience, from the NFL [Ntional Football League] to UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship]…

The upside we found was that if this main challenge can be overcome, there is incredible opportunity to offer more than just real-time streams to the customer. More than one in three want to simultaneously gain insights into player stats and information, and stream more than one game on different devices, respectively. If latency at broadcast scale is resolved, the streaming experience will be bigger and better than we could have imagined.