IP&TV News talks OTT sports with OTTtv World Summit keynote Charles Balchin (Head of Programmes, IMG Studios)
IP&TV News: You’ve got a strong background in sports broadcasting. How much opportunity do you see in OTT sports?
Charles Balchin: Although WWF and others have shown that OTT can be a real alternative to traditional broadcasting I think it will be a long time before it replaces it. So for me OTT offers additional revenue streams for the ‘A’ list sports and a cost effective way of delivering minority sports to the dedicated fan.
We’re habituated to thinking of sports as being a definitively live form of entertainment, and OTTs as providing non-live content. How do you see these differences reconciled going forward?
I wouldn’t subscribe to the second part of that statement. I agree that sport is a live form of entertainment and that for events like Barclay’s Premier League or Rugby World Cup OTT will only offer a ‘catch up’ service. But again looking at the minority sports then OTT and live works fine. Henley was live this year as an example. And projects like Live@Wimbledon are also live but offering an alternative take on the broadcast output.
Cab you see pure OTTs bidding for major sports rights in the coming years though?
That’s the big question. Was the Amazon Clarkson deal the game changer? Founder Jeff Bezos has said Clarkson was “very, very expensive” but he was cheap compared to major sports rights. I just can’t make the maths work for an OTT provider to get a return on the sort of figures really top class sports demand. So right now I am on the ‘no’ side of the fence.
What about major standalone sports leagues going it alone? Is there a way that this could be done without devaluing the product?
The bigger possibility is that smaller leagues will do that. The Football League might well decide that they would do better streaming every Championship game at £10 a match per subscriber than taking the Sky/C5 rights fee, but someone will have to do some serious number crunching.
What do you think the hot topics will be at this year’s OTTtv World Summit?
1. Was the Clarkson deal the one we look back on in years to come and say ‘that’s what changed the face of OTT?’
2. The UK has one of the poorest high speed broadband systems in Europe – how much is this holding back OTT?
3. How to make consumers walk away from Sky/BT and rely on OTT? (By the way: sport will hold this up because everything a sports fan wants is on one of those two).
4. How many viewers does OTT need to start attracting big ad revenue – or is it age demographic enough to appeal to advertisers?
Also, there will be a lot of talk about declining viewership of traditional TV – but the figures show that this is being massively talked up and that those ‘missing’ viewers are not necessarily going to OTT services.