Sports rights are one of the most valuable rights in the world today but broadcasters pay a huge price if they are unable to secure their rights, says Christopher Schouten. The Middle East is expected to see a significant surge in broadband subscribers in the next year. According to analyst firm RNCOS, figures for broadband […]
Sports rights are one of the most valuable rights in the world today but broadcasters pay a huge price if they are unable to secure their rights, says Christopher Schouten.
The Middle East is expected to see a significant surge in broadband subscribers in the next year. According to analyst firm RNCOS, figures for broadband subscribers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are predicted to jump by 35% between 2009 and 2012.
The continued take-up of broadband has created opportunities for operators to deliver premium content, such as sport news, to consumers via Internet connected devices.
New figures from research company Nielsen have revealed that consumers are also embracing connected devices. The research reports that 27% of Middle East online consumers intend to purchase a handheld multimedia device by the end of 2011. As a result, there has been a perceivable shift in live sports viewing habits. Consumers are turning away from watching content on the traditional TV set and towards a second, connected, mobile screen. This has led to increased consumer demand for access to the latest sports results and video anytime, anywhere. To address this growing consumer demand, operators in the Middle East must quickly devise a multi-screen strategy and optimise their sports content for mobile and broadband platforms, as well as tackle the growing issue of piracy.
New Subscribers, New Business Models
Sport has long been the ultimate must have for operators. In delivering live and on demand sports content across multiple screens, operators have the opportunity to build customer loyalty and create new revenues. Sky Deutschlands sport application for the iPad is a good illustration of how sports content can be offered to subscribers and provides a flexible TV viewing experience and variety of content in one place with quick and easy access to live streaming of Skys exclusive sport channels.
The subscriber-only app also allows consumers to access video clips as well as relevant sports results and statistics. Operators are also maximising revenue by delivering sports content in premium HD and 3D formats.
This provides the consumer with a more compelling content offering that will enhance their viewing experience. Clever pay-TV providers are already starting to monetise their content in this way. For example, the acquisition of rights to the English Premier League by Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) signalled the arrival of four new HD channels to broadcast across 22 Middle Eastern countries.
Addressing multi-screen delivery
Operators must deliver relevant sports content to TVs and connected devices without losing vital information, audience share and most importantly, revenue. They also need to deliver content quickly as the value of breaking news diminishes rapidly as it ages. This is never truer than with sports results consumers want to know who has scored a goal as it happens, not 24 hours later.
Optimising content for each application for connected devices is a challenge in itself. However, making sure they are consistently kept updated with new content and services is quite another. Operators must implement a dynamic and secure broadband solution that enables them to control, monetise and distribute content via an Internet connection.
Such a solution should optimise workflows and be able to scale effortlessly to demand peaks for rapidly breaking news or live football games. This dynamic broadband solution should also be flexible enough to support multiple business models and billing platforms and provide a simple solution to complex syndication needs.
Any operator looking to further monetise content by extending their brand to multiple markets will also need an advanced broadband system to ensure that local language and currency settings are applied correctly for each region. Local censorship credentials need to be applied where appropriate to ensure that cultural and regulatory requirements of regions are met.
Operators must also chose a solution that facilitates an adequate customer care and reporting functionality for operators to bill back to advertisers and pay third party content providers. Finally, any good broadband solution must enable operators to add new devices and operating systems to their content management systems as required.
Pricy Corroding the value and future of sports
While increased broadband penetration and speeds have increased viewing opportunities, it has also helped to facilitate the illegal sharing of content online. According to recent report by Digital TV Research, only 15% of TV households (analogue and digital) are actually paying for legitimate TV signals in the Middle East. This figure is set to reach 22% by 2016.
Sports programming has often been considered the life-blood of operators and is a multibillion dollar industry. As such, rights organisations and governing bodies like the Premier League are demanding distributors protect their most valuable assets, namely live events, to their best ability whether distributed across broadcast or broadband.
Catching the Pirates: Getting Forensic
A robust conditional access solution will support multiple DRMs to ensure that content can be delivered quickly and securely to multiple platforms. However, that alone is not enough to protect the streaming of live events, games and matches across broadband.
Any static security code gets hacked. Sometimes, this breach of security may take years to occur, or, on other occasions, it may happen even before launch, as happened with the iPhone. Its now the turn of sports rights owners and operators to step up to the plate and tackle piracy head on. One tactic being discussed is the application of an invisible watermark that ties redistributed content back to any set-top box from which it originated. The watermark can track an illegal stream (or streams) from a peer-to-peer sharing website or even a user generated content site. While this tracking and tracing technology is impressive enough in its own right, rights owners and operators can now also disable any illegal stream(s) to prevent the further distribution of pirated content.
The Future of Sports Content
With traditional broadcast entertainment models being challenged by choice-driven consumers, a compelling multi-screen experience for consuming sports content has evolved from a business option to a necessity. However, operators in the Middle East are faced with complex challenges when delivering sports content to multiple connected devices.
Operators must address these challenges by working together with rights owners to create compelling, legitimate services that deliver an enhanced experience of sports content.
Christopher Schouten is senior director of solutions marketing at Irdeto.
This will enable them to maximise revenue streams and provide consumers with a superior content offering.