Gareth Capon, CEO at Grabyo, speaks to sportindustry.biz about the changing times for sport broadcasters and the social audience, and why live content is still king. For now…
How did Grabyo's business plan come about, and what are the key drivers for its technology?
Nearly half of the world’s adult population now owns a smartphone; by 2020, it will be 80%. As a result, popular mobile apps such as Facebook are now hugely important as destinations for video discovery, consumption and sharing. With the sports industry facing intense competition for attention and accelerating globalisation, rights owners must deliver more content across more platforms in less time than ever before.
Grabyo is a video production and distribution platform built for live, social and mobile. Designed with simplicity and speed at its core, our cloud-based service removes the traditional complexities and costs of professional video production, empowers rights owners to be first to market with relevant content and dramatically increases the volume of video production output. We're integrated with the most popular social platforms and we enable more than 60 major rights holders meet the demands of an always-on digital fan base.
There's been considerable speculation over falls in early-season TV audiences for live sports. Is the sports industry having a music industry moment?
It's far too early to call the death of live sports on TV or even to suggest that young people are losing interest in watching sports. However, the sports industry recognises that competition for audience is increasing and that viewing behaviours are changing quickly. In many ways mobile is no longer the second screen but the first screen as consumers now have a wide range of content and services available at their fingertips. Many people assume that the ‘best’ experience for sports viewing is on a widescreen TV fixed to a wall in your living room, but many sports fans would argue that the best experience for sports is to watch live, on the device they choose, wherever they are - live video is king, not the size of the screen or the delivery platform.
How can sports rights owners increase relevance to younger viewers?
Firstly, it's critical that rights owners engage consumers on the relevant media platforms - which means social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat and others. This is where a younger audience communicates and where they discover and enjoy video. Much of this consumption is driven by sharing as well as viewing, which should influence strategies for content publishing - younger viewers want content they can view anywhere, can share easily and is found on the platforms where they spend their time. Linear broadcast TV ratings are in decline for this demographic group. If sports rights holders do not make their content available on the platforms where this audience spends their time, then there is a chance they will not engage with it - which is a risk for future audience growth and revenues.
How important have social platforms become? How have output requirements changed as a result?
With Facebook and Snapchat doing billions of video views every day, it’s difficult to overplay the importance of these media platforms. Indeed, a focused digital strategy is now as important as a broadcast TV strategy for sports brands. Our customers recognise that fans now expect much more than the traditional 90 minutes of football match. They want to follow their favourite athletes and teams off the pitch too - the stories, the insight and the updates matter - this is the change in media experience that social platforms provide. The implications for rights owners in terms of video production and distribution are profound - they must have multiple strategies for each platform and massively increase their video output, as well as the speed of production and content optimisation, in order to stay relevant.
Fortunately high quality video production and broadcasting no longer requires such large technical teams and expensive production equipment such. It can now be done with a lightweight video camera, or mobile and laptop with a Wifi connection. Our cloud-based platform vastly simplifies the process of content production, editing, management and distribution. Indeed we're constantly evolving the platform to meet the needs of rights holders and TV networks - we now support distributed production teams with our professional mobile video app and have added a whole number of product enhancements such as vertical video editing, multi-screen live streaming, live and video-on-demand distribution, dynamic ad integration and instant brand/sponsor overlays. We're now building a data-driven video platform capability to ensure intelligent and efficient management of video content, helping customers drive greater further value from their video assets and providing an enhanced experience for the audience.
Is it possible to share content on social media without cannibalising broadcast audiences?
Absolutely. There's still no substitute for watching a live game, whether on the TV or some other connected device, but fans are more likely to tune in live if they've been following the broadcasters, teams or athletes in the lead up to the game or if they discover highlights and related live streams during the game. Indeed we're actually helping our customers increase the value of their broadcast rights by building their digital fan bases and growing their global audience.
Is the excitement in live streaming all hype or is becoming an important media distribution channel for sports?
No it's definitely not hype. With live video streaming emerging on Periscope, YouTube, Facebook and now Instagram, it's clear there's considerable momentum behind this format and we're seeing huge audiences generated from live streams for our customers. For example over a million people tuning in for Andy Murray's recent charity tennis match streamed from his own Facebook page and we generated an audience of more than 850k fans for a Tie Break Tens, a new tennis format, when it was streamed to a page of just 2000 likes. This scale of organic viral distribution is not available on traditional OTT platforms and we're seeing enormous excitement in live streaming as a result. It has also opened up new opportunities for advertisers, who can now sponsor branded streams on Facebook for example.
How is the growth in social video and live streaming impacting traditional broadcast media rights and sponsorship models?
Broadcast rights and sports sponsorships are usually sold in cycles of three years or more so it takes time for changes in technology and viewing behaviours to translate into the packages of rights that are bought by broadcasters and publishers or made available to sponsors. We have started to see significant changes in this space with digital live streaming and near-live clip and highlights rights being defined and packaged in new rights agreements. There is also increasing demand from sponsors to get access to more video content for their own social channels, or extend sponsorship beyond traditional TV and venues to include inventory associated with social video. Although some have speculated that the increasing volume of content available on social networks may be a threat to traditional media rights revenue streams; we would argue that if this content is valued, packaged and sold appropriately it can unlock new revenue streams for the most progressive rights holders. There is so much content that is valuable to fans in a social or digital environment, such as behind the scenes action or footage from less valuable TV rights formats such as youth tournaments etc, that if this content is delivered on the right platforms at the right time it can create new value for content owners and sponsors alike.
Do you expect to see technology companies like Amazon or Apple bidding for the best live sports content in the future?
Amazon has created a new sports division so we would expect them to explore how sports rights fit into their plans for Amazon Prime. It is not clear yet what this will look like but it’s positive to have new players in the market with global scale and such fantastic technology infrastructure across the Amazon Web Services platform. The launch of Apple Music was Apple’s first move into licensing and selling content as a service, it will be fascinating to see whether this extends to sports and other media rights in the future.