Pick your favorite hyperbolic sports metaphor and the business of sports is probably achieving it. In an era marked by massive sports streaming deals and surging fan viewership, market forecasts predict sports rights will soon top $30 billion.
But the growing pains are real, especially for frustrated fans who endure whiplash trying to figure out which platform on a given night is streaming the game they want to see.
There is a growing opportunity to simplify how fans find and view games — for instance, a sports search engine with every streaming option and quick links to the platforms or providers hosting the desired game, or league apps that become first-stop destinations for quickly finding and connecting to events on the right platforms.
Until recent technical advancements, strategies like these would not have been possible. That’s because the nature of sporting events and business of sports content rights creates unique challenges in logistics, distribution and consumption.
Ultimately, the goal is to increase the value of subscriptions by making it easier for fans to watch more games and become accustomed to a more consistent viewing experience, regardless of the particular rights holder.
As leagues and partners acknowledge streaming growing pains, efforts are underway to streamline fan access to games.
Complexity Breeds Confusion
Streaming has transformed sports viewing, giving fans a diverse range of platforms and access, but this age of abundance is not without pitfalls. A survey by Deloitte highlighted a staggering 50% of fans miss out on games due to platform unavailability. It is no secret the maze of apps and confusion over which company is serving up which game has simply become too complex.
Leagues have multiple teams spanning dozens of regions, often playing simultaneously. Different leagues and sports organizations manage streaming and viewing rights differently and there are sometimes blackout rules in effect for local games. Sports fans also struggle to determine which streaming service hosts a particular game on a specific date and the lack of centralized access to content hinders the ability to watch games live. Add in a requirement to juggle several subscriptions, passwords and apps, and it’s no wonder fans end up missing so much of the content they actually want to see.
Some connected TV platforms have attempted to unify search but there has been no enduring solution to these challenges. Now, leagues are standing up to the challenge.
League Apps Can Lead the Way
It makes perfect sense for league apps to be the place fans start every time they want to watch a game. However, integrating users from external streaming services into a league's application is fraught with challenges because such external services each introduce proprietary technical stacks, often using different technologies not designed to integrate with external sources. This puts the burden on engineering teams to manage updates, changes and technical requirements from each of these external platforms.
Leagues usually have to decide between hiring technical experts to handle multiple custom integrations or standardizing the integration process with industry standards like SAML and OAuth.
A major U.S. sports league recently adopted the integration standardization process. They faced a familiar scenario where content deals made games available through more than a half-dozen partners. Logins needed to be supported through these third-party credentials with viewing taking place in the league’s digital properties or third-party apps. The league recognized that integrating all these diverse platforms into a unified technology stack required an extraordinary amount of technical expertise. It preferred its team of engineers to remain focused on the user experience.
Sports streaming will only grow more complicated. As fragmentation intensifies, standardized integration processes can be a beacon for leagues and rightsholders eager to enhance viewer engagement and give fans the experience they deserve.
By aligning with industry standards, sports leagues not only pave the way for revenue growth but also promise fans a seamless, immersive viewing experience.
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Jeff Bak is senior VP, Cloud ID product & engineering at Synacor.