Live streaming has become an integral part of the sports industry, with shifting consumer habits driving significant changes in the way that people consume content.
It was once the case where just a handful of broadcasters screened live sport, but fans now have a seemingly limitless number of ways they can follow the action.
Companies such as ESPN, CBS, beIN SPORTS and others have embraced the new landscape, providing first-class coverage of competitions via super-slick streaming services.
Digital technology has allowed the likes of the NFL, NBA and NHL to grow their respective brands globally, thus enhancing their appeal to sponsors and advertisers.
The sports betting industry has also played an integral role in the rise in popularity of streaming, with many sportsbook operators offering 24/7 live coverage of events.
This has helped to drive revenue growth in the gambling industry, thus making the relationship between the two sectors a mutually beneficial affair.
Paul Rehrig, general manager for Eurosport Digital, believes that the increasing prevalence of devices with streaming capabilities will continue to impact how major sports are broadcast.
“We’re definitely playing in a world where there’s a rising tide of technology adoption and streaming products both in the pocket and the living room,” he told SportsProMedia.
“Everything we are doing in the digital world within Eurosport, I think, gets the benefit of that rising consumer adoption of streaming.
“The way we’re approaching it is, if the first phase of our activity was – with good quality of service and customer experience – to replicate the traditional television paradigm for streaming, I think we’re entering quickly into the second phase.
“For us, we think that the bar has been raising in terms of consumer expectations, but also around the business opportunity to differentiate content.
“We’re dealing with interactive devices that can not only deliver a video stream, but additional broadcast spaces. We think there’s a huge upside and opportunity, some of which we’re only beginning to scratch the surface.
“In terms of the innovation around the consumer experience within live sport, we can deliver that through mobile phones and, increasingly, connected TV experiences on the biggest screen in the home.”
The NBA’s link-up with Microsoft earlier this year is an excellent example of how major US sports are moving towards a ‘streaming-first’ culture.
The creation of a new direct-to-consumer platform on Microsoft Azure uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to deliver next-generation, personalised game broadcasts.
It also provides other content offerings as well as the integration of the NBA’s various products and services from across its business.
The platform revolutionises how fans engage with the NBA from their devices, by customising and localising experiences for the league’s global fanbase.
The two organisations are also believed to be close to unveiling how they plan to bring fans closer to the action while games are played behind closed doors.
Microsoft’s ‘Together’ mode is likely to be used to allow selected fans to appear live on video boards around the court and interact with each other during the game.
All viewers will be able to impact visual effects in the venue through a virtual cheering experience which is accessed by either the NBA website or app.
Fans will also be able to take advantage of customised viewing options on NBA League Pass and NBA TV via the same routes.
These will include different camera angles, enhanced graphics, gaming options and influencers calling the game with a focus on elements such as analytics and music.
This type of next-generation fan experience is expected to become the norm moving forwards as US sports strive to fully leverage modern technology to their advantage.