Insights / Opinion / Women’s Football, the Next SVOD Frontier?
Opinion / 11th August 2023
It seems that every year England seems to get closer and closer to a men’s international trophy. They made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup last year and narrowly missed out on winning the Euros in 2019.
However, last year the England Women’s team stormed through the Euros, eventually winning the final against Germany. This the first international trophy England have picked up in almost 6 decades! It also acted as a catalyst that boosted Women’s Football into the mainstream of British culture.
Even before becoming the champions of Europe, we saw the beginning of what is becoming one of the fastest growing sport in the world. The 2019 Women’s world cup broke the previous Women’s World Cup viewership record, reaching 22.2m (an amazing uplift of 10m).
This continued in the 2022 Euros, with the final alone reaching a peak viewership of 17.4m! This trend is continuing with the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
So, where do streamers fit in?
Sports rights are notoriously difficult to navigate. Currently, three separate entities have the rights to broadcast The Premiere League, three entities have the rights to the Men’s World Cup and five have the rights to the Men’s Euros. And that’s just in the UK!
So far only a few streaming services have dipped their toes into live sports broadcasting. Amazon has held the rights to broadcast Premier League games for the past 3 seasons. A new integrated Discovery+ subscription plan, heading to the UK, will give customers access to TNT where they can watch Premiere League games. However, the cost of acquiring the rights to games could make it a challenging option for some streamers. Instead, they often stick to the tried and true scripted and non-scripted content. However, there is value to be gained from broadcasting sports.
While there is no way to calculate exactly how much the Football industry is worth, Deloitte estimated that the European professional football market was worth 29.5bn in 2021/22 and is on track to continue growing. But with such a high price on broadcasting rights, men’s football is a costly play for streamers looking to experiment with Live Sports.
Despite this, streamers like Prime Video clearly feel that live sports are a worthwhile investment. Netflix’s efforts to host their own Live Golf tournament tell a similar story.
There is clearly a desire for streamers to move into the live sports industry, with the phasing out of broadcast TV and the increasing popularity of SVOD. But how would this work?
The truth is there is no ‘right’ way to approach the live sports industry as a streamer. Currently, the most common way to enter the space is to join other broadcasters in the vicious bidding wars over the rights to individual games.
Another way is to create and host your own tournaments and events, a strategy used heavily by DAZN and seems to be the direction Netflix is heading with their golf tournament. However, this comes with high costs and its own set of risks.
With the Women’s Football industry expected to explode in the coming years, and a built-in fanbase, this could be a great opportunity for streamers to get in at the ground level.
Talks of restructuring the way sports rights are distributed could allow streamers to take this opportunity to capture parts of the Women’s Football market. This would fuel growth and allow streamers to learn to navigate the live sports landscape. All with lower levels of financial risk which will be an attractive proposition when budgets are so streatched. Once established, streamers can start to branch out to other sports and events with higher levels of confidence.
While this may seem like a sensible strategy, some larger streamers may opt to jump in at the deep end, buying the rights to some of the biggest games straight away. Amazon is already doing this, bidding on the rights to some of the world’s largest competitions and leagues, including the Premiere League, NBA and the French Open. Apple has also gone ‘all-in’, signing a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2022, giving them exclusive streaming rights to every match through Apple TV.
While it’s almost impossible to predict how things will play out, there is a clear desire by fans for a consolidated live sport viewing experience. Streamers want to migrate viewing from broadcast to SVOD, live sports will help pave teh way for this. With the promising future growth of Women’s Football, it is in the perfect position to shape the future of live sports streaming.
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