Making User Experience The Core Of A Successful Sports Streaming Strategy

April 24, 2024 • Fan Engagement, Sports OTT, Sports Streaming
Fabio Gallo

General Manager Europe/Asia

There has been a fundamental change in the way fans stream sports. From Direct To Home consumption, driven mostly by TVs, fans are increasingly streaming sports on their personal devices like smartphones and tablets. This shift in consumption patterns gives sports streaming companies the opportunity to delight their viewers with an enhanced user experience. Many have already begun doing so, raising customer expectations of what a sports streaming service should offer them.

User experience is central to attracting and retaining audiences

It is an age-old truism that no two people watching the same event experience it the same way. It was the enhanced user experience that drew customers away from linear TV to Direct To Home streaming. Now, as they shift further to Direct To Customer consumption, fans are now demanding an experience that is even more finely tuned to their preferences. And, they’re willing to pay a price for the privilege. Delivering on these expectations is therefore a critical success factor for any sports brand.                                                                                                                                                           

So, what steps can sports marketing stakeholders take to deliver hyper-personalized user experiences? Based on ViewLift’s experience of delivering successful OTT solutions for some of sports’ biggest brands, here are three broad factors to consider.


1) Different devices require different user experiences

Almost all sports fans consume content simultaneously across devices. This trend has had a direct impact on user experience. From a design perspective, streaming platforms now have to make sure that whatever content they serve up works equally well across devices. Adaptive UX designs and latency are issues which a competent platform technology provider can, and should, deliver. 

That apart, one has to also keep in mind that users use devices for different purposes. So, for example, mobile devices have easily navigable touch screens that make searching for content easy. But, with their smaller screen size, they cannot provide a theatre-like viewing experience. Smart TVs offer a great viewing experience but, in the absence of a touchscreen, content discovery is a slower and more awkward process. 

Creating device-specific user experiences helps streaming platforms offer a rounded overall experience that encourages viewers to stay longer and consume more content. Most of us, for example, have our phones within easy reach while watching our Smart TVs. So, a search-friendly user experience, with easily navigable thumbnails, muted previews and intuitive keyword search would drive viewers to use their phones to find content, which they can then consume on their Smart TVs. The Smart TV user experience needs to be geared towards consumption. Live action needs to appear first, highlights next and peripheral content last, so that users can access content in an intuitive, user-friendly hierarchy.                                                                          

But, design apart, streaming providers can use multi-screen viewing to provide an immersive user experience. By encouraging users to use a second screen – say, to access live statistics, bet, or purchase merchandise, streaming platforms can obtain and retain a loyal user base. Using Monumental Sports Network’s DTC service, for example, users can watch the live feed of a game on TV, while watching alternate camera angles on their phones. They can call up real-time statistics on Sportradar, bet, purchase tickets and merchandise on their phones, without missing a single moment of the live action. Post-game, they still stay engaged, with access to hundreds of hours of original behind-the-scenes programming, new shows including Hometown with Rachel Nichols, newsletters and much more. Monumental also maintains a consistent look and feel across platforms, allowing for an intuitive experience across all devices.


2) Leverage 5G and the Cloud

Cloud computing, 5G mobile networks and Artificial Intelligence give sports owners a ready opportunity to provide their fanbase with a truly immersive user experience. AI and user data based personalization, for example, can identify an NHL fan’s favourite team or player, allowing the franchise to deliver content that resonates with them. 5G streaming and cloud based networks enable seamless content delivery across devices and geographies allowing franchises to deliver a unified feed to fans irrespective of their locations.  

Understanding viewer behaviour also gives sports content owners the ability to create personalized advertising opportunities that resonate most closely with viewers’ preferences. Targeted in-app advertising and location-based promotions create monetization opportunities without being intrusive, increasing sports franchises’ profitability as well as brand value.                                                                                                                                 


3) Create Communities

Sports has always been an experience best enjoyed in the company of others. This sense of community becomes even more pronounced amongst hardcore fans who tend to follow a specific team or athlete. With COVID-enforced isolation depriving fans of physical interaction, streaming services have tailored their user experience to capitalize on this sense of belonging. 

A streaming app, for example, can tell viewers if any of their friends are watching a game live, and allow them to interact with each other. Live polls, watch parties, celebrity interactions and social media linkages transform the user experience from that of a spectator to a participant. This, in turn, keeps viewers glued to a streaming service and encourages them to invite like-minded fans to become part of the ecosystem. What’s more, these user experiences resonate exceptionally well with younger fans - - 61% of Gen Z fans watch sports with other people, compared to 53% of Generation X and 48% of Boomers. This makes innovative user experience design all the more important for a sports franchise to attract an emerging user base.                                                                                               

These three pillars are what set successful sports streaming brands apart from the also-rans. Teams, leagues and media owners who are mindful of their customers’ unique needs can create a bouquet of offerings that will help them grow in a crowded market.