Sports Advertising

Live Sports Rights are in High Demand, but Come With Limited Ad Opportunities. Not Anymore.

For a time, the industry thought the superior availability of live sports via pay TV services would slow the cord-cutting trend. It turns out that’s not necessarily the case. According to a report by Adobe and Telaria, 30% of cable-keepers said they would cut the cord if they could live stream their favorite news, sports, and other events. And that’s happening more and more.

Disney/ESPN recently announced a broadcasting agreement with the National Hockey League through the 2027/2028 season. And, starting in 2023, Thursday Night Football will be broadcast exclusively on Amazon Prime (Amazon is already broadcasting Premier League Soccer games in the UK). More niche players like FloSports built whole business models around offering live sports across 25+ categories including USA Gymnastics, NCAA, and the Tour de France. 

By obtaining exclusive broadcast rights, streaming services will be able to control in-game advertising. But ad opportunities in live sports are traditionally limited. There’s little inventory to start with because fans want to watch sports uninterrupted; nobody wants to be the brand that takes fans away from a key moment of competition. 

The pandemic also exacerbated the tightness of the market. Sportico reports that big-name brands snapped up already limited inventory for the highly-anticipated 2021 fall sports seasons.

So, the answer seems simple. OTT programmers need ways to unlock inventory. But how?

New ad insertion opportunities for streaming companies boost inventory and allow advertisers to reach viewers during live moments. Picture-in-picture ad formats, during which live game action shares a screen with ads, are already becoming more commonplace on broadcast television. However, the process is manual and tedious. Networks staff people who must stay tuned to programming and activate ad insertions at the right time. (As you can imagine, the process is also error prone.)

Transmit is taking that format to its next incarnation in live streaming video. Instead of ads being limited to pre-roll, mid-roll, and breaks in the action, Transmit’s technology allows advertisers to reach audiences throughout the duration of a game or event. The automated technology can detect unexpected play stoppages, which have traditionally been underutilized as advertisement real estate, and offer non-disruptive strategies that work in conjunction with traditional breaks. 

This opens up new monetization opportunities by breaking down the walls that confined ads to set intervals. It also keeps fans happy -- and happy audiences are more receptive to marketing messages.

According to eMarketer, the number of live sports viewers on streaming platforms is expected to rise to 18.9 million in 2021, up from 17.1 million in 2020. With those rights come hard costs to streaming media platforms. OTT platforms should find tech solutions that offset costs and keep fans cheering on their platforms.

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