As online video continues to grow in popularity, Matt McKiernan of StreamAMG explores how clubs can make the most of the commercial opportunities it affords.
Football club video channels have been a staple of the digital fan experience for well over a decade now, with services ranging from Goliaths such as Liverpool FCs “LFCTVGO” to the more niche (but well loved) products such as FC Halifax Town’s “Shaymen’s Player”. Both have similarities with the same core aim to engage with the clubs’ fiercely loyal fan-base that proudly turn out as the digital 12th man week in week out, as well as those who cannot attend matches as frequently.
In this increasingly commercial world of sport, engagement alone is not always enough to justify the outlay on man-power and technology solutions to keep the proverbial lights on. Having a cohesive and well formed monetisation strategy for content (some more overt than others), allows the club to maintain a fine balance between keeping the fan engaged and making sure the club has a healthy balance sheet.
There are numerous ways to monetise content effectively, here are my (personal!) two cents on the matter.
Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD)
The ever present reliable grandfather of content monetisation, offering a tried and tested method of generating income for football TV services. With a large enough fan base and a strong pricing strategy, SVOD can return a healthy yield. But with the ample competition, not all of which is just within SVOD space, content needs to be strong and somewhat unique. Just look at Liverpool’s FCs recent Crown Green Bowling feature with Jürgen Klopp as a powerful example of unique engaging (paid for) content for one. Not all clubs however have the resource to produce this kind of content week in week out.
The most obvious downside of SVOD services is fan base alienation, without a hybridised approach to content exposure on TV services. When only the upper echelons of the fan base are engaging with the majority of club content, it can create a somewhat us and them feel. In a world where fan togetherness is a key selling point of the experience, this could be detrimental to the long term commercial goals of the club.
With that said, it’s still a proven revenue generation tool.
Ad Funded Models
Advertising now plays a key part of our modern day lives. It seems we can’t go 5 minutes without seeing a tailored advert online and football video services are no different. For now at least, football is a heavily male dominated sport, advertisers know they can target specific campaigns at football sites and hit exactly the market they want. In this increasingly VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) based programmatic world, these adverts are even tailored to the specific users likes and dislikes offering a somewhat tailored viewing experience (this doesn’t mean fans won’t just skip ads however), leading some of the market’s highest CPM (cost per 1000 adverts delivered) values.
It all sounds great right; engaged viewers seeing exactly what the advertiser wants them to, high returns on CPM, and it’s available to all fans.
Well yes and no… all content is completely free, there are more eyeballs on the content and more revenue generated without alienating the fan base, with modern programmatic algorithms to automate the selling process.
On the flip side, the two key metrics that define revenue from advertising revenue are fill rates (ad spots delivered) and volume of views delivered. Football clubs have many partners and sponsors, meaning exclusion policies are deep and complex – i.e. you can’t run a Nike advert if you are an Adidas club, Bet365 if you are tied in with Ladbrokes, and so on. This means it can be hard to fill the inventory offered to an advertiser and thus you either end up with minimal returns/fill rates, or much worse, the same un-skippable advert on repeat driving fans completely mad.
We all know gambling is big business and this is no more true than in the world of football. The prevalence of in-play betting and cash out services have excelled in game betting to cover a huge percentage of football bets within the sector. Football TV services can benefit from the boom by utilising affiliate betting programmes, either during video on demand, or with live match services via relatively unobtrusive calls to action to bet on the next or current event, with the club receiving a portion of the bet itself.
This method is simple and effective, however, very event specific and time based, so revenue potential can be limited.
The holy grail of sports monetisation. Rather than relying on SVOD subscriptions or pre-roll VAST based advertising, a club can instead package up the full TV service inventory under one sponsorship package banner. The full win-win (-win) scenario. Fans receive all content for free, clubs retain a guaranteed sponsorship income each annum and sponsors engage directly with their target market.
So what does the sponsor get in return for this investment? At the very least, key touch points that include:
Logo within control bars, allowing for a strong brand experience
Branding takeover of player elements
Watermarking of branded content
Bumper content – Append each video with a short 2/3 second sting
Sponsored content – TV content made to grant exposure to the sponsor
The key concept behind this is model – the sponsor’s impact should be as unobtrusive as possible within the viewing experience. By keeping the sponsorship level to a branded player it allows a fan blanket access to all content, without being pestered with 20-second-long adverts before each video. This engages the sponsor and the fan in a positive manner.
Content can be segmented into different content groups for sponsors to purchase support for. For example match highlights brought to you by Sponsor X, Live audio commentary brought to you by Sponsor Y. In this way the club partnerships and commercial teams can begin to package video inventory in the same manner as more traditional advertising board or shirt sponsorship sales are arranged. The only challenge being quantifying the value to a sponsor, with the likely scenario being looping this inventory into an existing deal as opposed to bringing on board a new partner.
Sponsors are key partners of any football club and video is the most engaging piece of digital content on offer, these two should simply go hand in hand.
The age old battle of media officer vs commercial director… “Why not just deliver video for free?”. As monetisation goes this isn’t a completely farfetched concept. If free video aligns with the core business goals and serves to benefit the business as a whole, for example, if content is utilised to up-sell shirts, season tickets, hospitality packages in an unobtrusive fashion, then why not? Video still has a tangible return for the club whilst also serving some of the more important business goals -bums on seats, hospitality and merchandising to name a subset.
The only downside to this model is quantifying said value. How can you be sure the content is engaging with the fans in the correct way and leading to up-sell within other business sectors? It’s within the same vein of placing a monetary value on a Twitter or Facebook follower. Not easy.
There is no blanket answer to successfully monetising content. There are numerous crucial factors in play such as; is the content unique enough? Is enough content being produced to justify the product? There is solid quantifiable data that football webTV revenue can be generated from subscription revenue and ad revenue, but not much else. The tried and true work, but without granting the more innovative models, wings, how can we be sure they can’t fly?
Hybridisation of monetisation methods is a good starting point. Offer a range of models. For example; perhaps live content is Pay Per View (PPV), a key sponsor takes on the mantle of support for highlights packages, and all other content if supplemental by internal up-sell advertising.
In short, there are numerous ways to generate revenue from live and video-on-demand content, but there is no one size fits all model. In some eyes, fan engagement is key, in others revenue comes first. In reality, the two should co-exist and feed each other’s goals. Let the ongoing battle between the creative and the commercial continue.
If you would like advice on monetising your online video content, then get in touch with StreamAMG to see how we can help. Working with many of Europe’s top club sides, we are helping teams like yours to get the most out of their online video.