in Sport

December 16, 2016



For years, television has been the principle and dominant mode for watching live sport out-of-venue.  However, the traditional broadcasting model of live sport attracting big audience numbers to Free-To-Air Television and Subscription Television is under pressure.  Audiences are shrinking and aging – a concerning recipe.

Social Media is the contemporary hotbed for linking friends, family, foe and celebrity.  But it isn’t just for photos, chat and funny cat videos.  It attracts mass audience engaging in conversations, sharing stories and experiences.  When you think about it, it’s a great platform to stream live sport.  Content flourishes with the instantaneous response of the fan – whether that be a simple ♥ like, a symbolic ‘thumbs-up’,  a smart-ass observation or a selfie video of an animalistic scream – just keep it all to a minimum character limit.

2016 demonstrated the potential of live sport streaming on social media.  NFL and PGA Golf on Twitter. The Olympics on Snapchat.  Football on Facebook.  In Australia, the 155 year old Melbourne Cup, was streamed live for the first time on Twitter, drawing audiences from far flung places on the globe.  In 2016, social media platforms have earned the moniker, ‘The New Broadcasters’.


Let’s start with the facts based on research undertaken by Gemba.

Less people are watching live sport on television and those remaining on the platform are from older age segments.   

Live sport streaming motivates nearly half of Australian consumers to use social media platforms (the number motivated to subscribe to Pay TV because of live sport is substantially less).   

Sports could be missing out on a generation of fans if they aren’t casting on the platforms younger consumers use most.  

The evidence is compelling. Sport draws massive numbers to platforms, including television and social media.  Younger consumers, who are valuable to brands, are voting with their feet, spending a lot less time staring at The Box.  For them digital and social are the new places of choice to get their fill of conversation, news, music, entertainment and naturally, sport.  This can only mean one thing;  There are going to be more players bidding for live sports content.

But does all this mean that social media platforms will be real players in the market for live sports content?  

2016 tells us the social media has well and truly made its intention clear. NFL, NBA, PGA, The Melbourne Cup… Premium events.  Formal contracts to stream on social media.  Wimbledon trialed social media in 2016. Expect a formal roll out in 2017.  The numbers of ‘viewers’ on these platforms are growing.


Can social media acquire users through the acquisition of live sports content? 

You bet they can.  Younger consumers love social media.  Television audiences are aging.  Less and less will the audiences overlap.  Importantly for the social media platforms, live sport is also a means to retain existing customers, for longer.  Bringing more eyeballs!

Who wins with social media platforms being active in the bidding for live sports content?  

Well obviously the social media platforms can win.  They can acquire new users whilst rewarding the existing base.  Their model also allows for targeted advertising to drive higher yields.  It follows that television can also win.  The audience profile for television is becoming clearer.  It still has mass reach and appeal.  Targeted advertising can drive the yield it yearns from a mature product.

Of course, the sports themselves can emerge victorious from this too.  Sport remains incredibly valuable to consumers and the platforms that broadcast it.  Meeting the viewership preferences of a range of consumer segments, especially the younger cohort, can future-proof the recruitment of the next generation of fans.  The audiences aligning to specific platforms will be clear, creating value for the media rights themselves.  Call it CALCULATED FRAGMENTATION – a sport’s opportunity to undertake a deliberate strategy to use multiple ‘channels’ to increase reach whilst increasing revenue from its media rights.

Are the motivations of social media any different from traditional broadcasters when it comes to acquiring live sport content?   

Not at all.  They want eyeballs.  Retention, for longer. Resulting advertising revenue.  There’s no magic dust.




Without question, social media brings broadcast innovation with it.  It comes with a different overhead structure, different ways of telling different stories.  The commentators are the users.  They can host your programming – not an expensive ex-player.  It is borderless.  It has a ready-made, cross market, young, engaged audience attractive to brands.

Sports would be wise to take notice and embrace The New Broadcasters.

“The New Broadcasters” was the subject of Gemba’s fourth installment of our #goingtogemba series of events.  With the NFL and Twitter also contributing their perspectives, the National Broadband Network’s Discovery Centre in Sydney was an apt venue to deep dive on the present and future of live sports broadcasting.