TiVo Exec: Metadata Can Help Overcome Major ‘Pain Point’ Around TV Sports

Rich, real-time sports metadata can be used to overcome a challenge that continues to face sports on TV — whether it’s live sports events airing via traditional linear TV or even on over-the-top (OTT) services, according to Kyle Smetanka, senior product manager of metadata at TiVo.

One of the “pain points” that’s common when it comes to TV sports is the fact that “sports discovery experiences consistently lag behind” those of movies and TV, he said Oct. 4 during a webinar on “Positioning Sports in the Future of Pay-TV.”

Thirty-four percent of the people who participated in a recent survey conducted by TiVo said they were “always” or “sometimes” frustrated when trying to find their favorite teams on TV or sports events in general, he said. One major issue cited by survey respondents was that their TV platforms and DVRs couldn’t keep up with schedule changes or if games went on longer than expected, he said.

But sports metadata such as what TiVo offers can solve such issues and drive fans to games, as well as “create compelling and personalized sports discovery experiences” that boost consumption, he said. TiVo Sports Metadata covers more than 60,000 of the most popular sports events, covering more than 80 sports in 190 countries and providing “up-to-the-minute” information, he said.

Earlier on the webcast, Brett Sappington, senior research director at Parks Associates, said: “Sports and television have a really interesting, symbiotic relationship.” Sports “drives much of what goes on in the television industry, beginning with television purchasing,” he said, noting: “If you look at retail sales for televisions, those sales spike prior to major sporting events and, for many retailers, they have advertising, promotions, in-store programs related to particular events,” including the Super Bowl. Sports is also a “driver of the replacement cycle for televisions and television technologies” because consumers now “want the biggest screen, they want it in 4K, they want it crystal clear [and] they want good audio.”

Sports also “really drives live viewing,” Sappington said, adding: “It’s one of the few types of content that really is most-valued whenever it’s first broadcast. In fact, the value of television [sports] content drops off dramatically after that initial broadcast. So, there’s a real incentive among distributors to make sure that it’s widely distributed and consumed at the time of the actual event.”

Sports has also been a “significant driver” of live viewing of TV content on mobile devices because viewers want to be able to watch games wherever they are, on whatever device is available, Sappington said.

In general, the highest-rated and viewed TV events are sports-related, Sappington went on to say. Sports drives pay-TV subscriptions because it’s “one of the few types of content that consumers are willing to pay for,” he said. However, sports channels didn’t hold as much appeal as local broadcast channels, information or education channels, general entertainment channels, news channels, special interest channels and premium movie channels when Parks Associates polled U.S. pay-TV subscribers about what channels they found most appealing when included in their channel packages, he said.

Sports channels, however, were cited by U.S. pay-TV subscribers as the second-most difficult kind of channel to give up, behind only local broadcast channels. Also, about 70% of those who had premium sports packages used those channels weekly, while 35% used them daily, he said.

Sports is also one of the few types of content that “drives federal regulations” about accessibility, especially outside the U.S., Sappington said. He predicted there will be growing “fragmentation” of sports licensing and that eSports will become increasingly popular.

Other trends today include regional sports networks (RSNs) disrupting the pay-TV channel package due to their high cost, the rise of direct-to-consumer over-the-top (OTT) services, and online/social media players including Amazon and Twitter starting to bid for sports rights. Of the latter, Sappington said, if those companies are successful, that could shift more advertising dollars away from traditional TV.

During the webinar’s Q&A, Smetanka was the only one of the speakers who predicted that Netflix will jump onto the sports bandwagon, although not “anytime in the near future.”

Also on the webinar, Min Kim, VP of business development at FuboTV, said his company’s sports-focused streaming service will be “coming soon” across multiple smart TV platforms and videogame consoles. The company is also “closely looking at” voice assistance platforms including Amazon Alexa and virtual reality (VR) platforms including Oculus VR, he said.