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Streaming Media West 2019 Keynote: Sports Streaming for the Win!

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"Sports plays an outsize role in driving innovation" in the live video streaming space, explained Kiran Paranjpe, head of sports entertainment and global partnerships for Google, at the start of the second day keynote for Streaming Media West 2019. To prove that point, Paranjpe led a conversation with three major sports organizations—WWE, World Surf League, and NASCAR—doing their part to make live streamed events more engaging.

"As a consumer, you have more options than you ever had before," said Jared Smith, senior vice president of digital products for WWE. That's mostly good, but can cause confusion for the viewer. It also means sports organizations have to work to break through and build awareness. "There’s a big challenge in how do you get your content discovered."

WWE has been riding the rise of streaming to create direct relationships with fans. While the organization was once focused on its B2B relationships, it launched the WWE Network nearly six years ago and has been highly fan-focused ever since. The key trend Smith sees now is vertical integration, with organizations owning more of the fan experience, and not just creating content but also distributing it and selling directly to viewers.

With a push for international expansion, WWE is also focused on how it presents its product to consumers in foreign countries. Different content performs better in different countries, and the organization is learning how to tailor what it presents. "We’ve done a good job of getting global reach," Smith said. "I think there’s more we can do in localize that reach in key markets."

"We've recently started thinking about how our live stream diverges from the clips VOD form," said Rich Robinson, senior vice president of digital for the World Surf League. The challenge is to create opportunities where people need to tune in at that moment. On the technical side, that means exploring low-latency streaming solutions.

Weather is a constant challenge for the World Surf League, and whether or not to go live is a daily decision. Established fans understand that and know they need to keep an eye out for coverage, but the organization needs to guide new fans as it expands.

For NASCAR, the streaming revolution has been all about getting the fan even closer to the track experience and providing access that tadeonal TV can’t match, explained Brendan Reiley, director of revenue operations for NASCAR Digital Media. The organization’s NASCAR Drive offering, for example, puts cameras in the cars with top drivers, letting fans see exactly what the pros are seeing. "NASCAR races are crazy, right?" Reiley asked. He believes AR and VR will be important in creating new experiences in the future. "We measure success by feedback, by seeing our fans grow and our revenue."

[Photo (left to right): Brendan Reiley, Rich Robinson, Jared Smith, Kiran Piranjpe. Photo by Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen.]

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