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This blog is the first in a two-part series on how direct-to-consumer streaming is reshaping the media landscape. Read part two here.

The streaming landscape is rapidly evolving. Affordable technology is enabling media companies to launch direct-to-consumer (D2C) services, reshaping the sports TV market. While tech giants like Apple, Amazon, and Google are investing heavily to compete with established players, sports leagues and organizations are better equipped than ever to embrace D2C. From the consumer perspective, streaming is surpassing broadcast in terms of viewer experience and becoming a ‘go-to’ option. In a fiercely competitive sports streaming market, it’s all to play for — and the right long-term business strategy is essential.

Experimentation era

Streaming services and broadcasters are currently experimenting with the distribution of rights and content. The market is more fragmented than ever, with players like YouTube, Amazon, CBS, ESPN, NBC, FOX, Peacock, and Apple all owning rights to various properties. Sports fans now need multiple subscriptions to watch all their favorite teams’ games, increasing costs and complexity for consumers. While larger sports organizations may benefit from a broad rights strategy, more niche sports are exploring alternative options.

Peacock’s WWE offering consolidates content in one place at a lower price, providing fans with a one-stop shop for key live events. Meanwhile, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) utilizes advanced streaming technology to broadcast over 2,000 games per season with mainstream-level quality to underserved hockey audiences. Regional sports networks (RSNs) can also benefit by broadcasting more games, maximizing their rights investments, or showcasing niche sports to dedicated audiences for the first time. 

Technology to fuel new monetization strategies

Rights buyers need to build a compelling business case to justify long-term rights deals. Rationalizing streaming technology and driving cost- and operational efficiencies are key to freeing up resources for content investment. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all model for sports streaming. Along with subscriptions, ad-supported models are gaining momentum and provide more accessible price points for fans. Meanwhile, others may be happy to pay extra for 4K UHD video or Dolby Atmos. Free ad-supported TV (FAST) allows rights-holders to create linear channels and syndicate content via streaming distributors, generating new revenues from advertising.

Launching successful D2C offerings requires flexibility and complex technology, especially at scale. Millions of concurrent viewers can be divided into premium, standard, or hybrid subscriptions with ads, each watching on different devices like CTV or mobile. Ensuring optimal quality based on device, location, and bandwidth is crucial. While it sounds like a daunting challenge, the technology is now mature. Experienced vendors are reducing the cost and complexity of setting up and managing events. Today, a team of fewer than ten people can handle what used to require a hundred, making 2023 the perfect time to launch or re-imagine a D2C sports service.

Uplynk provides a simplified and scalable workflow to power your streaming business

We offer a trusted, flexible solution that reduces complexity and helps media companies bring services to market quickly and cost-efficiently – empowering brands to focus on their business differentiators, audience growth and content strategies. Uplynk provides the key foundation to stream the highest quality linear, live and on-demand video experiences to any global viewer, while harnessing any monetization strategy and scaling with minimal resource. Uplynk has handled hundreds of thousands of live events, and in 2022 alone generated 2.4 billion event views, 3.3 billion hours of streamed video, and 220 million hours of advertising.