Opportunity abounds for rights holders and distributors as the rule book is still being written

Posted by in Digital, Entertainment, eSports, Media, Tim Palmer

Media, entertainment and sports rights holders are in the middle of one of the most transformational periods in history and, with the rule book being rewritten in real time, digital opportunities are rife for those that get it right, says SRi’s head of media and entertainment Tim Palmer.

Media, entertainment and sports content owners and distributors are fully embracing the digital revolution, having acknowledged the change to their business models and are basking in the glow of the new climate that promises a wealth of opportunities that those in previous eras could never even have dreamed of.

It is worth remembering that we’ve been living in the digital era for some time now; Apple has been monetising digital content for over 15 years, and tech giants such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter have all celebrated their tenth birthdays.

What should excite content owners is that in this fast maturing digital age there is no set rule book, as it’s still being written and the future is very bright indeed. With the right team in place, rights holders can tap into digital to build astronomically high levels of brand loyalty and collect a mountain of customer data.

The current state of play for rights holders and distributors has been shaped largely by the journey the music industry went on in the first decade of the 21st century. Where once the music industry was more reliant on partners for its sales and distribution models, that mould was shattered by the likes of Napster, but now, by driving its own content strategy it hasn’t looked back since.

Sport is taking its cues from the entertainment industry pioneers who showed what could be done in terms of content in the digital era. Now top football clubs are understanding that they boast a wealth of content at their disposal, and the power of that content must be harnessed to drive ticket and merchandise sales, create partnerships, and collect vast swathes of priceless data about their consumers.

shutterstock_295115348 - smallThe entertainment industry is also looking at sport and applying lessons to their strategies, but as content ownership, especially within music, isn’t potentially as cut and dry as sport, there are a separate set of challenges to meet and opportunities to grasp.

Yet many questions remain for rights holders across the media and entertainment spectrum about what the future holds.

The perceived value of social media for rights holders seems to change daily, with initiatives including live streaming on Youtube, Twitter and Facebook becoming the new norm for sport, having followed the entertainment industries many years’ experience in the field.

The tricky issue around content ownership on social media isn’t entirely clear yet, but rights holders need to be realistic and understand that we now exist in a world where anyone can post a Vine of a goal or concert clip in seconds of it occurring, or even broadcast their viewpoint live through Periscope.

In a bid to get out in front of the self-publishing content tide, Sky (in the UK) recently signed a deal with Twitter to post goals and highlights from their coverage of the Premier League as they happen.

It was likely evident to Sky that as Twitter was already awash with self-published content from their broadcasts, they might as well try to own it, in the hopes of maximising the benefit. Sky’s strategy is borne out of the hyper-competitive business environment for subscription services, and the deal with Twitter is just another salvo in the battle for market share.

Every rights holder wants a direct relationship with their consumers, and Sky’s deal with Twitter is a good example of embracing the current culture to reap the benefits.

Even though the current digital climate may feel difficult to keep up with at times, the future for rights holders promises to be just as exciting and revolutionary. We’re already seeing evidence of this through the likes of eSports – the booming sport where gamers go up against each other in professionally organised competitions.

Misunderstood by many, eSports is very much the vanguard of digital content for rights holders.

The revenue model for eSports is currently similar to other, less digitally-focussed businesses in that it relies on branded content, ad sales, licensing and private donations to players. However, the direct-to-consumer personal approach that eSports has thrived upon should be studied closely by rights holders of all shapes and sizes.

The number of concurrent live viewers who tune into the biggest eSports matches via Twitch is enough to make all but the biggest football leagues, Indian Premier League and major American sports weep. Over the past year various football clubs from the UK, Germany, South America and elsewhere have ‘signed’ a professional eSports FIFA player to their books in a bid to share in the spoils of a highly enthusiastic and notoriously difficult to access demographic of eSports fans.

It surely won’t be long until media and entertainment rights holders follow suit, perhaps even developing or sponsoring their own League of Legends, DOTA 2 or CS:GO teams. What better way to gain access to the largely affluent demographic of eSports enthusiasts, two-thirds of whom are 21-35 year olds.

What draws many to eSports is the wealth of authentic content available – the eSports professionals are highly accessible online and often provide daily, behind the scenes content that gamers and fans adore.

One of the big questions for rights holders is how best to monetise this content. Ensuring content pushed towards consumers is always insightful and relevant.

But digital teams shouldn’t stop looking to the future once they have refined and boosted their content output, as augmented and virtual reality have finally hit the mainstream and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The possibilities for virtual reality, in particular, are endless. Entertainment rights holders could theoretically reserve the best seat at concerts for virtual reality users, who could log in to watch the performance as if they were physically present.

Excitingly, limited stadium capacities could be a thing of the past thanks to virtual reality. Clubs might be selling hundreds of thousands of season tickets in the not too distant future, and artists could perform in front of millions of paying fans in just one evening – with data captured to boot.

The future for rights holders and distributors in the digital era is a bountiful land of opportunity, but only those with the right teams in place to reap the rewards will prosper.

Tim Palmer is head of media and entertainment at SRi, the leading executive search consultancy. Joining the company in 2016 from Universal Music Group where he was global head of talent acquisition, he has a wealth of expertise in ensuring the right teams are in place to drive businesses to success in the digital age.

To find out more about how your business can become fit for purpose in the new digital era, get in touch at tpalmer@sriexecutive.com or +44 (0)20 7092 6967.