Housebuilding. It takes a lot of effort, but the process is simple enough. Buy land; build house; sell to new homeowner. “Location, location, location” is how you decide where to build and how to buy. But with many houses to choose from, it’s what’s inside when you view the property that makes or breaks the deal.

To explain this analogy [thank God for that – Ed], this is how MTM Sport currently thinks about sports content. We work with broadcasters to decide where to build (rights valuation), how to construct the house (content brand development), and sell the property (consumer strategy), but we are increasingly looking at interior decoration (sports production).

Like housebuilding, creating winning sports content properties is an expensive and high stakes business. However, this final piece, fitting out the house with innovative-but-reliable features, rarely gets the attention it deserves. Sports TV production is often ignored but is a crucial part of the industry.

Overall, the sector in the UK seems healthy; IMG, sit proudly atop Televisual’s Production 100 league table, while Sunset+Vine, another dedicated sports producer, also make the top 10. Further down, smaller companies, Whisper Films for example, are forging a strong reputation in the sports world. The foundations seem healthy, but what does the surveyor think? [Stop it now – Ed]

At MTM Sport’s recent London seminar for sports production executives, we identified three significant challenges facing sports production businesses in the short to medium term.

Navigating the evolving rights landscape

For now the value of most major sports rights continues to rise, with new tech sector entrants challenging traditional broadcast incumbents in auctions. New sports are also enjoying greater exposure thanks to lower barriers to entry. Some smaller sports can reach a wider audience as they can be filmed with two or three fixed unmanned cameras and streamed over IP – this is the cornerstone of the BBC’s 1,000 hours initiative.

While this creates more opportunities for producers to add real value thanks to their wider sports expertise, this self-serve model could also disintermediate producers.

Esports also looms large – it is not clear yet whether sports gaming needs broadcast to grow, but the possibility that it might is colouring the industry’s thinking.

Innovating through new technology

On a like-for-like basis, the cost of producing and distributing sports content is falling. As distribution moves more towards the cloud, producers may have to find revenue and margin elsewhere.

More emphasis is therefore being placed on innovation, not least as a way of retaining large contracts in a competitive landscape. Sports fans are now seeking a richer experience; while live coverage remains core to this, they expect a deeper view into the sports world. This could be technological, for example through VR / AR experiences and data overlays, or through topics covered, such as fan culture and undiscovered stories.

However, offering the right kind of innovation – ideas that will genuinely enhance and complement the viewing experience – is paramount. As one rights holder recently told me, “every production proposal I see at the moment has bloody drones in it”.

Developing new types of content

Viewers are now consuming a greater range of content types around core products. For a long time already, fans have had access to a constant stream of sports news and action outside of the main playing window, but still new formats are emerging.

It is unlikely that one-off specials such as Amazon Prime’s Manchester City FC documentary series All or Nothing represent a sustainable model, but other new shoulder content opportunities will emerge, especially as more rights owners develop proprietary OTT products.

In summary, the watch word is innovation, adopting new ways of meeting demand that maintain competitive advantage. If producers harness that successfully – to return to the housebuilding analogy – they will continue to attract new buyers.

MTM Sport is our new dedicated arm for the sports industry. We take the best of MTM London – research and strategy skillsets, years of experience in the media and tech sectors, and an existing track record in sports – and combine it with the knowledge and passion of our sport experts to deliver commercial growth in fast-moving, digitally-driven sports markets.

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