The Australian National Rugby League (NRL) has touted its ability to get closer to its fans via its Ooyala-powered content streaming platform.
Speaking at Ooyala/NRL lunch in Sydney that Fifth Quadrant attended last month, NRL Digital Technology Lead Domenic Romeo said that the NRL’s digital transformation had passed a milestone at the start of last year when broadcast rights transferred to a partnership between the ARL Commission, Nine Network, News Corp Australia, Fox Sports, and Telstra.
“NRL identified that we were a little bit disconnected, especially on the digital front, from our fans,” he said. “We saw a lot of value in delivering a product and service that we own and operate.”
Romeo said that the platform allows the NRL to take ownership of both the experience and content, allowing the NRL to get closer to its fans and understand their behaviours.
“Off the back of that there was a level of commitment to then making the technology as progressive as we could to take advantage of this,” he added. “Identifying where we could optimise our workflows and media management to produce a higher volume of content than we were able to achieve before.”
Ooyala’s partnership with the NRL formally began in 2016 when, still a subsidiary of Telstra, it began helping clubs deliver live broadcasts to their fans.
The Cronulla Sharks were the first club to livestream its broadcast to all devices and, as a result, the team saw viewership across 38 countries reach more than 30,000 fans, according to Ooyala.
NRL utilises the Ooyala Flex Media Platform, a suite of video streaming and media logistics solutions that powers the content supply chain of customers including: Audi, Chelsea FC, Dell, PGA, Starhub, Sky Sports, Turner and Telstra.
Telstra took a 98% stake in Ooyala in 2014 but wrote off its USD$313m investment in the company last year. In October 2018, Ooyala’s management announced that it had acquired Ooyala, with Telstra remaining as a “valued go-to-market partner and customer”.
In a discussion involving Romeo, Ooyala’s VP Sales Asia Pacific and Japan Patricio Cummins and representatives from the Australian media, a wide variety of topics were covered including the potential impact of 5G, the rise of AI and health of the over-the-top (OTT) media market.
Regarding the latter, Ooyala released a report last month which found that the OTT market is rising rapidly but far from reaching saturation.
Ooyala predicts that there will be 777 million video on demand subscriptions by 2023, more than double 2017’s number. Furthermore, the Disney/Fox and Comcast/Sky mergers will result in a combined spend of $43bn in new content.
“Subscription and ad-supported OTT services are steadily replacing traditional content delivery, and there’s no end to the opportunity to create connections with a global audience,” said Ooyala Principal Analyst, Jim O'Neill.
“OTT is not traditional TV. It thrives upon consumer choice, often random interaction, and the convenience of viewing when, where and on what device a consumer chooses. It thrives upon its own ability to iterate in order to respond to the changing conditions of the new TV environment.”
The report also identified several key areas of focus for content distributors as they look to attract and maintain views.
While older viewers (Boomers and the Silent Generation) are keeping broadcast TV alive, they too are starting to make the switch to OTT. Amongst adults aged 50-64, OTT viewing increased 45% between 2016 and 2017 and over adults 65+ it was up 36%.
Another trend was the rise in content creation. Turning on Netflix will reveal this, with new shows – many of them original content – arriving daily. More content means more users which means...more content. Ooyala calls this “a new media virtuous cycle.”
Ooyala says that 5G is poised to herald the dawn of a new era with some estimates predicting that video could comprise up to 90% of all 5G traffic. For OTT this means faster and smoother video delivery, more data and an overall more engaging experience for users.
Cummins noted that advent of 5G will also threaten incumbent fixed line providers.
“5G is also putting more pressure on people who thought they had a safe game because they were already inside people’s houses,” he said.
Regarding the rise of content, Romeo said that the NRL has noted a clear positive relationship between the amount of content it produces and levels of engagement.
“Being able to integrate and connect everything together has been a valuable outcome for us,” he said. “To summarise it is about being closer to our fans and owning those channels was very important to us.”