To say it’s a surreal time in the sports world is an understatement. With the majority of sports cancelled or on hiatus for the foreseeable future, it’s uncharted territory for owners, leagues, players, broadcasters and especially fans.

Jed Corenthal

Jed Corenthal

The 2020 NFL Draft on April 23 is no exception to this new reality, and the league has needed to make drastic changes. Moving from glitzy Las Vegas to a remote TV studio without eager, excited fans — not to mention without the NFL hopefuls who have been anticipating the moment when their name is called out and they shake hands with the commissioner — will reshape how we watch and consume sports in this new environment.

The draft is expected to have a surge of sports-deprived fans tuning in live, as it’s one of the only sports-related events yet to be canceled. The technology providers livestreaming the event need to deliver a seamless, synchronized and latency-free real-time viewing experience, or they will see a flood of complaints across social media.

The platforms that are able to deliver a topnotch experience will not only win over fans, but will also have a plethora of new opportunities to increase the bottom line.

Hurdles to Clear

The live streaming of sporting events is too often associated with latency and a lack of bandwidth to support large audiences due to inadequate tech solutions. Viewers who live-stream sports have come to expect to see a tweet about a touchdown before it actually plays out on their own screen.

During this year’s Super Bowl, fans streaming online experienced delays anywhere from 45 seconds to 55 seconds, leaving many viewers frustrated as big moments were spoiled. Now imagine how severe these delays can be when the NFL must integrate live video from all 32 team headquarters for the draft. If the streaming tech isn’t up to par and the stream is delayed, fans will miss the exact moment when their team’s pick is revealed and draftees will miss the exciting moment they have always waited for when their name is called by the commissioner.

Ahead of a sporting event that is an integral part of the NFL tradition and prides itself in creating major lifetime moments, it’s vital for streaming services to find this tech sweet spot and ensure they’re able to minimize delays and support an influx of online viewers simultaneously. Otherwise, the NFL will find itself with a massive group of frustrated sports fans.

There is an especially big opportunity this year for live-streaming providers to deliver more than just a real-time experience. Platforms must rethink what it means to “watch” sports in an environment where fans will be watching alone and integrate further opportunities for interactivity, which will drive engagement.

In order to improve the viewing experience and keep fans engaged for longer periods, providers should integrate interactive features and tools to reshape that experience — taking it from just one viewer sitting at home alone to others across the country in real time. This can be done through features such as live chats, in which fans can share their thoughts on a particular team’s draft pick, or live polls via social media to ask viewers to predict who the next player selected will be.

Integrating interactive features into realtime live streaming heightens the social aspect and makes watching much more enjoyable as viewers can share the moment with others remotely — call it the “social living room.” But this is only possible if streaming technology is delivered in real time and in sync so everyone can watch at the same time. If a viewer in New York is 15 seconds ahead of their friend in Kansas City, that could be all the time needed to spoil who the Giants will be taking during the first round.

Better Streaming, More Revenue

By 2024, it’s expected that 91 million consumers will use live video streaming, giving brands and advertisers a newer way to reach their audience as well as creating a massive opportunity for them to increase revenue through better streaming technology.

As more viewers cut the cord and move to streaming platforms to watch sporting events, the opportunities continue to grow for providers. Yet the increased revenue potential can only be achieved by consistently providing an ability to successfully deliver top-notch, interactive, real-time streaming experiences. The live stream of this year’s NFL draft, which is expected to garner a huge audience, is an opportune chance for providers to capitalize on this.

Brands must prioritize their streaming solutions to ensure they are not only latency-free, but also engaging and interactive viewing experiences for fans. Those able to do this will be able to increase their bottom line and move into the next threshold of sports entertainment.

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