Media Rights, Tennis, Europe, Global

Five lessons for OTT success from the ATP

Two Circles chairman Matt Rogan shares his thoughts on what the over-the-top (OTT) sector can learn from the ATP's development of Tennis TV.

by Matt Rogan
Five lessons for OTT success from the ATP

Those of you who follow me on social media know well – probably a bit too well – that tennis plays a massive role in my life, both playing and watching.

So with winter fast approaching in London and the tennis season coming to a close, it’s always exciting when the ATP World Tour comes to town for its annual season-ender at the O2 Arena.

This year’s ATP Finals isn’t just big for fervent tennis fans – it is, after all, one of the best live sports experiences in the UK – but it’s a significant milestone for ATP Media, the broadcast arm of the ATP World Tour, and its over-the-top (OTT) platform Tennis TV.

Like many leading rights-owners, ATP Media has grown its OTT capabilities to supplement broadcast partnerships, offering hardcore fans an additional way of getting their tennis fix as changing technology makes it easier to serve content directly through a range of platforms.

Roger Federer prepares to enter the court at the O2 Arena during the 2018 ATP Tour Finals

It’s been a season of successes, Tennis TV winning awards for its blend of data analytics and a compelling, completely revamped digital platform – while the platform is on track for double-digit subscriber growth, globally, for the second consecutive year.

OTT has seen some of the biggest sports industry strides in 2018. In fact this year could be seen in the history books as the year that sports OTT businesses started to reap the fruits of their investment, understanding the role OTT plays within their content distribution mix.

Two Circles is fortunate to support a few different OTT businesses – including Tennis TV, for whom we’ve been helping ATP Media use insight on the demographics, attitudes and behaviours of subscribers to underpin commercial decision-making for just under four years – and have pulled out five insights into what has driven sport’s OTT’s successes in 2018.

1. One size doesn’t fit all

The broadcast market is changing at pace. Just like the other major rights-owners including the National Football League (NFL) and Formula One, ATP Media understands how an OTT play fits into its overall portfolio strategy for broadcast. It’s important not to be afraid to test and iterate as the new era of broadcasting evolves. Every rights-owner is different – and therefore so is the answer as to how to best monetise compelling content.

2. Driving growth is both science and art

The most fundamental need of an OTT business is to manage churn, and avoid becoming a leaky bucket. Consumption data shows how viewers are both using, and not using, a product. Knowing what content a subscriber has access to but isn’t watching, and devices they can access the OTT platform on but aren’t, is vital in encouraging them to access the full subscription offering. This empirical approach sits alongside a need to understand how and why we buy - itself a blend of psychology, sociology and economics. Science predicts behaviour, art enables us to influence it.

The ATP Finals Pass OTT product enables fans to watch the season-ending climax in a one-off subscription at a relatively low price point

3. Live is premium

Sports OTT platforms are different from on-demand platforms like Netflix – their value is mostly in live coverage. Rights-owners have signposted their live action to subscribers via personalised communications such as push notifications and emails to help fans make sure they don’t miss the key content they’re paying for, and enabled them to get full value from a subscription.

4. Creating the products fans want

Today’s fan wants sport delivered to them in a way that suits them, and at a price point they feel is acceptable. OTT providers can find out what products they should offer by asking current and potential subscribers directly, and monitoring consumption. The ‘ATP Finals Pass’ – enabling fans to watch the season-ending climax in a one-off subscription at a relatively low price point – was developed in exactly this way.

5. Equipping editorial with data-driven insight

Engagement metrics that show how successful content is or isn’t performing are hugely important for editors to understand what content types and angles work and don’t work. Data is helping them fail fast, and produce more of the content that their fans want to consume, and therefore OTT platforms sports fans want to pay for.