During the second Nextv Sport Latin America’s virtual edition, Jaime Parada, General Manager at Win Sports, reported that Win Sports Online, the company’s OTT, is featuring 70% more sales compared to 2019, and expects to quadruple its sales and number of active subscribers regarding that year. Parada was one of the speakers that participated in the ‘Footbol Networks and the new pay TV business: from sports TV networks to D2C’, together with Hernan Chiofalo, Commercial Manager at TyC Sports; Andres Nieto, Director at Claro Sports Latin America; Leandro Lagos, Director at Tigo Sports Costa Rica; and Sofia Regojo, Senior Vice President of Global Sales, Media & Telecom at Kaltura.
When asked about the evolution of Win Sports as a pay TV channel and as a D2C OTT, Parada informed that ‘today, we have three integrated worlds: the pay TV channel; the premium channel (Win Sports+), which we launched in January 2020; and, for six or seven years, we have developed our OTT (Win Sports Online) platform, which acquired greater relevance as a result of the launch of the premium channel, and distributes the two channels direct to the consumer’. The executive added that ‘in Colombia, the OTT takes on a very important value, because there may be more than 200 or 300 cable operators in the country, but only six operators offer premium channels in their grids, which are the six largest. For a person to enjoy football in Colombia, taking into account that the matches are available on the premium channel, the possible options are to hire a cable operator, or access the OTT platform. This meant a great growth in the platform, to the point that today we are making 70% more sales than in all of 2019, with the expectation of quadrupling sales and the number of active subscribers of that year’. Parada also emphasized the immediacy that Win Sports Online provides, taking into account the preference of its customers to watch matches at the time they are played. ‘In terms of sales, the OTT ranks second. For us, the TV market continues to be very important, which has also had a very large growth. We have already managed to pass by quite a margin the number of subscribers that other premium channels have achieved in 20 years’, he concluded.
Later, Lagos gave details on how the development of Tigo Sports Costa Rica has been as a pay TV channel and as an app, and assured that ‘in 2018 we developed the idea of launching Tigo Sports Costa Rica, as part of the regional strategy of having a cable channel 100% focused on sports, with live sports and, automatically, due to the direct need for distribution, greater audience and greater proximity, we launched Tigo Sports App, which has a very solid and fast growth, where we offer local and relevant content, beyond football, and not only towards our client’s homes, but also to the different devices that allow them to enjoy this content from anywhere, at any time and at the time they feel comfortable’, said the executive , who later added that Tigo Sports App ‘was born from a need for differentiation, to bring added value to Tigo’s client, and, as a result of this situation, we made the decision to look more to reach, more distribution, and bring local sport closer. For some time now, we are every day trying to think how we make more and better quality content, and also understanding what the new audience is looking for, how to captivate them and how to make them consume our products’.
Chiofalo gave his point of view regarding the sense that TyC Sports has its own app, taking into account that in general they are integrated into platforms and apps of other operators. ‘Our strategy is based on being always available, and as close as possible to where our audience and the fans of the sports we broadcast are located’. The executive also said that they consider it ‘important’ to develop their own apps, to make them available on both Android and iOS. ‘For us, second screens are as or more important than the main screen’, he said. Later, he assured that TyC has ‘many sports rights and, many times, the programming area must decide which one to use and which one not, or choose for the best content on the main screen. That is where apps allow us to make all the rest of the rights available to the entire audience, so that everyone can follow their favorite team. That is one of the advantages that apps give, and that is why we use it at TyC Sports’.
Regarding how Claro Sports is deploying this new stage of direct-to-consumer distribution integrated into Smart TVs and integrated into other OTTs, Nieto reported that ‘we started with a linear TV channel, and then with an application, which is currently the most important in Mexico in sporting terms, and in Colombia it will be soon. At one point, when we began to negotiate for different events, we decided to make them available on cell phones. The cell phone has worked very well for us, but sports are watched on the big screen. We will not stop consuming sports there. So, we started negotiating with screen brands (smart TVs) to integrate ourselves with them. This is a change that we are implementing, especially considering that sometimes the number of events we have is so great that we do not know where to distribute them. That is where a revolution converges in terms of content, which, for some reason, cannot be distributed in a single way, or something happens, as it happened to all of us. At one point the market was paralyzed and soon we will have a huge load of events. That is where apps work, to make available the events that people want, and to become multisport. We know that football is very important, but there are also other sports where we can build audiences, and where those young audiences, perhaps, are interested. The app invites consumers to watch what they want to watch’, said the executive. In addition, he assured that distribution through smart TVs and integration in other OTTs ‘has grown exponentially, to the extent that this is an additional service that is available on smart TVs and allows the audience to choose what to watch. The central challenge is in how we partner ourselves with the smart TV brand and how we seduce with the brand so that people choose our content and, when they turn on the TV, our content is first than others’.
Regarding how Kaltura is working with sports channels and how they can increase distribution, reach and audiences through cloud TV, Regojo stated that ‘what Kaltura is trying to do is to be able to provide the video distribution platform, be it an OTT or a cloud TV, which allows to practice the business model of each one’. The executive assured that ‘all business models are different, and they follow the marketing strategy of each of the operators, but we try to allow them to have the platform that allows them to choose the appropriate business model’. Likewise, regarding how to increase reach and audiences, Regojo stated that ‘when we talk about OTT, we are talking about a younger audience, which will be more available and will adapt itself to certain features, but, for example, we will continue to watch football matches on TV’.
The executive also gave her point of view regarding the differences between an OTT and a cloud TV platform in terms of broadcasting capacity, and assured that ‘the difference is not so much in the platform, be it OTT or cloud TV. I would say that the big difference is in the video distribution: if it is done online (internet) or if it is done over fiber. Fiber is clearly more resilient than the internet. The best way to prevent eventual problems is precisely prevention and preparation. For example, if the operator knows that it will broadcast an important match or prevents that there will be many people connected to the platform, it is important to be sure that it can be supported, and to provide an additional buffer. At Kaltura, our platforms are all supported under the cloud model (SaaS service), and that allows us to easily attack these types of situations, because, being linked to a public cloud, we can grow and decrease quickly, according to the need that we could have. Either way, preparation is always necessary. There may be problems, but the preparation for the matches is key’, she said.
Nieto also expressed himself on the decision to keep channels in an OTT app or bund the content with another model, and stated that ‘it depends on the app and who it is delivered to. Offering channels into a bundle can work for multi-events, but it always depends on how it is negotiated. Dynamics have changed and, if the decision is to bundle, it depends on how it is negotiated, to whom the apps are delivered and what is the diffusion strategy’, he concluded.
Regarding the possibility of creating specific second-league platforms for their fans to attract audiences, Chiofalo stated that ‘the possibility exists, and at TyC we have been developing them for no less than two years. Beyond the apps we already have (TyCSports.com and TyC Sports Play), today we have around seven applications, specifically for the Copa Argentina, which is one of our most important rights); Nacional B, Primera B Metropolitana, Futbol del Ascenso, Boxeo de Primera and e-sports. We try to offer each of our audiences the product they want’, he said.
Finally, regarding the future of pay TV sports channels compared to unbundling and OTT, Parada stated that he forecasts ‘one unbundling and one bundling at the same time’. According to the executive, ‘unbundling is happening much faster in the US, but not in our region. In Colombia, pay TV is growing. But this is a share of wallet, where, in Colombia, people must choose which platform to access -because they will have one or two at most-. We must attack that share of wallet, and this will affect cable operators in their TV packages. In Colombia, as sports continue to be made available on OTT platforms, there may be an unbundling on that side. I think unbundling is approaching, but not in Colombia. Yes, there are going to be people who are going to reduce their products on TV, in order to have access to other platforms, but at the same time I see possibilities to make bundles with operators. It will be very difficult to have so many standalone platforms’, the executive ended.