carnegieXchange: School of Sport

The Rising Star: OTT and its entry in Sports

Imagine: you are an avid Cricket fan, but also you love Liverpool FC. What do you watch when England is playing the Ashes at Headingley Stadium, and its Liverpool versus Arsenal at the same time at Anfield?


How can you keep up with both passions? With rapid advances in communication technologies and the miniaturisation of devices, second screening (see The Guardian, 2014) allows you to watch both games on your mobile phone or tablet, regardless of your own location. Importantly, second screening relies on new entrants to the sport broadcasting ecosystem: Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms. To what extent has second screening disrupted how sports fans engage with sport and with traditional TV coverage?

This blog is a collaboration between myself and one of our Sport Business Management alumni, Panos Panagiotou. His undergraduate dissertation investigated the relationship between OTT platforms and more traditional media outlets as TV and how the introduction of this new media might change our consumer practices as mediated fans (see Petersen-Wagner, 2017a; 2017b; 2018)

It is known that sports and media have an unending symbiosis (see Bellamy, 1998; 2009); media like print, radio, and television have introduced various idiosyncratic perspectives to our consumption of sports. Within this, the 1990s was an era of rapid technological advancements (see Bury & Li, 2005). More specifically, the World Wide Web created a new agent in the media industry that can cater to the lively, 24/7 non-stop sport fans: OTT platforms. Successful OTT platforms, which include names like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, are online video distributors who supply their consumers with programming content over the internet (U.S. Federal Communications Commissions, 2013).

With a global reach, OTT platforms have profoundly disrupted sports rights and the landscape of sport broadcasting. New entrants such as DAZN, Amazon Prime and the development of multi-screen friendly applications by Sky and BT Sport are only a handful of key players in the growing OTT ecosystem. Chronologically, with the introduction of multiple media, such print, radio, television and now the Internet, consumers have a wide spectrum of channels to meet their uses-and-gratifications requirements (see Rubin, 1981). 

Therefore, it is important to understand whether OTT is a replacement or a platform that coexists with the more traditional medium associated with the consumption of live sport: broadcast television. Our evidence shows how competition and coexistence do not represent a zero-sum game. Figures 1 and 2 summarises two distinct perspectives:

First, compared to the more traditional medium of television, time spent using OTT platforms has more significant positive correlations to the six motives of uses-and-gratifications (Rubin, 1981). This may arise from being accessible through a wide range of devices like tablets, laptops and mobile phones; people can consume on-the-go, including commuting time. ‘Second-screening’, which involves paying attention to and interacting with more than one screen at the same time (see The Guardian, 2014), plays a role here too. The compatibility with OTT platforms with numerous devices makes it easy to multi-task, meaning that OTT can meet consumers’ needs and further enhance the user experience and levels of satisfaction.

Second, in contrast we cannot diminish the fact that traditional broadcast television is still a key competitor. Figure 1 shows that the entertainment motive has only a weak correlation with the independent variables of “household size” (.29) and the programme type of “live games/competitions” (.29). Notwithstanding obvious technological advancements, one of the main physical features about broadcast television is that large screens can bring people together in their domestic living rooms. Gantz & Lewis (2014) argue that screen size is a major factor of in the decision of which platform to use for consuming live sport. Therefore, the correlations can be understood to be significant by highlighting the fact that screen size and the peculiar elements it offers - such as better pixilation (Ultra-HD, 4K, etc) and more immersive sound (Dolby Atmos) - can ultimately maximise the overall experience and the stimulus sensation of ‘reality’ (see Bracken, 2005; Lombard et al., 2000). As I have previously highlighted (Petersen-Wagner 2017a; 2017b; 2018), long distance – or metaphysical – fans seek to mimic the experience of direct physical presence; thus, TV continues to offer the closest replica of ‘reality’.

While these findings derive from a small sample, they nevertheless provide indications of how things are changing. What do you think? Is OTT replacing traditional broadcast TV? Can these medias coexist and become inseparable? Or, is second-screening itself an independent value added to these media?

For the full dissertation, please click here.

RPW Figure 1

Figure 1. Bivariate correlations of TV's Six Motives

Figure 2 RPW

Figure 2. Bivariate correlations of OTT’s Six Motives

Dr Renan Petersen-Wagner

Senior Lecturer / Carnegie School Of Sport

Renan is a Senior Lecturer in Sport Business and Marketing, Course Leader for MSc Strategic Sport Marketing, and Researcher in The Research Centre for Social Justice in Sport and Society.