What does the future hold for OTT live sports streaming?


By Simon Trudelle, Senior Director Product Marketing, NAGRA

OTT streaming infrastructures have drastically democratised how consumers access live sports content. And this is driving a rapid evolution in consumption habits and expectations.

So what can we expect from the future of premium live sports streaming?

First, it’s important to set a caveat; the vast majority of live sports content is still distributed via linear broadcast, cable and telecoms networks.

And while in advanced TV markets like Europe, the usage of operator multiscreen services is growing every year (especially for sports events watched outside the home), the OTT sports subscription market remains modest. 

But with over 2 billion users accessing Facebook or YouTube around the world, it’s only a matter of time before OTT live sports streaming really takes off everywhere.

While still a relatively small part of rights owners and service providers’ revenue models, consumer demand for streamed sports content is continuing to grow.

Global players like Amazon are noticing, having secured distribution rights for the English Premier League in the 2019/20 season. Operators and broadcasters are also making significant investments to get access to the distribution rights across platforms.

NBC, for example, paid an estimated $963 million to do so for the 2018 Winter Olympics, ensuring it would be the first games with primetime coverage across broadcast, cable and live stream services. In fact, it offered 1,800 hours of live streamed content for subscribers.  And with the recent FIFA World Cup breaking new records for concurrent digital streams, we can expect this shift to only go in one direction.

But despite the opportunities new broadband network, low-latency CDN and device technology create to drive live sports streaming adoption and revenue generation, it also opens the door to piracy.

We already know that piracy is no longer the low-rent offerings of years gone by – today ‘commercial piracy’ offers a high-quality, almost professional-grade experience at a low cost. And the piracy ecosystem will continue to evolve.

The key to fighting it will be through content protection and anti-piracy technologies and services, including forensic watermarking to track the source of leaks and take action against illegal streamers.

We’re already seeing the sports leagues themselves taking control of the problem, with the Deutsche Fußball Liga selecting NAGRA solutions to protect itself against pirates.

But it’s not just technology that will help to reconcile these problems. By being actively involved in organisations and standards in partnership with operators and technology vendors – as Hollywood studios have done with MovieLabs – sports rights owners can ensure everything possible is being done to protect their valuable assets.

With the new season underway, it may feel as though the future of live sports content access is already here. But it will only have a future if rights holders, operators and distributors alike can work together to protect its value.


Meet with us at SPORTEL Monaco – stand A29 – to find out how NAGRA can manage, disrupt and fight piracy at its source.