Industry Voices—Ring: Addicted to social media? Sports highlights in the DTC era

Watching video on smartphone
(Getty Images)
Brian Ring Industry Voices

Sports highlights long ago moved from the local TV station newscast to cable, where SportsCenter and ESPN leveled-up the concept to a clear success. Then the regional sports networks thrived on highlights fare. More recently, user-generated content and social media apps have been king as the go-to app for sports highlights viewers. And my latest #FutureOfTV survey shows they’re running away with it.

We surveyed 1,400 sports video highlights viewers and found 44% of them describe their “go-to” app for sports video highlights as a social media app. And that is up 10 points from an identical survey we ran in 2017. (The full survey and our complete archive of research reports is available for free here:

Driving tune-in and engaging fans with highlights on social media is essential. And it’s key that content is tailored for each platform which requires agility in media orchestration. But in the direct-to-consumer streaming era, is it possible to monetize highlights directly? Do we need to re-think the balance between for-free vs. for-pay? Between social media versus owned & operated platforms? Between promotion and monetization?

Netflix has shown that investments in content, technology and user experience can indeed compel people to open their wallets and pay for a service even if they might already have a substitute product.

That begs the questions:

What can rights holders – whether TV networks, leagues or pay TV providers – offer exclusively that consumers will pay for? And what can be done to invest in product, user experience and brand to build greater margin into those products via subscription tiers?

That freemium model has proven itself powerful in the direct-to-consumer streaming wars. Isn’t there room for the same “ultra-premium” value proposition in the ultimate sports app? A RedZone 2.0? A personalized SportsCenter?

In short, how can we get our kids off social media and into premium, ad-free sports apps? Mission impossible, right?

Thankfully, there’s a lot of innovation happening right now. And all of it holds the key to more video and value.

Imagine – as just one simple example – if a sports video highlights Eden was built and it was filled with clips using Intel’s True View volumetric video to reinvent the instant replay, as seen in this great TV ad.

Or note another dramatic innovation happening in a partnership between Amazon and the National Football League in which interactive replays are offered within the company’s X-Ray technology, as discussed in this recent piece in SportsPro Media. (We’ll have Blake Stuchin, VP of Digital Media Business Development at the NFL on a StreamTV Show panel in a few weeks.)

The truth is, the direct-to-consumer monetization of sports video highlights as a separate and distinct product category is something that would be difficult to construct, given the complexity of the sports rights landscape.

That said, DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket was able to assemble a unique and exclusive package of content for which millions of consumers have paid hundreds of dollars per season.

What would the ultimate sports video highlights package be worth?

The dataset in our Fall 2020 #FutureOfTV Survey suggests there are 75 million viewers actively consuming sports video highlights. Assuming a modest price of $3/month for this ultimate package of sports video highlights, the total addressable market is theoretically $2.7 billion.

Now the only question is, how do we increase not only the volume and velocity of great video content to consumers but the raw impact of it? For that, thankfully, we have 4K.

Access the full report, and more than 20 others, here:

Brian Ring is principal analyst at Ring Digital llc, a revenue growth agency that uses consumer surveys to understand viewing behaviors, inform client product strategies and execute go-to-market thought leadership for vendors serving TV providers, networks, studios and broadcasters around the world.


Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceVideo staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceVideo.