The Growing Trend Of ‘Near Live’ Sports Highlights

While there has been a notable decline in TV audiences for live sporting events in recent years, including the English Premier League, by contrast there has been a rise in popularity for “near live” highlights on social media platforms. This trend has accelerated, especially in the UK, with a deal between Sky Sports and Twitter to show soccer highlights nearly right after they happen.

Wildmoka is one such company operating within this burgeoning space. It works with broadcasters and content owners to instantly clip highlights from live sports TV and share them across the web, underpinned by automated workflow technology.

This data-driven automation has been in production for more than a year and the company is currently covering more than 500 soccer matches, which produces an average of 150 clips per match. Its most notable work to date is with beIN SPORTS, who currently own the rights to near live highlights for the top division in French football, Ligue 1. Other clients for the company include FOX Networks and the International Tennis Federation.

In an interview, Cristian Livadiotti, co-founder at Wildmoka outlined the company’s technology: “Such volume of content creation from a single match is not possible without automation. In our experiences, we also discovered that data-driven automation is not enough so we coupled it with our own real-time audio and video analysis and machine learning.”

Meanwhile, Wildmoka’s other co-founder, Thomas Menguy commented: “Clients always have manual editing options but as we advance our technologies, we think automation eventually will be the norm and not just a nice to have. Video is complex but we manage to make it fun.”

Regarding the wider trend of near live highlights packages, Livadiotti outlined: “It is driven by increasing mobile and social video consumption, viewership has been migrating for a while to non-linear and short-form video.”

While being able to handle a large volume of content is critical for companies like Wildmoka, broadcasters and rightsholders also need their highlights to be delivered as quickly as possible, as explained by Livadiotti.

“Today’s digital video consumers use their mobile devices for video and may watch highlights more often than a full show or sports match. This is why speed is critical. If you are unable to almost automatically deliver highlights from breaking news or sports events, you risk your content never being seen.  Even worse, loyalty of viewers on digital will instantly shift towards competitors who deliver content faster,” according to Livadiotti.

In his view, reach, mixed with personalisation, are two critical components of near live highlights also, especially as not every fan will tune into a TV to catch the action. “Digital video is a highly personalized experience, we’ve learned consumers expect to receive the best content, quickly, for their ultimate fan experience. We give clients the power to do just this, and they love it because they reach fans that may never tune in on TV.  More fans equals more loyalty and more revenue,” according to Livadiotti.

Automation technology will be critical to both Wildmoka’s future and the sports industry for near live highlights.

Livadiotti commented: It is a huge value proposition on several fronts.”

“Digital being more fragmented, it requires more volume by nature. There is plenty of room to improve workflow efficiency in the business of live video production. By using next-gen technologies like speech-to-text, video recognition and machine learning, we allow editorial teams to focus on what content to publish and how to best tell the story on each targeted platform.”

Overall, this automated approach, means less editorial energy and money is spent on the time-consuming manual process of clipping, editing and publishing. Which will also enable editors to focus their time on refining their content and storytelling.

The company, which launched in 2013, is headquartered in France, with offices in four other countries, was founded by Livadiotti and Menguy. However, the two have a long history and worked together for over 15 years, in a mobile operating system company that was acquired by Alcatel-Lucent, a large communications company.

“We have been working together for more than 15 years, and probably have spent more time together than with our families”, according to Livadiotti.

While near live highlights have taken off, there are some differences in focus for rights holders and broadcasters according to Livadiotti. He said:  “We have clients who use and monetize content differently. In the US, most clients sell advertising around their near live video clips. In Europe, near-live highlight packages are offered as add-on subscriptions to live streaming apps or over-the-top (OTT) services.”

When asked where near live highlights can go next, Livadiotti feels that “non-tier one sports”, such as the Olympic sports, “have die-hard followers with pent-up demand.”

“These are sports you rarely see on TV yet thanks to emerging technology like ours, this segment should see strong growth,” he detailed.  “They may not deliver similar revenue to tier one sports but they may not have to either. It costs millions to produce live TV sports but only a fraction of that cost to create live digital highlights. At Wildmoka, we can and do work with both segments.”

“We also believe digital will help rights owners expand and carve out rights deals more, giving access to a broader set of customers. Media companies and telcos have always been at the forefront of rights deals but we expect brands, who crave such content, to become players here too.”

“Monolithic, exclusive rights contracts are no longer the norm and automation will be a big driver of this trend, if not soon a requirement,” Livadiotti concluded.

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