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SANZAAR are the Blockbuster Video of the sporting world

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Roar Guru
21st February, 2021
32

There was a time when the blue and yellow Blockbuster Video logo was a common sight in neighbourhoods all over, but the company’s refusal and inability to innovate saw them fall from market leader to a business school case study on how to screw it up.

As a new season of Super Rugby kicks off there has been lots to cheer about, but one aspect that has been frustrating for many has been the latest evidence of how SANZAAR’s Blockbuster-esque ineptitude leading this competition.

Stan Sport have received plenty of positive feedback from their first weekend of Super Rugby AU coverage, and you might think that all is well in the broadcast world of the competition. Sadly that’s not the case.

Beyond some domestic teething issues with pubs for example, overseas there are fans in Asia, Europe and the USA who are currently unable to watch Super Rugby – fans who not only want to see this great advert for Australian rugby but who are also ready, willing and able to pay for the opportunity.

Kyle Godwin of the Western Force runs with the ball

Kyle Godwin. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

There has been plenty of discussion from SANZAAR about how the COVID pandemic has slowed down negotiations with broadcasters around the world. That might well be true, but that’s not the point. The bigger question is why SANZAAR is relying upon this style of media distribution anyway.

Over the past few years the growth of online entertainment streaming platforms has been evident for all to see, especially in the sporting sector.

Unsurprisingly, the American major sports all have their own streaming platforms fans can subscribe to from almost anywhere in the world to access live games, replays and complementary shows. These have existed for years – I subscribed to the MLB TV platform 15 years ago.

Don’t think that it’s only the big players of the USA market that are doing this though. Leagues and clubs all over the world are taking advantage of providing fans near and far with access to live matches and content via dedicated online streaming services known as over-the-top (OTT) media services.

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La Liga – Spain’s top-flight soccer competition – has its own OTT offering that is becoming an ever more prominent part of their revenue stream. In 2020 this service generated over eight per cent of La Liga’s revenue, and the competition forecasts that will become over 20 per cent by next year.

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Closer to home, both the AFL and NRL have partnered up with Fox Sports to provide overseas fans with a subscription platform to watch games and content without needing to rely upon a local broadcaster.

Yet in the past few days, as frustrations grew from many at the lack of ability to watch the opening round of Super Rugby AU, a member of SANZAAR told The Rugby Paper that, “At present … we have no OTT (over the top) platform in place as these costs are very expensive”.

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SANZAAR has been around for over 25 years. Getting these OTT offerings right takes time, but you can’t help but feel that they’ve had plenty of that.

This is the latest example of how inept SANZAAR is at growing and promoting the game. For years the digital presence and marketing from the organisation has been average at best. Very average. From its website to its native app (or lack of one), from content to media innovation, SANZAAR have lagged behind competitions from all over the world.

Recent arguments that an OTT offering is very expensive should not be ignored – it could take a fair investment to create SANZAAR’s own streaming platform with all the security, stability and scalability it would need. But there are plenty of partners out there who would be open to a discussion about using their white-labelled platform. Perhaps they should use that sort of partnership to establish the level of demand overseas and what revenue would be reliably on offer from offering it and then decide whether it’s something that should be taken in house.

There are so many examples of how technology and sport are finding ways to collaborate to create new offerings and successful financial models. Whether it be dynamic data visualisation, bespoke viewing options or immersive experiences, there are sports that are using the richness of their underlying games and players to create ever-improving viewing for fans on a global basis.

It feels from the outside as though the SANZAAR leadership are about as comfortable with technology and innovation as the US Senate were with asking questions of Mark Zuckerberg about how Facebook works.

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“So you’re saying someone in the UK can go on the line and watch the Tahs? But how can they do that if my computer is here in Sydney?”

Stan Sport had a good first weekend and it’s great to see a step forward in the domestic market in terms of audience experience and accessibility. Rugby Australia should feel good about the deal. But if SANZAAR are unable to find innovative ways of engaging with an important overseas market and exploring new revenue generation channels, then what exactly is the point of them?