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What National League TV says about football streaming, and what took it so long?

By Published On: February 03, 2023 - Categories: Blog Industry Insights Live Streaming Opinion OTT Sports

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As the FIFA World Cup reached the latter stages back in December, back in freezing Europe, football streaming history was being made with the 'beta' launch of England's National League live streaming service, National League TV (nationalleaguetv.com).

Months in the planning, from Aldershot to York - via Wrexham and Hollywood, National League TV provides international fans access to every live game in the league, while domestic supporters can watch games taking place outside of UEFA blocked hours.

If the first weekend was anything to go by, things got off to a very strong start. Over 10,000 fan registrations, over 6,000 passes sold and 25% over performance vs target on sign-ups.

The full launch followed on Boxing Day, with subscriptions passing the 25,000 milestone. A brilliant start to an exciting new era for the fifth tier of English football and some great learnings for the wider world of live football.

What took it so long?

Earlier in the summer of 2022, fans and owners voiced their frustration at their inability to watch matches that weren't accessible on BT Sport's domestic coverage. And consequently, plenty in the sports business were decrying why it was taking so long. And they had a point! It is easy to distribute a produced feed around the world. Get on with it!

But the time wasn't really in the delivery part (Even though a brand-new production and streaming workflow shouldn't be taken lightly).

No, it was everything else; the business case, the legalities, the commercial business model and getting support and alignment from all the clubs and stakeholders, including domestic broadcaster BT Sport. Not to mention the ins and outs (for the production partner) of getting connectivity into every ground in the league, sourcing commentary, etc.

An advisory board was established to consider these important questions. Those with an intimate knowledge of sports rights, production, sports law and other successful Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) streaming services.

The discussion was fascinating, and the conclusions were unique in the world of live football streaming. This is to be a central league service with revenue distributed equitably. 15% of net revenues to be retained by the National League for reinvestment in streaming, marketing and subsidy in Phase One of North and South clubs. 25% to be distributed by the National Leagues existing distribution model (70/30). And finally, 60% to be distributed to clubs on the platform, pro rata to the audience / number of fan streams delivered (calculated according to club affiliate links and fan preferences at sign up and log in).

Further advertising and commercial income to be shared according to the league's normal distribution model of 70:30.

Price to the end customer in line with that of other international football streaming services. Full season pass (international only); £170 (Early Bird £130). Monthly (International); £22.50 and Matchday Pass; £9.50 (£4.75 in beta).

Fans can watch all matches on the match day, plus fans can switch between matches at any point. Multi-view, allowing watching multiple matches simultaneously, is to follow.

As you can imagine, plenty of thinking, modelling and discussion was required and the debate was fascinating. Not least what should be the price point for the service, and what reflected the value provided. And in doing so I think many lessons for other rights-holders planning to do OTT to consider. What is the value we are making available? Should a Manchester United fan pay the same, more or less than a Wrexham fan to watch their team live?

So maybe not a big moment in international football, but this is a big moment in the business of sports streaming. And a series of firsts, including;

·     First football service to re-distribute a proportion of net revenue according to the fan’s team affiliation.

·     First football league to pioneer the concept of a day/round pass covering all matches on its own D2C platform.

2023 is going to be a fascinating year in football streaming, with changes to major league rights distribution and therefore D2C streaming opportunities!

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