As Sports Rights Soar, Maximize Content Across Platforms.

Like many other media companies involved in sports, local radio stations face a difficult game plan: Sports rights fees continue to soar, but consumers have more ways than ever to access sports news and entertainment. That leaves radio broadcasters, as well as their TV and digital counterparts, looking for ways to attract audiences to their game coverage and related content, and to generate ad dollars to support pricey sports programming.

To be successful, traditional media companies “must remain diligent to the threat posed by the tech giants and drive scale, innovation and the most relevant content to acquire and retain customers,” advises a new Nielsen report on commercial trends in sports.

In many markets, radio stations air local play-by-play rights to pro teams and top college sports and that marquee content attracts loyal listeners and top-dollar from advertisers. Such content can be a key differentiator for radio stations, as well as a valuable promotional platform for their other programming. To maintain that value in the face of growing competition online, on OTT services like Hulu and YouTube, and TV networks, radio networks can look to Nielsen’s new findings on the evolving sports market.

In one suggestion, Nielsen says sports rights holders should maximize their content across all possible platforms, including the obvious on-air and online extensions, but also smart speakers, augmented reality, virtual reality and subscription content.

In addition, Nielsen says, as brands increasingly look for layered, multi-platform sponsorships, sports rights holders can offer advertiser more access to teams and their hosts, as well as their expertise. Rights holders should also extend their sponsorship activities to other platforms, Nielsen advises, including “digital content and activation capabilities, in order to engage fans, collect data and service sponsors.”

Media companies should also look for underdeveloped programming opportunities, such as showcasing women’s sports, which are receiving more attention from fans and brands, Nielsen notes. Radio stations, for instance, could run women’s sports on-air or on streaming platforms, or even exclusively via digital streaming. “The sector is booming as the growth opportunity represented by under engaged females is recognized, as brands demand a focus on women’s sports and as gender equality takes ever-greater prominence,” the report says.