A snapshot of live sports streaming in 2024

For the majority of sports fans, live streaming is the best and oftentimes, the only way to gain full access to their favorite teams, games, and tournaments. For some of the biggest sports streaming platforms, such as Sky, ESPN, or DAZN, this passion and commitment can represent hundreds of dollars per viewer in yearly subscriptions. According to a recent study by LG Ad Solutions, streaming is growing as the preferred platform in the U.K. for watching major sports events. Across the pond in the U.S., major sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA, and MLB aim to engage younger audiences by streaming their games rather than relying on traditional television broadcasts. It seems streaming services, available on any device, including mobile phones, are gaining popularity thanks to their convenience and range of content. 

As we take a closer look at the trends and news emerging from the world of live sports streaming, it becomes evident that the industry is undergoing significant transformations driven by technological innovation and shifting consumer preferences. Where, how, and when can we expect to stream live sports in 2024? Let’s explore. 

Netflix’s move into live sports streaming

At the beginning of April 2024, Netflix signed a ten-year deal with WWE valued at over $5 billion to stream its weekly flagship show, Raw, starting from January 2025. This milestone agreement also included the international rights to other major WWE productions, such as SmackDown, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Royal Rumble. The star of the deal, Raw, is currently aired on USA Network, owned by NBCUniversal, where it often attracts some 2 million viewers every week. Netflix currently has more than 260 million global subscribers, a figure that is growing continuously, attracted by their easily accessible and consumable content, much of which includes sports documentaries in the forms of series and films. 

Raw’s content is also scripted and serialized, aligning it fully with other sports-related content offered by Netflix. Netflix Chief Content Officer, Bela Bajaria spoke of Raw, saying it was “the best of sports entertainment, blending great characters and storytelling with live action 52 weeks a year”. Might we see Netflix’s range and style of content expand even further in 2024? How will this impact subscription costs, which are rumored to increase again this year, having already been raised last October from $9.99 to $11.99 per month for a Basic plan in the U.S.? Only time will tell, but it seems we can expect content to become much more dynamic and engaging as streaming giant Netflix continues to innovate and diversify its offer.

Women’s sports on top with support from DAZN

According to a recent U.K.-based survey by LG Ad Solutions, women’s football is the second most-watched sport on television. Following the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, which was won by England and attracted record numbers of viewers, women’s sports have been experiencing a bumper year regarding viewership and popularity. Between 2023 and 2024, women's sports have also seen increased investment in broadcast rights. Major streaming platforms such as DAZN have started dedicating channels specifically to women's sports, such as DAZN’s FAST channel (known as DAZN Rise in Germany and DAZN Victoria in Spain), aiming to grow the genre and attract commercial opportunities rather than focusing just on immediate returns.

The company has made a clear commitment to supporting women’s sports, and women’s football in particular, evident in their decision to offer all Uefa Women’s Champions League group stage games for free in the U.K. and other regions on their YouTube channel. On a global scale, the recent multimillion-dollar deals for the National Women's Soccer League, which secured $60 million per season for 118 live matches (from CBS Sports, ESPN, Amazon, and Scripps Sports), and upcoming bidding wars for rights to the Women's Super League, also demonstrate the increasing value and interest in women's sports streaming.

Innovations in live sports streaming

With broadcasters hesitant to invest more in infrastructure for higher picture quality (as fans are unlikely to pay more for enhanced image resolution), their attention has shifted to improving the viewer’s experience using AI and advanced technologies. For example, Alibaba Cloud has been selected as the official partner to broadcast the 2024 Olympics in Paris. In an attempt to bring viewers around the world closer to the action and the athletes, they will use biometric data, such as athletes’ real-time heart rates and 5G, to provide live performance data across various sports.

Other examples include AI-generated data points and automated highlights in tennis, 3D graphics that illustrate the gradients cyclists face in the Tour de France, and tailored vertical video formats for mobile viewing during the International Cricket Championship World Cup in India, reflecting a trend toward immersive and personalized sports viewing. Experts in the field recognize the importance of understanding how consumption and viewing preferences are changing between one generation and the next. Whereas in previous years, fans would base their allegiance on location or team history, fans today often choose one team over another due to individual player performance, metrics and even their off-field persona. 

System73’s solution for enhanced live sports streaming

Oftentimes, when streaming live content to a vast audience, broadcasters come up against challenges such as congestion in the network, high latency, and churn as they compete for bandwidth within the CDN. System73’s live content delivery solution, Edge Intelligence, is the key to delivering flawless live, high-resolution content to any size of audience and even to viewers watching from remote locations. Edge Intelligence is an AI-based solution that utilizes the open internet to find alternative routes for delivering content and bypass bottlenecking in the network using peer-to-peer sharing across System73’s centralized broadcasting tree. Edge Intelligence’s distribution technology also helps relieve the load on CDNs by as much as 90%, which translates into lower production costs for operations teams and a higher quality of experience (QoE) for audiences. In our experience, Edge Intelligence has helped broadcasting companies grow their audiences, increase the quality of experience across the board, and reduce overall costs, allowing them to invest in and expand other areas of the business, such as research into viewer metrics or content production. 

For more information about Edge Intelligence or to book a call with our sales team, visit system73.com.