Seven Keys to Digital Success for Rightsholders

By Andy Thwaite Mar 23, 2016

Seven Keys to Digital Success for Rightsholders

The power of change. The evolution of digital has led to a world where the only certainty is change. Although with content king, rightsholders have a position of strength in the value chain and the power to control this change. To succeed however, acting and operating as a publisher (media company), not a property, is critical. And, with each property different, rightsholders shouldn’t fall into the “me too” trap—begging, borrowing and stealing from the big leagues—but should create their own fundamental strategy.

Valuing the undervalued. Despite its growing importance, digital is still inherently undervalued, and needs measurement and robust, credible valuation to really drive buy-in and investment from rightsholder boards and owners. This is an overdue challenge for the industry to embrace.

Knowing and engaging the elusive fan. Digital allows for a direct relationship between rightsholder and audience member, however, data to understand and know the fan is still generally lacking, with general audience demos and displaced data points rather than a single 360-degree view of the fan base the norm. Rightsholders need to be prepared to jump over the barriers of introducing an effective CRM program. And, while rightsholders are now achieving good digital reach, they need content strategies to drive engagement. In addition, a shift change from communication for mass consumption to a personalized approach providing fans more, but relevant content is needed.

Embracing the new partnership model. Marketing partnerships are transforming, moving from assets to audiences, awareness to engagement and logos and signage to content and experiences. Digital is key to this activation and should be an integral part of a sponsorship solution, not a “throw-in.”

Distribution is the destination. Outside of live, fragmented mobile-led socially driven consumption is driving a move from digital destinations to social and mobile distribution, creating a need for multi- (not single) channel development strategies. However, rightsholders continue to want their cake and eat it too, when it comes to social, using fan voice when beneficial while restricting when it impacts commercial revenues. Social/tech advancements create a threat to existing thinking of the controlled walled garden.

OTT’s perfect storm. When connected-device penetration and the cable “nevers” and cord-cutters combine with content owners’ OTT product quality, direct-to-consumer apps will create a paradigm shift for the industry. All rightsholders should be assessing the viability of their potential direct-to-consumer channel.

Telling the sports pop culture story. The continued blurring of the lines between sport and entertainment and the millennial audience is creating a growing sports “pop culture” society. Short-form programming aimed at the stories behind the sport, the teams and the athletes is key. The “moments in” sport become more important than the “highlights” of” sport. A new approach to programming is needed to be relevant to this audience.


fan engagement trends digital media


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Andy Thwaite

About the Author

Andy is vice president, digital strategy of ESP Properties. He is an experienced sports marketing and media executive, delivering business growth for leading rightsholders, media organizations and brands. Working at the intersection of sports, media and technology, Andy brings unique insights from his experience at the world’s largest seller (IMG) and buyer (WPP) of sport, along with commercial roles at PBR and Turner Sports.



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