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NAB: OTT TV and online sports ‘not disruptive’ to pay TV

Michael Paull

Michael Paull

The rise of sports-focused online video provider BAMTech and of live online sports is complementary rather than disruptive of traditional pay TV, according to company CEO Michael Paull.

In an onstage interview at the NAB Show, Paull also played down the idea that non-sports fans could churn from pay TV as more entertainment content became available from other sources.

Paull said that services such as Major League Baseball’s MLB.tv, which is delivered by BAMTech, are “complementary to traditional television”, bringing additional content to audiences over and above what is available from other sources. “I don’t view my job as to disrupt anything,” he said.

Playing down the idea that the rise of OTT TV gives non-sports fans an alternative to traditional big-bundle subscription services, Paull said that while there are “hardcore sports fans” that will always sign up to view everything, there are also a lot of people that just want to watch the World Series. He said most viewers would continue to take mainstream pay services.

“There are people that are not huge sports fans, but when it gets to be really entertaining and dramatic, everyone becomes a sports fan,” he said.

OTT TV allows service providers to ‘micro-programme’ and bring new events and background content to the fore, he said.

Paull admitted there are consumer segments, particularly among younger age groups, that are not interested in pay TV, primarily because they look to mobile first. He said behaviour was driving the rise of new consumer services rather than the other way round.

On the rise of mobile viewing and moves to unlimited data packages, Paull said that “unlimited plans…will provide people with the ability to watch as much video as they want”. He said that for the content industry, “this is definitely good news”.

Paull said that one key trend is that the wealth of data available now allows content providers to “super-serve their customers,” which will also help with programming decisions and investments. “I think data will play a very important role in the future of television.”

He said that “building more sophistication in data analysis is critical” for online programmers. It is key to use data to ensure quality and data can also be used to provide services such as dynamic ad insertion, which BAMTech is doing, he added.

BAMTech was created by Major League Baseball to enable it to address its customers on the internet, and has been responsible for streaming baseball on the web for 14 years.

Disney took a US$1 billion (€900 million) stake in the business last year and the company is now a joint venture between MLB, Disney and the National Hockey League. BAMTech Europe, a JV with Discovery that will power Eurosport online, is also in the process of being set up.