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After launching OTT platforms for the likes of WEC and World Squash, Sportall now wants to “make a big noise” globally

French startup Sportall has quickly made a name for itself in the sports broadcasting space. As well as running its own streaming application, it has also helped more than 20 sports rights holders launch their own OTT platforms. Co-founder and president Thierry Boudard explains how the company’s unique business model can benefit tier two and tier three rights holders and how the business plans to expand its operations around the world.

31 May 2023 Josh Sim

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Having worked with an athletics federation and a global motorsport series, achieving success at speed is a familiar concept for Sportall.

Founded in 2019, the French startup’s initial vision was to build a platform for every non-tier one sporting event, providing a destination for rights holders to share live and video-on-demand (VOD) content. Rather than going after premium events, the company first focused on the tier two and tier three sports market in France. In 2020, it launched its own over-the-top (OTT) application called Sportall, which unified live events and VOD broadcasts created in partnership with the rights holders on a single platform.

“That was the first step to help all the sports rights holders to increase their visibility and to better monetise their content,” Thierry Boudard, Sportall co-founder and president, tells SportsPro. “And we did it using a very special business model, which is only revenue sharing.

“So the key vision from Sportall and the key positioning on the market is to build a revenue-sharing partnership with the right holders. not acquiring the rights. neither selling our platform. Instead, the rights holder puts the rights on the platform, we give them free access to the platform, we work together on the marketing promotion, content addition, monetisation, and at the end we share the revenues.” 

Now, the company has increased its operations significantly, working for 40 sports rights holders and houses content from 80 different sports. Each rights holder is granted their own customised page on the Sportall application where all of their content is easily accessible.

Sportall has also helped provide some of its bigger clients in France and abroad with their own standalone applications. This includes platforms like Athlé TV, World Squash TV and the World Endurance Championship’s (WEC) FIA WEC TV, which streams every race from the series around the world.

More recently, it announced alongside the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) the launch of ANOC.tv, a new free-to-view OTT platform that will promote the organisation’s key events, including live coverage and highlights of the ANOC World Beach Games in Bali later this year. ANOC.tv is also designed to provide national Olympic committees (NOCs) an easy way to establish individual OTT channels, giving fans a single source to watch Olympic sports.

How Sportall’s ‘pay-per-sport’ model solves a problem for rights holders and fans

Looking at the state of sports broadcasting today, Boudard points out that rights holders who aren’t considered tier one will find it more difficult to sell their rights to media companies. And unlike properties such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) or the Uefa Champions League, tier two sports will struggle to conjure up the necessary finances to invest in their own OTT platforms if they fail to secure TV coverage.

Sportall, however, solves that problem for those properties by providing a high-quality user experience for fans on its application. Boudard has ambitions for the platform to eventually become a one-stop shop for several sports, providing users with plenty of choice to pick from, rather than having to develop separate applications for each rights holder.

“When paying for a big package, with a traditional pay-TV [subscription] you have to subscribe to a big package at €20 or €25 per month. From there you have access for games behind the paywall and access to a lot of different sports.

“But as a fan, I’m generally not a fan of all those sports. I’m a fan of one, maybe two sports. And if I’m a fan of a tier two sport, if I have to pay €25 per month to maybe watch only one event a month of my sport, I’m not happy with that model.

“In Sportall, it’s different. I will pay only for my sport – €2, €3, €4 per month. And that’s all. It’s a new business model that we call the pay-per-sport business model, and it’s really new on the market.”

Sportall also aims to support rights holders by aggregating all the content from a variety of different sports in one place.

“The second level of Sportall is being the marketplace for all of those applications,” Boudard says. “That’s why from day one, all the events we manage, all the white-label applications we deliver, we will gather everything in our own media, which is the Sportall application.

“It will play the role of marketplace, so for a sports fan, it will ease the discovery of new sports, the discovery of new applications. That’s typically the marketplace’s role.

“So that’s also the role of the marketplace. We are not aggregating media like a TV channel, proposing one package for many sports. We are really a marketplace. The rights holder can select their business model, whether the content is for free or if it’s premium content. And then for the fan, it’s a freemium application, with a pay-per-sport model.”

Sportall aims to aggregate content from a variety of different sports (Image credit: Sportall)

Maximising the value of content

Boudard is also keen to emphasise that sports clubs themselves should also play an active role in telling their stories through their own direct-to-consumer (DTC) applications, rather than leaving it to the broadcasters covering their competitions.

“For professional football or rugby clubs, it becomes more and more obvious that they need to invest in content creation for their fans, not just relying on the broadcaster who would purchase the rights of the championship,” he continues.

“The sports clubs definitely have more to sell and more to tell. The storytelling of a club is definitely more than just having a live session during the match at the end of the weekend. It’s about the training sessions, it’s about having player and staff interviews, it’s about featuring the junior or women’s teams. All the content that could be created by sports clubs brings real added value for the fan, so why not monetise this content in their own DTC application?

“The very big clubs in France, for example, have their own OTT application, but we can help other clubs have their own application.”

Finally Boudard says the vision for Sportall is to be a “best in class application”, accessible on a range of devices including smartphones, connected TVs and portable tablets. He also highlights the platform’s unique selling point is that it’s a “real freemium application”. Sportall allows rights holders to choose if they want to offer either free programming or premium content behind a paywall, which also gives users more flexibility.

“We are really building the first freemium application,” Boudard says. “For the sports fan, it makes a big difference.”

Sportall helped launch French rugby club Toulon’s RCT Play OTT platform 

Taking the Sportall platform global

Having taken steps to populate the Sportall application with more content, Boudard anticipates that the company will be able to “make a big noise in the international market” by the end of the year.

“We roughly launch one new international application every month currently,” he says. “So with that speed of growth, we will have at the international level roughly what we had in France two years ago, where we gathered something like 20 different national sports federations within a six or nine-month period.

“For us, the number of different rights of different sports that we are gathering time after time, it is just a question of time.”

Getting to that stage will require investment. Over the last four years, Sportall has held several funding rounds to accelerate its ambitions and is preparing to hold another one later this year, with Boudard hoping to raise “several millions of euros”.

“We need more investors, in addition to our current ones who will keep supporting us,” he starts. “Mainly for going through this international path. It’s about investing in marketing for brand awareness, to really launch the Sportall application worldwide. So it will take time, we need investment. But it’s a reasonable investment compared to some other pure players that try to address this sports streaming market through sports right acquisition. 

“There are very big platforms who want to acquire tier one rights, and they spend a lot of money with a real uncertain return on investment. That’s definitely not our case. Our investment is in the platform, in our business model, which is sustainable and profitable. Our marketing efforts are focused on replicating this around the world.”

As well as international marketing, Boudard emphasises the need to invest in building the necessary infrastructure to facilitate a worldwide rollout of Sportall’s platform.

Exploring new paths to monetisation

As Sportall continues to grow, Boudard acknowledges the challenge of producing broadcasts for an increased volume of sporting events in different parts of the world, stating that the platform’s scalability and performance, as well as partnerships with production companies, will be key to the success of the company’s expansion.

“Another goal is to have the same network of production companies [as we do in France], but across the world,” Boudard says. “It’s something we are working on and we are currently selecting some production companies who are spread around the world, enabling us to produce in multiple countries at any time for any sport, depending on the demands we have from our rights holders.

“Selecting those production companies takes a bit of time, but we have started the process and it’s also a call to action for those companies to join us and to help us fulfill our vision. The French production companies working with us are really happy, we bring them a lot of business, because we subcontract everything to the partners. So let’s do the same at the international level.”

The sports clubs definitely have more to sell and more to tell. The storytelling of a club is definitely more than just having a live session during the match at the end of the weekend.

Thierry Boudard, Co-Founder and President, Sportall

As well as the technical side, Boudard is also looking to offer rights holders new ways to monetise their content on the Sportall platform.

“Today, we do programmatic advertising, sponsorship, paywalls, such as monthly and annual subscriptions, or pay-per-view, pay-per-time, and so on,” he says. “But in the tier two and tier three sports market, some other ways of monetisation exist, or will exist going forward.

“There are other ways of monetisation, such as through NFTs, or betting, and because we are a marketplace, it’s mandatory for us to propose those ways of monetisation to our rights holders. We have to do that for them.”

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