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Swim, bike, stream

Posted on Aug 2, 2022 by FEED Staff

The International Triathlon Union was one of the first international sports bodies to launch a streaming channel. As triathlon grows in popularity, so do the ITU’s ambitions 

Words by Neal Romanek

Niche sports broadcasting is undergoing a major boom. Easily launched OTT platforms have enabled sports that might make only occasional appearances on pay or linear TV channels to deliver-global coverage to enthusiastic fans. 

The International Triathlon Union (ITU) is the international governing body for triathlon racing and its variants. Headquartered in Lausanne, the organisation is the global rights holder for all triathlon races under its banner. Outside a few major events, triathlons are rarely at the centre of mainstream sports coverage, yet triathlon fans and athletes, both professional and amateur, are a huge, very devoted audience. As online video streaming began to take off, the ITU launched its own subscription OTT platform, Triathlon Live, which features live and on-demand triathlon content.

“We’re quite a young sport, which makes it easier to try and engage with new audiences and try new things,” says Olalla Cernuda, the ITU’s Head of Media and Communications. “We were one of the first international sports that actually developed an OTT platform for streaming our own races, back in 2011.”

From the beginning, the ITU decided to focus coverage of the sport across two areas. The first was via the TV rights, which are shopped to linear broadcasters via an outside agency. The second was through its paid streaming platform. 

Until quite recently, broadcasters were not enthusiastic about regular triathlon coverage. The audiences are relatively small, they can be challenging to cover, and, depending on the season’s events, may cross over a variety of time zones. But for a rights holder like the ITU, especially given their direct access to the niche audience, the remuneration can be a great boost to the business, and from its launch fans were keen to consume the site’s streamed races.

This year, due to growing interest, the ITU has lowered its prices slightly and expanded its services. In addition to race coverage, members will now get behind-the-scenes content, interviews, tips and other added-value elements. The channel also produces a bi-weekly magazine show, and members have access to the archive of all ITU races since 2008.

At this point, commentary on the channel is in English, but the channel has been receiving vociferous requests for content in other languages. As revenue grows, the channel aims to roll out other languages, with Spanish likely to be the first, followed by French.

Air, land and sea

Triathlon Live so far has been an ad-free platform, but with the growing wave of interest the channel is seeing opportunities to give its stakeholders a window to promote themselves and to contribute content to the platform.

“We are quite an expensive sport in terms of producing TV content for our races,” says Cernuda. “We need helicopters, we need motorbikes, we need RF cameras. It’s not an indoor sport that you cover with three cameras and that’s it. But we do cover our TV production with the income we get from the subscribers.

“For the last few months, we’ve seen that we’re really increasing the number of subscribers. That can be linked to many things, but we think it’s because we’re approaching the Olympic cycle. And this year was quite close among two or three girls and two or three guys, and that brought a lot of public interest. For next season we’re thinking of adding some sponsors or stakeholders to maximise the possibilities we have.”

Triathlon is a global sport. Race coverage is usually done by local teams and production companies, but there are always ITU producers and editors onsite – and sometimes additional ITU crew depending on local needs. Quality control and maintaining the appropriate look and feel for race coverage is a priority.

Building up

There is a growing number of turnkey and managed platforms for launching OTT video offerings now, but the ITU – perhaps in keeping with the triathlete’s can-do ethic – developed Triathlon Live entirely
in-house.

The channel uses Amazon services and streaming servers with an IT team solely dedicated to developing and maintaining the platform. The channel does have partners who help in some site design on the site, but the bulk of the development is overseen by the in-house team.

“It was built quite a few years ago and there were not so many options then,” says Cernuda. “But we decide to go for it. One of the good things about building a platform from scratch is you know you’re going to fail sometimes, but you’re going to learn. We learned that it’s easier to change or to implement new things on an online platform than on a linear TV platform. 

“We’re also learning a lot about our user experience and learning a lot about what works in terms of the length of content, what content users like better and where they consume it. We take a look at stats and graphics and can decide if we should go with a shorter format or a longer format. There are plenty of ways to learn what they like and what they don’t like.”

The channel also sends a few surveys throughout the year to query users about the service. Shorter, tips-oriented content has been one of the requested formats with less interest expressed in the longer magazine-format shows.

“We also look at what other sports organisations are doing. When you’re really big, it’s sometimes hard to move. We’re not like a big dinosaur that takes ages to do things. Here everything is quite quick and fast in terms of applying new strategies. Our sport is one that is growing in terms of media and public attention, so we foresee growth in the channel. Our goal is that Triathlon Live will be the one-stop shop for every triathlon lover.”

This article first featured in the Issue 08 Newsletter of FEED.

Broadcast and Streaming archives

The International Triathlon Union was one of the first international sports bodies to launch a streaming channel. As triathlon grows in popularity, so do the ITU’s ambitions 

Words by Neal Romanek

Niche sports broadcasting is undergoing a major boom. Easily launched OTT platforms have enabled sports that might make only occasional appearances on pay or linear TV channels to deliver-global coverage to enthusiastic fans. 

The International Triathlon Union (ITU) is the international governing body for triathlon racing and its variants. Headquartered in Lausanne, the organisation is the global rights holder for all triathlon races under its banner. Outside a few major events, triathlons are rarely at the centre of mainstream sports coverage, yet triathlon fans and athletes, both professional and amateur, are a huge, very devoted audience. As online video streaming began to take off, the ITU launched its own subscription OTT platform, Triathlon Live, which features live and on-demand triathlon content.

“We’re quite a young sport, which makes it easier to try and engage with new audiences and try new things,” says Olalla Cernuda, the ITU’s Head of Media and Communications. “We were one of the first international sports that actually developed an OTT platform for streaming our own races, back in 2011.”

From the beginning, the ITU decided to focus coverage of the sport across two areas. The first was via the TV rights, which are shopped to linear broadcasters via an outside agency. The second was through its paid streaming platform. 

Until quite recently, broadcasters were not enthusiastic about regular triathlon coverage. The audiences are relatively small, they can be challenging to cover, and, depending on the season’s events, may cross over a variety of time zones. But for a rights holder like the ITU, especially given their direct access to the niche audience, the remuneration can be a great boost to the business, and from its launch fans were keen to consume the site’s streamed races.

This year, due to growing interest, the ITU has lowered its prices slightly and expanded its services. In addition to race coverage, members will now get behind-the-scenes content, interviews, tips and other added-value elements. The channel also produces a bi-weekly magazine show, and members have access to the archive of all ITU races since 2008.

At this point, commentary on the channel is in English, but the channel has been receiving vociferous requests for content in other languages. As revenue grows, the channel aims to roll out other languages, with Spanish likely to be the first, followed by French.

Air, land and sea

Triathlon Live so far has been an ad-free platform, but with the growing wave of interest the channel is seeing opportunities to give its stakeholders a window to promote themselves and to contribute content to the platform.

“We are quite an expensive sport in terms of producing TV content for our races,” says Cernuda. “We need helicopters, we need motorbikes, we need RF cameras. It’s not an indoor sport that you cover with three cameras and that’s it. But we do cover our TV production with the income we get from the subscribers.

“For the last few months, we’ve seen that we’re really increasing the number of subscribers. That can be linked to many things, but we think it’s because we’re approaching the Olympic cycle. And this year was quite close among two or three girls and two or three guys, and that brought a lot of public interest. For next season we’re thinking of adding some sponsors or stakeholders to maximise the possibilities we have.”

Triathlon is a global sport. Race coverage is usually done by local teams and production companies, but there are always ITU producers and editors onsite – and sometimes additional ITU crew depending on local needs. Quality control and maintaining the appropriate look and feel for race coverage is a priority.

Building up

There is a growing number of turnkey and managed platforms for launching OTT video offerings now, but the ITU – perhaps in keeping with the triathlete’s can-do ethic – developed Triathlon Live entirely
in-house.

The channel uses Amazon services and streaming servers with an IT team solely dedicated to developing and maintaining the platform. The channel does have partners who help in some site design on the site, but the bulk of the development is overseen by the in-house team.

“It was built quite a few years ago and there were not so many options then,” says Cernuda. “But we decide to go for it. One of the good things about building a platform from scratch is you know you’re going to fail sometimes, but you’re going to learn. We learned that it’s easier to change or to implement new things on an online platform than on a linear TV platform. 

“We’re also learning a lot about our user experience and learning a lot about what works in terms of the length of content, what content users like better and where they consume it. We take a look at stats and graphics and can decide if we should go with a shorter format or a longer format. There are plenty of ways to learn what they like and what they don’t like.”

The channel also sends a few surveys throughout the year to query users about the service. Shorter, tips-oriented content has been one of the requested formats with less interest expressed in the longer magazine-format shows.

“We also look at what other sports organisations are doing. When you’re really big, it’s sometimes hard to move. We’re not like a big dinosaur that takes ages to do things. Here everything is quite quick and fast in terms of applying new strategies. Our sport is one that is growing in terms of media and public attention, so we foresee growth in the channel. Our goal is that Triathlon Live will be the one-stop shop for every triathlon lover.”

This article first featured in the Issue 08 Newsletter of FEED.

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