Tapping into rugby’s secondary audience via pay-per-view live broadcasting, with Bedford Blues

by | Dec 23, 2021

HD quality pay-per-view live streaming is helping rugby clubs bring in additional revenue this festive period by providing supporters with an alternative way to watch matches.

RFU Championship club Bedford Blues has already sold-out tickets for its Boxing Day fixture against Jersey Reds. But fans on a global scale will be able to access the match from the comfort of their own home via live streaming.

The pandemic has prompted a significant shift in fans’ demand for live sport online. Gareth Alred, Chief Operating Officer at Bedford Blues, explains how the club will engage more supporters than ever this Christmas in our latest blog.

Secondary crowd

Blues’ Boxing Day fixture was always going to attract a sell-out festive crowd.
Ordinarily, supporters without a ticket would miss out on watching the game live. But times have changed, and now the club is accommodating for supporters beyond its Goldington Road base including:

  • People affected by COVID-19
  • Supporters uncomfortable attending the match in person
  • Jersey Reds fans who cannot access the mainland
  • Supporters on a global scale
  • Those who didn’t buy a ticket before the game sold out

“Live streaming our Boxing Day fixture means we are able to connect with supporters who cannot attend physically on the day,” said Gareth.

“Streaming worked for us during the truncated 2020-21 season where matches were held behind closed doors, and now it’s being used with fans in attendance. The match is accessible to everyone, particularly Jersey fans who are unable to make the trip across.”

Hybrid era

On Boxing Day in 2019, Blues hosted local rivals Ampthill in an all-Bedfordshire Christmas cracker. That fixture sold out too, but it wasn’t streamed via pay-per-view broadcasting.

Why was this? The answer is quite simple – fans now expect large fixtures are made available online where possible.

Gareth added: “There has been a shift in demand, without doubt. And that’s been prompted by the pandemic. The need wasn’t required two years ago as much due to a local derby, but against Jersey it makes sense.

“People’s attitude towards live streaming has changed. They’re now happy to invest in watching a quality, reliable, stream at home.

“It’s great for supporters of both sides based anywhere around the world, whilst also benefitting the club. Once we have filmed the match, we own that content and can use it as a valuable marketing tool.”

Hybrid – the key considerations

Hybrid sport is when supporters have the choice to attend a fixture either in-person or remotely via live streaming.
Preparation is key to delivering a quality hybrid event. Gareth lists his top considerations below.

  • Understanding broadcasting rights

Gareth said: “Before anything, clubs must understand if they are legally able to broadcast a fixture live by contacting their league. In our example, we had to apply to the RFU to own the broadcasting rights for our Boxing Day fixture.

“Broadcasting restrictions will vary depending on your sport and the level you operate at.”

  • Quality partnerships are everything

“Working with trusted partners facilitates a positive setup,” said Gareth. “We use a production company 247 TV to film our matches and broadcast content via TicketCo.

“Both companies understand the challenges and infrastructure we have in place, which in my opinion is invaluable.”

  • Enquiries are minimal, but be prepared for them

Gareth added: “I cannot stress enough how easy it is to operate a live stream. But you should always be prepared for viewers to encounter technical issues.

“At Bedford Blues, we dedicate someone in the background to deal with these enquiries so viewers’ live streaming experience is as smooth and stress-free as possible.”

  • Is it commercially viable?

“It’s possible for clubs to stream matches internally at no additional cost,” said Gareth. “We choose to bring in a production company meaning the cost is not always commercially viable.

“However, for sell-out events or games where there is a large number of non-travelling opposition fans, it can generate additional income for the club.”

Why TicketCo?

TicketCo has helped clubs across the UK bring the drama of live sport directly into the homes of supporters since the pandemic began.

We do this via our fully integrated ticketing and broadcasting platform which allows organisations to house every aspect of event sales and delivery under one roof.

Joe Edwards, Global Key Account Manager at TicketCo Media Services, said: “Demand for pay-per-view live streaming has grown exponentially in the past 18 months.

“We’re pleased to see Bedford Blues take responsibility and make their sold-out Boxing Day fixture accessible to everyone, regardless of health or travel implications. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a positive result and would like to wish the club every success!”

Written by Shaun Reynolds

Communications advisor and expert storyteller with Fortitude Communications. A former news reporter and sports editor of five years across several UK regional titles. Experienced in photography and social media management with a passion for the outdoors.

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