OTT and FloSports

I’m sure that the vast majority of us find ourselves using OTT to access TV and video content on a fairly regular basis, and I’m also sure that there are some people reading this that don’t exactly know what that means. Just so we’re all on the same page, OTT stands for the “over-the-top” and it means that content is delivered to consumers via the internet as opposed to a cable provider. Think Netflix and Hulu, two of the major players in the space.

These OTT providers create a way for consumers to cut the cord from traditional cable providers, all the while giving them the space to watch their favorite shows and movies, as well as original content that is being turned away in rapid fashion. That being said, there is one thing that is seemingly lacking in the OTT space and that is sports content. I’m not talking about the major sports and major sports leagues like the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL who all have their content readily available through the likes of MLB.TV and WatchESPN, and let’s not forget about good old cable television, but the smaller sports that don’t necessarily get the attention that they deserve. This is where FloSports comes into play.

FloSports was born out of an idea by Mark and Martin Floreani and the lack of ability to watch and follow the sports that the two participated in while in college, wrestling and track. Sure, these sports would get some air time here and there, but it wasn’t often and when it was, it was usually at an off time when they channel was looking for content to fill available space. FloSports goal was to give “niche sports”, as the refer to them, a home where participants and spectators alike were easily able to access on demand content on their time, as opposed to hoping there’s an off chance that it might end up on TV somewhere.

Their approach isn’t necessarily out of the box when it comes to providing content, but is most definitely ahead of many others in the sports world, including industry leader ESPN. FloSports had only four sports and a handful of employees back in 2014 and now five years later they have 25 channels featuring 22 different sports and upwards of 200 employees. The company shoots and produces all of their own content for each and every sport, from airing games, matches and races, to creating a plethora of their own content. All of the content is also easy to locate and exists within each specific sport’s own network. Want to watch Alaska take on Alaska Anchorage in men’s hockey (yes, they both have teams) head to Flo Hockey, want to watch “The Trials of Shalane Flanagan”, a documentary on one of the top US female runners, head to FloTrack. 

One major benefit to FloTrack is the people that they have on staff. Many of their employees are former college athletes, coaches or professionals in the sports that they feature which allows them to be really authentic with the material that they have available. This isn’t meant to knock traditional production of athletic events on cable or the commentators that they have working on games, but those events are created with a more general fanbase in mind, which has an impact on the content and the that way those events are delivered. Take for example watching a professional hockey game on TV, a majority of the commentators have been around the sport for a long time, some of them even being former players, but the way that they describe the game isn’t always at a high level. Sure, they might say something that only someone with a higher knowledge of the game will truly understand, but that’s usually followed by some sort of simple explanation to ensure that everyone watching is able to follow along with what’s going on. This is an area where FloSports greatly differs. The individuals that they have commentating any given event are experts in that sport and are going to describe the event as such. This is due to the fact that their viewers are avid fans of a particular sport that are seeking out to watch any given event and chances are they at one time competed, coached or know someone who does/did in that specific sport. By doing this, they are able to create a connection with their consumers by providing a person of common knowledge and interest with their designated sport.

Now that the basics of what FloSports is and how it works is out of the way, it’s time to get to the important part: money. What started off as a $10,00 venture that struggled to take off, has now hit the ground running due to the changing landscape of how media is consumed and the help of some big-time investments. The platform makes money through a subscription-based service that charges $20 a month or $150 annually for unlimited access to all of their content, which includes roughly 10,000 live events on an annual basis. Right now, FloSports is adding roughly 30,000 subscribers a month and there’s no sign of this slowing down.

FloSports may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of watching a sporting event or sports related content, but many people do and that number will continue to grow. I’m sure it won’t be any time in the very near future, but don’t be surprised if you see more and more professional sports utilizing the platform…

7 comments

  1. I related to this because just this weekend I went home for a night and ended up spending 2+ hours helping my parents install YouTube TV on all the TVs in the house because they were sick of the high price of cable (not exactly how I planned to spend my brief time at home, but so it goes). I’ve actually never heard of FloSports but the market is definitely there as more and more of the demographic is shifting away from traditional cable, and I’m not surprised that their success is continuing to grow.

  2. Really interesting blog post! I had never heard of FloSports before, so it was great to learn something new. I think one of the coolest aspects of OTT production is the fact that going direct-to-consumer via the internet (rather than negotiating massive contracts with satellite and cable companies) allows for both producers and consumers to hit the long tail, aka the places that have demand, but not enough demand to warrant a program on a cable channel. It sounds like this is FloSports’ sweet spot.

    I’d be curious to know how many subscribers are parents (or grandparents, or siblings) of athletes who go to school far from home and want to be able to watch every game/competition like they probably did throughout their child’s life when they were growing up.

    How did you first hear about FloSports and what made you decide to research this topic?

    1. My boyfriend actually introduced me to FloSports a few years ago, but I honestly never thought all that much of it then. He ran competitively in college and still has friends that run competitively today, so we’ve actually used FloTrack to watch a few of their races over the past few years. Fast forward to now and FloSports has become a bit more relevant to me because of work. I currently work for the men’s ice hockey team here at BC and Hockey East has signed a deal with FloSports to have the entire 2019 Hockey East Tournament covered on the FloHockey network. Reading the press release when the deal was announced is what really piqued my interest and made me look into it more.

      If you or anyone else has any interest, here’s the release on the partnership:

      http://hockeyeastonline.com/men/articles/2019/01/hockey-east-and-flosports-announce-partnership.php

  3. FloSports is new to me as well – the company seems like a great example of how strategy and application can be equally as innovative as brand new technological development. When reading your post, I immediately thought of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the US. Outside of major professional tournaments, American women’s professional soccer has struggled to get any television air time, even on second or third tier subsidiary channels (think ESPN 3 or FOX Sports 2) – this month, the league announced that its airing partnership with Lifetime – a seemingly desperate choice of distributing partner to begin with – would be ending, effective immediately. This leaves fans with grainy, unreliable live-streams online. If a platform like FloSports continues to grow in prominence, it’s possible that the company and similarly-minded platforms can act as a point of leverage for leagues and divisions like the NWSL – having a viable alternative to the demand and rigidity of traditional channels puts some power and optionality back into the leagues’ and athletes’ hands.

  4. So interesting, I’d never heard of FloSports but I’ll definitely have to check it out now. It’s amazing to see some investment going into the niche sports. This past fall I was tying to watch the world equestrian games and it was so complicated to do and the broadcast shut out in the middle of the final so I didn’t even get to see it all, even though I’d paid a subscription! Super annoying so, something like FloSports on it (if it had equestrian content) would be awesome to have access to. I wonder how easily they can scale using their model of shooting and producing all of their own content themselves. I suspect it may not be all that sustainable in the long run but it will be interesting to see

  5. I remember getting an inside look at the high potential value of niche sports through my high school track career. The most committed runners all had FloTrack accounts, followed numerous running social media accounts such as MileSplit and Nike Running, and kept up with the leaders in the running world on a daily basis. Many of them lived and breathed running, and it was truly an online community. I think FloSports’ business model is pretty ingenious and really takes advantage of these niche sports fans that many people don’t even realize exist.

  6. Similar to my sentiment for the You(r)tube post, I love that the internet has enabled the prevalence (and success) of niche markets. Whether it’s running, weight lifting, cheerleading, bowling, or even rodeo – there will always be a part of the population that’s interested enough to invest their time, money, and energy into the activity. I love that they’re providing an avenue for people to pursue their passions when industries like cable TV have dismissed them as ‘too niche’ to be popular or profitable. Just goes to show that small-minded thinking rarely goes far. Like some of the others, I hadn’t heard of FloSports before so I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing!

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