Sports and Recreation: Live Streaming’s Role in Singaporean Athletics

Live streaming Singapore is one of the hottest trends in the world of digital media. It is defined as the act of broadcasting real-time, live video to an audience over the internet. People and businesses alike have steered away from traditional media and are exploring the dynamic medium of live streaming Singapore. This is a result of a shift in audience trends – the internet and digital media offer a much more personalized and varied experience. As a relatively new concept, live streaming has already been recognized and embraced by many. There are currently countless companies offering a platform for individuals and businesses to stream live to their viewers. One of the most notable of these is, who in 2011 averaged 23.48 million viewers per month and are estimated to have only grown since then. YouTube also offers a live streaming feature and hit a milestone in 2016 with one billion viewers. From a business perspective, media outlet ESPN is credited for the most successful live stream at this point in time with their coverage of the FIFA World Cup draw in 2014. With 1.7 million viewers, it was not only a success but a significant step in the right direction for media and live streaming.

Benefits of Live Streaming in Singaporean Athletics

Increased accessibility to sports events – instead of trying to find space in the packed sporting calendar, niche sports can use live streaming to build a following, as they can easily get a time slot when there is no other sport on. Because live is the one thing that television can provide that the internet can’t, it serves a wide range of benefits to the consumer. In a recent study conducted by Perform, it states that 51% of the American internet-using population are interested in watching sports online. Another key point is that fans are able to watch events that are happening around the world. Considering the time differences between New Zealand and the Northern Hemisphere, many All Blacks fans struggle to get up at early hours of the morning to watch games. Through live streaming, fans can comfortably watch the games at a suitable time. This is also the case for the busy businessman or the dad trapped with family commitments on the weekend. If they are able to watch the events on demand when they have time, it increases the potential to grow audience numbers. By making games more accessible to consumers, it increases the sports fan base. A bigger fan base means more money coming into the sport, mainly through television rights and major sponsors. More revenue coming down the pipeline means a greater standard of competition.

Increased Accessibility to Sports Events

Also, with the internet being a borderless medium, it is possible for international viewers to watch streams of Singaporean athletics events. This opens up another audience for the local athletics community.

In relation to Singaporean athletics, far more local athletics events are covered through live streaming than they are through other forms of media such as television. The increased access to coverage of local athletics events may serve to create greater interest in the local athletics community. This is explained through Agenda-setting theory Gehart (2005), which states that the amount of emphasis that media place on certain topics not only tells us what to think about, but what to think. In this case, if Singaporeans have greater access to watching local athletics events, it is likely that they will place more emphasis upon it and it may serve to maintain or increase participation and interest in the sport.

An example of an unfortunate sports fan is one whose favorite sport may be popular in another country, but is not broadcasted on television on a regular basis in his or her own country. Assuming that the fan has an internet connection, finding a live stream of a game or competition through the internet may be his only means of watching it. Live streaming is an opportunity for the sports fan to have access to far more events than they would otherwise.

The first way live streaming serves as a benefit to the sports organization is by increasing accessibility to the sports event being broadcasted. Singapore Sports Online (2005) lists a few examples of accessibility, including: the National Football League broadcasting the game on television for the first time ever after 40 years, and webcasting proving an effective way for sports organizations to reach out to their fans. This suggests that without webcasting (in this case, webcasting is synonymous with live streaming), some sporting events were difficult if not impossible to watch. By webcasting those events, fans are able to watch the event through their computer, and in some cases specific to live streaming, be notified of when the event is taking place so that they may choose to watch it.

Enhanced Audience Engagement

A key use of live streaming is integrating fans inside the event as it happens. Although this has been done in the past via telephones or the internet, live streams provide a more effective and cheaper way to hold votes or polls on various decisions. One event for which we did this was a simulated racing league. Using a racing simulator, we live-streamed an event and used a live poll to allow our viewers to vote on a change in race format while having the ability to discuss it in the chat room. This was very successful in getting the viewers more involved with the event and gave them a sense of influencing the race.

Live chat rooms and forums are integrated into many websites on the internet and have a huge potential to bring people together in discussion. An event that is being watched live can bring fans and supporters of the sport together to discuss the event as it happens. This is not only limited to allowing opinions or questions, as some larger events have a commentator or observer inside the event. These people can also involve the chat room by asking questions and giving opinions based on what the audience is saying to provide a more in-depth analysis of the event’s reception – this is very useful for the event organizers who can take the feedback on board for future events.

In this day and age, largely due to the rapid developments in technology, people crave instant gratification. This need is more than satisfied by the internet, as it provides a platform for both senders and receivers of information to be involved in a two-way process that is instantaneous. One common strategy used to attract a bigger audience to sports events is the use of prizes. Prize draws, competitions, and giveaways are widely used within marketing strategies to engage potential customers and raise brand awareness. By streaming sports events live, a similar effect can be achieved by integrating pop-up competitions throughout the event. An example is asking a question with the answer being based on information that was given earlier in the stream. Viewers who have been paying attention and discussing the information amongst each other are more likely to become involved and feel that they are part of a community.

Expansion of Fan Base

A case study done on the expansion of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) fan base in Europe is a strong indication of how online content can attract new fans. Though MLB had a hardcore base of American fans in Europe, they knew that watching games in the early mornings on ESPN was not a practical means of increasing European viewership. In 2008, MLB ran a live streaming campaign which broadcasted all of its games online, offering a package to watch any game at any time for a fee. This was particularly attractive to many young and older adults who only had a passing interest in baseball. The flexibility of being able to watch a game at one’s own time was a hit, and MLB deemed the campaign a success with a significant increase in fans across all age groups. More importantly for Singapore, it cultivated a newer and younger fan base, and while MLB cannot accredit live streaming as the sole factor, it was instrumental in helping to grow the game of baseball on an international level.

Consider also the numerous amount of foreign talent and expatriates in Singapore who hold allegiance to their own country’s sports teams. Very often, their sports events may not be available on local television. Live streaming would give them the means to follow their home teams without having to resort to costly television subscriptions. This, in the end, contributes further to the vibrancy of sports culture and a deeper level of competition in Singapore.

In addition to the immediate accessibility of sporting events, online live streaming has the potential to expand the fan base of sports in Singapore. Vast numbers of Singaporeans, especially the younger ones, are migrating to the internet as a means of entertainment. The youth, who are the future generation of sports in Singapore, could be disengaging from sports given the many alternative forms of entertainment available. It is here that live streaming presents a valuable opportunity to reignite interest in sports among the youths. They can watch the event on their computers as they multitask between other activities on the internet. If the event is able to captivate them, it could draw them back to the sport in real life.

Challenges and Limitations of Live Streaming in Singaporean Athletics

Live streaming is the broadcasting of live events over the internet and they are fast becoming a mainstay in the realm of sports. Likewise, it is gaining popularity among the sporting community in Singapore, particularly with the success and appeal of national sports such as soccer, badminton, and basketball. For National Sports Associations (NSAs) and Singapore Sports Council (SSC), the integration of live streaming technology can bring a plethora of benefits, serving as a relatively low-cost, high-impact platform to expose athletes and their sports. Documented success stories can lead to potential sponsorship deals for the athletes from the private sector. However, it is not all paradise and roses. It is not an easy feat, and there are substantial challenges and limitations which have yet to be fully addressed: the two main ones being technical issues and connectivity problems, and copyright and licensing restrictions.

Technical Issues and Connectivity Problems

The issue of interactivity is a pertinent one in Singapore. With the switch over to digital TV only a few years away, Singapore is currently facing digital divide issues with many of the elderly population and low-income families, with an estimated 10% of Singaporean households owning neither a computer nor internet access (Tay, 2009). This is significant as the elderly demographic forms a large majority of the current volunteer force in local athletic events and would likely be interested in watching these events being streamed online. The lack of internet and computer access may also impact upon low-income families, making it difficult for them to watch these events. Both groups may be alienated if there is no longer free-to-air coverage of these events when the FTA channels are eventually migrated to online broadcasting.

Given the technological nature of the live streaming industry, it is perhaps no surprise to learn that there are a number of technical issues and limitations which could impact upon the effectiveness of live streaming as a mass communication tool. As Ramirez mentioned in the introduction of this paper, “Singaporeans are very connected to the world through the internet. Therefore, live streaming would reach out to a large number of local sport followers.” Therefore, it is particularly pertinent to study the technical issues and connectivity problems of live streaming, given that a sizeable audience may be expecting to watch local events. Since live streaming is relatively new when compared to other mass communication mediums, there has been little literature on the technical issues that are being faced by content distributors and the way in which audiences experience these issues. An experimental study conducted by Sundar and Kim (2006) investigated the effects of low and high interactivity on a streamed video and found that viewers’ judgments of the website were less positive and the video was perceived as lower in quality under low interactivity conditions.

Copyright and Licensing Restrictions

Article 13 of the Cyber Piracy Act was introduced as a “3-strikes” rule for ISPs and involves injunctions against providing access to or removing copyright infringing material. ISPs will have to take steps to disable access to the websites that provide copyright infringing material and fully cooperate with the copyright owner to identify subscribers that are guilty of infringement. This act is a hot topic of debate today as it may infringe on digital rights and/or freedom of expression. Livestreamers will definitely have to take heed of potential copyright issues and the possibility of having their content removed may result in a waste of resources and time.

Even for copyright owned by local sporting events, the MDA licensing system for live streamers requires them to keep recordings of their live events for up to 14 days. This is to ensure that they comply with the Free-to-air TV programme code by restricting the content for up to 3 days after the event. These streamers are required to submit the recordings and the MDA may order these videos to be taken down if there are any copyright issues present. This operates under Section 34 of the Broadcasting Act and Regulation 25/26. The recent closure of cable TV service provider, Singtel Mio TV, had many football fans flocking to live streaming services to watch their BPL. If the MDA decides to enforce such regulations with local sport, enforcement officers can easily track down the recordings and order them to be taken down. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in a fine not exceeding $100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years. This may effectively scare off prospective livestreamers of local sport.

The case of Premier League v. The Digital One was a landmark case in which the High Court held the host, Digital One, liable for copyright infringement after it streamed Premier League matches through the internet without the consent from the Football Association Premier League. Although the defendant tried to claim that it was not copyright infringement as there were no downloads involved, the court held that “this contention elevates form over substance and ignores the practical reality”. This sets a dangerous precedent for live streaming in Singapore. Infringement does not only occur through downloading and the possibility of being held liable for the actions of others viewing the infringed material is a scary prospect for live stream hosts.

Copyrighted content has been an ongoing problem for local and international media in Singapore. The government has been heavily pressuring the Media Development Authority (MDA) into cracking down on copyright infringement through illegal downloading and file sharing. With the internet landscape itself perpetuating the sharing of information and blurring the lines of ownership, the issue of copyright is still a hazy one.

Future Implications and Opportunities for Live Streaming in Singaporean Athletics

Live streaming gives us a preview of how future generations would view sport. In Singapore, live streaming today is vastly underutilized for a number of reasons, but already it can be seen that this technology can bring our local sporting scene to greater heights. Viewership of sports in Singapore many times is poor. This is because the sporting events being televised are sometimes not a priority for the television companies and are often allocated to inconvenient time slots where people would not bother to tune in to view. The SEA games or the Commonwealth games are examples of such events. The lack of coverage these events receive greatly diminishes the publicity and sponsorship of the teams participating in these events. With live streaming, these teams in such events can significantly increase their receive of publicity and sponsorship. People nowadays are always on their computers. With an audience, sponsorship will increase, and advertisers would seek live streaming sites as a good medium to promote their products due to the increase in viewership of the teams’ matches. Live streaming of such events on the internet would help fans keep track of the scores of such events as well. Often scores of these events are not immediately updated on score tracking websites. Live streaming matches with scores of these events on the same web page would also attract more viewers to the page. This would result in a higher click-through rate for sponsors and advertisers. Overall, the increase in revenue these teams receive can lead to a higher quality of play from these teams and more interest from the public in such events. One notable example of how live streaming can increase the quality of our local sporting events is the recent S-League collaboration with Kallang Roar. Kallang Roar is a website and forum featuring news and discussion on local football. Due to the lack of initiative taken by some local television companies to cover S-League matches, the forum administrators had decided to provide live commentary of S-League matches on their website. This attracted a significant number of football fans to the website every match day. This year, Kallang Roar had stopped their live commentary service for S-League matches as ESPN had decided to stream S-League matches live on their soccernet website. The increase in viewership of S-League matches would encourage ESPN to continue providing this service for future seasons, and the most significant change would be the increase in revenue and incentive for S-League teams to continue playing in the league. The increase in coverage and revenue would also encourage more young football talents to pursue a career in professional football in Singapore. All this benefit and change for a second-rate football league can come from something as simple as live streaming.

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