To better reach this audience, Amedia launched Direktesport, Norway’s broadest sport streaming service in 2015. Today it has established itself as a leader in sports journalism, although the road to success has not always been a smooth one.
Amedia has 700,000 subscribers and more than 2.3 million daily users. It also has 2,500 employees, of which 1,100 are on the editorial team. In 2021, the company had revenues of 400 million euros, with an EBITDA of 50 million euros, noted Helge Birkelund, Vice President Sport, Amedia, at WAN-IFRA’s recent Digital Media Europe conference in Vienna.
Weathering the storm
Since 2001, Norway’s media industry has seen major downsizing of about 350 million euros.
Realising that digital journalism couldn’t survive through advertising revenue alone, Amedia launched a login and payment identity solution platform called alD in 2014-2015.
Print was falling dramatically during this period, but video streaming was growing and the sporting world was still linear, Birkelund said.
“If you wanted to watch a game from the Premier League or the Norwegian Premier League, you had to watch it on the telly. It was either acquired by the telcos or the huge commercial broadcasters. Also, a vast majority of games were never actually aired,” he said.
An opportunity to offset challenges
Seeing a potential opportunity in the sports broadcasting market, Amedia was at the same time grappling with two major challenges:
- What could convert existing print subscribers to digital?
- What could attract new digital subscribers?
Most of Amedia’s newspapers are in small, rural towns. For instance Jærbladet, based on the west coast of Norway has 14,000 subscribers and covers the economy, education and the local football team – Bryne.
Experimenting with revenue generating ideas, Amedia decided to venture into sports streaming, in addition to the textual reportage, and launched Direktesport.
See also: Our recent interview with Amedia Executive Vice President Pål Nedregotten
However, producing a football game turned out to be an expensive undertaking.
“You needed Operation Buses to cover the games, and we didn’t have the resources. Instead, we went the opposite way of traditional broadcasters and hired a local bus with a commentator and a cameraperson to do the needful,” Birkelund said.
In addition to local football, Amedia acquired a lot of new rights ranging from swimming to cycling, boxing to MMA, as well as the rights to Messi, Magnus Carlson, and the Polish Ekstraklasa.
All this helped the company stream 5,000 games a year.
“The high number of events has helped us with a long-tail effect. People are interested in more than football,” Birkelund said.
Though to be sure, football has been an important driver of viewers. For example, Amedia streamed a game a couple of weeks ago and noted that subscribers from 78 Amedia newspapers followed the match, half of which came from outside of the two towns where the teams were from.
During the pandemic, Amedia’s immediate future in sport streaming faced threats when telcos and broadcasters showed a sudden interest in local lower league football. The company got into a football bidding fight with TV 2 in the autumn of 2020 and lost.
The cost for lower league rights exploded, and Amedia lost them all but didn’t have the heart to take itself out of the sports journalism race, especially when 43 percent of Amedia subscribers showed an interest in local sports.
“It was hard to imagine Amedia without sports,” Birkelund said.
See also: How Amedia fine-tuned a bundled subscription product to meet reader needs
“Dying was not an option for Direktesport. How can we stop streaming when we know that we have established ourselves in the sports market,” he said. “When we enter a new market, as we do quite often, we have this unique selling point. Direktesport was too important for our brand strategy and local credibility.”
The company had to rethink its strategy and began renegotiations with TV 2. Things started looking up with Amedia winning the bid and making a six-year deal with TV 2.
“The football season in Norway kicked off a few weeks ago and that was the first time we collaborated with broadcast media. Now, Amedia is more football than ever,” Birkelund said.
In 2022, 56 percent of Amedia’s digital subscribers used Direktesport.
“These statistics show loyalty, and loyalty creates long-term subscriptions,” he said.
Birkelund added that while Amedia users spent less than 2 minutes reading a textual report, the viewership for a streamed local football game stood at an average 25 minutes.
He also pointed out the difference between time spent on mid-level matches and a game that had Messi playing, where the viewing time increased to 50 minutes on average.
In conclusion, Direktesport ended up accounting for 10 percent of Amedia’s subscription sales in 2022.
Amedia has been into sports for nearly 10 years now, and Birkelund shared a few of their main learnings:
- It takes time to transform into a sports destination.
- But when it happens, it strengthens a position that is locally original.
- It connects strongly with your subscribers.
- It’s a great tool for getting new subscribers and reducing churn.
- You need to identify your uniqueness.
- If you want to succeed, you must remember your epic fails.
In closing, Birkelund offered one final lesson: “‘You don’t own the rights, you earn them,’ is a hard lesson we have learned from this experiment. A local sport can end up being extremely high priced.”