Pocket guide to subscriber retention for OTT sports services

Kirstin White | Wed Nov 29 2023 | Industry insights

Grow your streaming sports platform with subscriber retention management

Live sports have quickly become one of the fastest-growing forms of OTT content worldwide.

According to recent research, the live sports industry is set to reach a value of 87.3 billion by 2028, with an annual growth rate of 21.26%.

With such an impressive projected growth for the industry, outlining an effective subscriber retention strategy is vital.

This guide explores the best practices for OTT sports teams to improve customer retention.


Subscriber retention champions need the right gear

Think about it;

  • Would Serena Williams be the greatest in her sport with sub-standard training facilities and equipment?
  • Would Max Verstappen, with all of his talent, be three times F1 World Champion in a Haas car?

Probably not.

Modern sports enthusiasts know it too well: you can’t achieve incredible results without the right equipment.

The same applies to businesses; you’ll only achieve greatness with great tools and solutions. In OTT, this means investing in a comprehensive subscriber management platform.

What makes subscriber management platforms necessary for OTT sports streaming services?

A subscriber management system is software that efficiently handles the lifecycle of subscribers.

It automates subscription processes, streamlines customer interactions, and provides insights into subscriber behavior and preferences.

Unlock time for customer retention

The system takes care of essential tasks such as billing, invoicing, subscription renewals, and cancellations, freeing up time for OTT teams to focus on crucial tasks like optimizing campaigns for customer retention.

Enhance your customers’ experience

By collecting and analyzing subscriber data, the system provides valuable insights for tailored acquisition or retention strategies, upselling opportunities, and personalized recommendations.

Increase revenue and support business growth

With the system handling data aggregation, teams can spend more time acting on the insights, creating more value for the business and gaining a competitive advantage. The system optimizes revenue streams through targeted promotions, proactive renewal reminders, and churn reduction strategies.

Read our comprehensive guide to learn more about subscription management systems and why OTT services can greatly benefit from them.


Nothing but the best user experience

It won’t be the first time you’ve heard it but: the media and entertainment streaming industry is saturated. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the players to stand out from the crowd to significantly improve customer acquisition and retention rates.

What used to be key differentiating points like content quality, content diversity, or streaming performance are now evening out as most leading OTT platforms either push their exclusive content or purchase the rights to host and distribute quality content.

The new differentiation comes from the quality of the experience you can provide for the value.

In this section, we’ll cover what you can do to smoothen the angles and exceed customers' expectations with a pristine user experience.

Eliminate friction at checkout

Did you know that nearly 70% of users abandon their e-commerce carts?

cart abandonment statistics

Multiply your ARR by 3.33, and that should give you an estimate of how much it could be if all visitors were to validate their cart.

Now, it would be foolish to believe you can convert 100% of visitors to grow your customer base. However, there are things you can do to create a high-performing checkout experience for your fans.

Below are the most common reasons for e-commerce cart abandonment during checkout. Of course, reasons such as slow delivery or Needing to create an account don’t apply to the OTT sports space, but all others do.

Reasons for abandonment during checkout

And you can do something about it.

Unclear process (32%)

  • 18% - Too long/complicated checkout process
  • 14% - Website had errors / crashed

32% of the reported cart abandonments are linked to technical elements one could easily fix with the right tools.

Unclear costs (64%)

  • 47% - Extra costs too high (shipping, tax, fees)
  • 17% - I couldn't see/calculate total order cost up-front

64% of cart abandonments are linked to unclear pricing and tax management. This is yet again something one could easily fix by implementing the right tech.

Payment methods (35%)

  • 19% - I didn't trust the site with my credit card information
  • 11% - There weren't enough payment methods
  • 6% - The credit card was declined

Finally, 35% of cart abandonments reported by Baymard can be attributed to payment methods - or the lack of it.

The abovementioned problems can all be addressed and fixed with a more transparent and robust checkout management system.

Meet Merchant by Cleeng

By partnering with Cleeng, sports broadcasters can access Merchant, a web-store purchase management tool built to collect revenues globally.

Merchant comes with deep integrations with payment providers such as Adyen and Paypal, giving you access to over 160 international markets right out-of-the-box, with 18 languages and popular currencies also supported.

Most importantly, Merchant’s checkout engine adapts to all local tax codes, ensuring accurate and reliable tax collection for all purchases.

Note that using Cleeng and leveraging our integration with Avalara, sports vendors can grow their business with guaranteed tax law and GDPR compliance.

Using Data Effectively for Next-Level Subscriber Retention

Increase the value of your services

Experiment with multiple VOD monetization types to accommodate all fans

Live sports fans' consumption habits vary more than typical video content consumers. And so should sports broadcasters’ monetization models.

Let’s take a couple of examples to illustrate this.

Some fans will commit to watching a nine-month-long Formula 1 season. Others will only want to watch the most iconic Grand Prix, such as Monza, Spa, or Monaco.

Some fans may only be interested in tennis competitions for a few weeks of the year, while others will seek one-off boxing matches a couple of times a year.

In short, if you plan to deliver your sports video content, you will need an offer management system with the flexibility to create various VOD offer types.

Meet Core

The central component of Subscriber Retention Management™ is Core.

Core is the Subscriber Management System (SMS) through which you can manage your entire subscription service and sell videos direct-to-consumer.

Core lets content vendors experiment with different VOD offer types to give their subscribers the freedom to choose the perfect package. This includes:

  • Recurring season passes
  • Subscriptions
  • Live events,
  • Rentals, aka Transaction Video on Demand (TVOD).

With Core, sports streaming services can quickly build and develop a platform to turn sports fans into long-term, loyal customers.

Benefit from Seasonal Subscriptions

Seasonal content means your business evolves in cycles. Now, more often than not, seasonal sports content rhymes with high churn rates when an event or a season ends.

For sports broadcasters, this means:

  • Revenue drops
  • Yearly and costly re-acquisition campaigns to get subscribers back.

Additionally, it’s increasingly challenging to sell season passes when the season’s already started.

We fixed this with our unique Seasonal Subscription feature. This model lets you:

  • Display dynamic pricing to continue selling season passes at any point during the season.
  • Beat seasonal churn by allowing existing customers to auto-renew their season pass as the new season starts.

We explore the topic in depth in our how OTT sports teams can beat seasonal churn blog post.

Leverage industry-leading customer support for large-scale matches

The final, essential component of successful sports OTT streaming is customer support.

When streaming popular matches globally, knowing how to effectively and quickly handle customer queries is vital.

You can control the quality of your streaming platform and the signal you send. But you can’t control the setup of your customers. And so, the number of potential queries is endless, with anything from access difficulties to streaming glitches and connection issues.

The surest way to get a customer to cancel and never return to your service is to provide a negative customer service experience.

Meet Hi5, a frictionless customer experience for OTT services

To help you deliver a frictionless customer experience, Cleeng developed Hi5.

Hi5 is our AI-enhanced, expert customer care system. With white-labeled help centers, optimized contact forms, and an AI-powered chatbot dedicated to your audience. Hi5 opens the door to perfectly organized subscriber support, no matter the scale of the event.

  • Attend customer concerns 24/7 to help you deliver the best customer experience.
  • Assist users in 29 different languages.
  • Use a dashboard to highlight and analyze real-time customer bottlenecks, traffic jams, and pain points with intuitive data visualizations.

In other words, Hi5 is your friendly and flexible customer service specialist.


Go one step further: Predict customer churn with 92% accuracy

All sports streaming services are on the quest to retain their sports fans successfully.

The deciding factor in this success is whether or not they can understand the customer’s behavior. Or better yet, predict it.

ChurnIQ lets you do both.

ChurnIQ is Cleeng’s actionable subscriber analytics platform. Sports broadcasters can access all essential customer data through this platform in an easy-to-use dashboard. All data sources, including mobile, web, and TV apps, are combined in one space.

This means that within one screen, you can see everything from your total number of subscribers to your monthly recurring revenue and your subscribers’ average engagement rate.

Predict customer churn with 92% accuracy and run targeted campaigns

In a time of economic uncertainty and high inflation, many sports fans will have tough choices to make. And they’ll likely stick with the services they get more value from.

With Cleeng’s new AI-powered churn prediction engine, you can predict which customers are most likely to churn with up to 92% accuracy.

See it in action: How does Cleeng help Tennis Channel better understand their customers?


That way, you can segment at-risk sports fans and target them with carefully crafted automated customer retention campaigns and try to convince them to stay with tailored messages.

“It [Cleeng] allows Flow Sports to identify which cable customers are using the app and which mobile customers are using the app to best optimize the marketing. If not enough cable customers are using it, it's best to change strategy to target them, and Cleeng offers some great insights onto those customers".

Brandon Carvalho, Digital Media Strategist at Flow Sports


Deliver premium sports content and improve your customer retention rates with Cleeng

If each organization’s needs are unique, the key to success is the same across the board—subscriber retention.

Fortunately, sports broadcasters now have solutions like Cleeng at hand to change the game and make a real difference over the competition.

Cleeng has supported numerous major players from the sports streaming industry, including SBG, Tennis Channel, CHL, MXGP, and Big Ten Network. As a lead in OTT, we have also established partnerships with the most popular solutions. Together with Sportradar, StreamAMG, Deltatre, Fanreach, Edgecast, and more, we support over 250 broadcasters worldwide.

You can contact our experts here to take the conversation further.


Get the guide: Sports Broadcasting & OTT


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