While the exact format of season 2 of the International Swimming League (ISL) has not yet been announced, the league has made some headway in one area.
The ISL is set to launch its own direct-to-consumer (DTC) platform called ISL.tv this summer, an over-the-top (OTT) service aimed at providing live event coverage in territories where it does not already have a rights deal in place. Per SportsPro, the new platform will incorporate a freemium tier, with exclusive on-demand content available to paying subscribers.
In general, OTT are media streaming services delivering content directly to viewers via the Internet as opposed to cable, satellite television and other traditional means. OTT services are typically access via websites, apps, digital media players or televisions with integrated Smart TV platforms (think: Roku).
“The object is to address every single market where possible. Obviously, in markets where we have a strong partnership with a broadcaster, we will be complementary, but we can possibly bring on some additional exclusive content for subscribers,” said Arnaud Simon, chief executive of Paris-based In&OutStories, the ISL’s media rights consultancy partner.
Speaking to SportsPro, Konstantin Grigorishin, ISL founder and president, added: “As a part of our strategy to build the ISL brand and develop our global fanbase, this platform will provide access to the ISL archives from the successful first season, live streaming of future matches and exclusive behind-the-scenes content.”
As part of its decision to launch an owned and operated OTT service, the ISL is also considering ways it can engage audiences unable to attend live events, and could see the platform incorporate behind-the-scenes access into its content output.
“We’re not the only one, but we are also brainstorming around what [taking] events behind closed doors will mean,” Simon expanded. “Does it mean you can deliver some kind of ‘e-pass’ for fans, with exclusive access in areas they have never seen before?
“That is something that, even if they were onsite, they wouldn’t see, so this is a super interesting exercise to understand what we can deliver remotely to fans thanks to an OTT proposition that will engage them in a much better way and offer something exclusive.”
The ISL has not announced its rights holders for season 2, though in season 1 the event was streamed live on ESPN3, ESPN’s web streaming service. Eurosport made a two-year commitment to stream the events in Europe (excluding the UK), with the BBC landing the rights in the UK to the last two meets of the season – the European derby in London and the finale in Las Vegas. In Australia, Seven Network and in New Zealand, Spark, were the Oceanic rights-holders.
Other rights-holders for season 1 include Claro Sports in Latin America, SportTV in Brazil, FlowSports in Caribbean, beIN Sports in the Middle East and North Africa, Charlotn’s Sport1 in Israel, and the CBC in Canada.
The ISL‘s 2nd season was set to kick-off this September but has been postponed due to the 2020 Olympic Games delay to next year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In Asia, the finale was streamed via DAZN, another OTT subscription platform, for rights in Japan.
The ISL plans to condense its 2020-2021 season into one five-week training camp in which ISL athletes all come together and train in one place, with the season’s competitions held within that training camp block. ISL organizers see the training camp as a way to create lots of content with their athletes, showing athlete interactions away from the pool as well as the behind-the-scenes strategies and team preparations for ISL meets.
OTTs are fast becoming the norm across the sporting world. Already this year, the British Olympic Association (BOA) announced a new platform in collaboration with UK Sport and the British Paralympic Association. Its OTT service has secured over 2600 hours of content across 26 sports, including British Swimming. Behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and original features will also be made available providing unparalleled access to the transformational journeys of the UK’s Olympic and Paralympic heroes