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Rights Owners Should Be Thinking About 3rd Wave of Content Consumption: The Group Chat

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Rights Owners Should Be Thinking About 3rd Wave of Content Consumption: The Group Chat

Sports properties now program for television and social media channels. Reach often defines success.

“Your partners want views, and [so] you go for that,” Dan Porter (founder and CEO, Overtime) said.

But rights owners would be wise to revisit their approach to fan development, and consider allocating resources to the creation of content for smaller, hyper-specific, social groups too.

“You have to think about programming for this third wave of content consumption,” Porter said. Group chats have become a “high form of engagement. [They] grow your audience and grow your brand.”


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Group chat is not a new functionality. And iMessage usage has not meaningfully increased in the U.S. over the last half decade.

“What is different, however, is our recognition, both as end users and observers of culture, of how big [of a communication channel it has become],” Porter said. “The reality is, in the United States, iMessage is the biggest social network.”

~8.4 billion messages/day are reportedly exchanged through the global platform (h/t Andy Marston’s Sports Pundit newsletter).

iMessage is “just faster and better [than any other communication channel]. I don’t have to open an app. It’s already [installed] on my phone,” Porter said.

It’s worth noting the number of messages sent through WhatsApp daily is meaningfully larger (100 billion messages).

The use case for social media, and subsequently group chat, has also evolved over time.

“The assumption was, 10-15 years ago, that we would create these social networks that were just close friends,” Porter said.

But creators are largely using social channels to reach to the masses. They lean into direct message, closed communities, and group chat platforms to communicate with those closest to them.

Adam Mossari (the head of Instagram) recently acknowledged as much publicly.

Sports properties can no longer “ignore the group chat as factor, strategy, or tactic in audience development,” Porter said.

These small communities have become a critical part of the sports viewing experience, allowing fans at home to feel as if they’re a part of a communal experience.

“Fandom sucks without other fans,” Porter said. “The reinforcing factor of fandom [is] other fans who you are connected with, and [group chats are] the strongest glue around that.”

Group chats can also provide a safe, interactive experience for fans who want to be co-creators.

“We’re in this X number of years transition from essentially one way media to two-way media,” Porter said.

A decade ago, a fan looking to make their voice heard would post or comment on a public facing social platform. Now, many are preferring to engage in private or semi-private circles. And if they’re going to post publicly, they want that content to disappear after a short period.

“Young people, because they want to get into college [and] get a job and realize everything is scrutinized, [are more concerned about privacy today],” Porter said.

‘Winning the group chat’ can aid an sports organization in several ways.

“It [signals to sponsors] that your brand has proven to have value as a creator of content,” Porter said.

It can also be a tool to grow the fan base.

“If in every group chat 50% of the people don’t follow the [league or team], that’s an [effective] way to get exposure to them,” Porter said.

Remember, group chat members tend to be a hyper-engaged audience.

“Your view rate is like 100%,” Porter said.

And the additional engagement can feed social algorithms and help to ensure the content continues appearing in fans’ feeds too.

“The biggest challenge many creators have is while you might have a high follower count, most of those people never see the posts because they’ve long disappeared from their feed,” Porter said.

But few rights owners are currently thinking about content creation in terms of ‘winning the group chat’. The focus has largely been on informing/engaging existing fans inside the bundle and on social media, and on growing the top line.

“There is a decent percentage of sports social media content that is essentially put out there for sponsors because they are revenue generating. [That content is] always worse for growth, worse for your [social] account, and less interesting to fans,” Porter said.

The Overtime executive does not profess to have the ‘perfect strategy’ to ‘win the group chat’.

However, he suggests finding ways to surprise (think: something they haven’t seen) and/or delight the chat members (think: make them laugh) as a starting point. Game highlights will rarely achieve those goals.

While Overtime is focused on winning iMessage conversations, the company is also active on Discord and runs a series of Instagram chats for each of its basketball league teams. Porter said he’s in three of them and that “they’re active all day long.”

Those discussions aren’t always about basketball, either.

“Because you’re assuming that everyone there [has] the same type of interests, it becomes a space where you’re sharing stuff that you might [otherwise] share with your friends, that you wouldn’t share with random people,” Porter said.

Overtime employs community managers to help keep these forums running efficiently.

“They literally don’t post. They sit and build community,” Porter said. “There are many ways to do that. The most effective is essentially one-to-one and group chat messaging with users.”

While most rights owners employ social media staff members, few have invested in community managers. Porter was familiar with the concept from his time in the gaming space.

It’s not clear if group chats can ever be standalone monetizable assets in the same way social or traditional media is.

However, “sponsors in general are gravitating to short-form content as a way to effectively advertise,” Porter said. “And if you’re thinking about working with brands as an IP owner, as a publisher, [the group chat] should be part of the pitch to them and value you can provide them.”

It’s worth noting that Overtime has also been able to leverage group chats as an effective messaging tool for merchandise drops.

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