With Jacked LiveCast, Big Ten Fans Build Their Own Fan Experience
By Carolyn Braff
With innumerable categories of fans dotting the sports landscape, attempting to create “the fan experience” inevitably becomes a subjective exercise. Rather than try to come up with “the” optimum offering, Jacked Inc. left it up to the fans to do so. Through the company’s LiveCast platform, which launched with the Big Ten Network in August, fans create their own online companion to complement a TV broadcast, synchronizing personalized online content with the live TV programming to define their own fan experience.
“The platform really becomes a publishing platform where we put the fan in charge,” explains Bryan Biniak, CEO and founder of Jacked. “The fan gets to pick and choose what’s important to them, and they can change their mind in the middle of the game. Fans are looking to go deep and broad related to what they’re watching, and we feel like we’ve set a new standard for an interactive sports-television experience.”
Jacked and the Big Ten Network are in the first year of a partnership that offers LiveCasts of every football and basketball game for all 11 teams in the conference, and, in a world of fleeting eyeballs, the company has found a way to keep Big Ten fans in one spot. Since the Big Ten-branded LiveCast launched through BigTenNetwork.com on Aug. 30, fans have spent an average of 40 minutes on the LiveCast platform an eternity in the Internet world.
“Consistently, users spend at least 40 minutes a session on the product, which is significantly greater than any of the video sites that are on the Web right now,” Biniak says. “We also know what widgets they have on the screen, how they’re interacting with those widgets, which ones they add, which ones they take off. We can measure participatory engagement.”
In its two years of existence, Jacked has made significant headway into the sports arena. A team of 16 employees based in the U.S. and a separate team of 16 in India have already filed 10 patents on the home-grown platform. The server-based solution requires no set-top box or custom hardware, and there is no user-download required to access the sites.
“Part of the beauty of this is, all our partners need to do is give us a URL and then it will take an hour for us to set up our product,” Biniak says. “It’s really a matter of basic integration, scheduling the games for the season and choosing which widgets and content feeds to turn on. Once it’s up, our partner doesn’t have to do anything other than provide promotion on the Web so people know how to get it. It’s very simple.”
To create the personalized experience that works with all major browsers and either the Mac or PC, the platform does all the hard work. “Before a game airs, the platform will collect information about it: these two teams are playing at this time, this date, in this venue,” Biniak explains. “Then it will collect information about who is starting, the coaches, injury reports, and also look at recent media related to those teams and players.”
That information is automatically pooled from a search of the licensed content providers with which Jacked has agreements, including Stats Inc., the Associated Press, and Getty Images. A hierarchy is followed for sourcing content, so that only premium content is pulled into the platform. Statistics, news, video, and audio related to the upcoming broadcast are dynamically pulled into the interface to be accessed during the game.
Once the game starts, fans build their dashboard, dragging and dropping their choices from a growing menu of statistical widgets (scoreboard, out-of-town scoreboard, play-by-play, player profiles), news widgets (conference news, team news), and photo widgets (via XML, live feeds from AP and Getty Images automatically populated into live slideshows). A YouTube widget that pulls the latest video on the teams and a trivia widget are also available, as well as an Amazon widget that pulls up products related to the teams and players on the field.
“The widgets are all completely empty until they synchronize with the broadcast,” Biniak says. “We don’t have people pre-producing the experience, and we don’t have people producing it live. It’s all done dynamically.
“If you want to simplify it, the game basically produces its own Website,” he continues. “The statistics aren’t just updating dynamically, but the content [is] as well. If a player does something meaningful in the game, the player profiles will automatically shift to feature that player. It’s cinematic publishing.”
Jacked is also experimenting with widgets that enable live streaming video, predictive games, and announcer interaction.
Fans can save their customized interface so that they do not have to rebuild it the next time they want to watch a game, and the advertising platform recognizes the customization. With each dashboard treated as a unique environment, a different advertising experience is delivered to each fan, depending on the widgets in use.
Jacked’s platform supports all NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL games, as well as NCAA football and basketball games. The company has already partnered with networks (NBC, Versus), local affiliates (KTLA Los Angeles), newspaper Websites (Philadelphia Inquirer), leagues (NHL), and teams (Washington Redskins), and just as each fan is free to customize the Jacked experience, the clients have plenty of leeway as well.
The New York Giants launched their partnership with Jacked on Sept. 4 and have made it even easier for their fans to start LiveCasting. “At game time, if you go to the Giants.com Website, the Jacked SportsTop is their home page. You don’t click through to it; you just go right into the experience,” Biniak says. “That is what is most relevant to Giants fans at that moment in time: the game.”