FIFA Women’s World Cup Takes Fox Sports Go to New Heights

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Canada is certainly making waves in the Nielsen ratings, but it didn’t take long for the event to make a profound statement on the digital and streaming front as well.

For Team USA’s first Group Stage match — a 1-0 win over Australia on June 8 — Fox Sports registered 118,000 unique streams on its Fox Sports Go platform for desktop, tablets, and smartphones. That made it the most-streamed authenticated event ever on the app, beating out even Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.

Fox Sports Go's interface offers multiple viewing options.

Fox Sports Go’s interface offers multiple viewing options.

Fox Sports has gone full bore at this Women’s World Cup, and its streaming strategy is no exception. By the time a world champion is crowned on July 5, more than 200 hours of content — including all 52 matches — will have been featured on Fox Sports Go.

“We’ve done big events before, but we’ve never done an event that goes on for 30-plus days like this one,” says Clark Pierce, SVP, TV Everywhere, Fox Sports. “We’re really excited about it. The cool part is that it makes for a big month for us with the U.S. Open [overlapping] with this. It’s busy, but it’s great.”

Multiple Viewing Options
Aside from the obvious goal of providing live match simulcasts to any device (via authentication) anywhere, Fox Sports Go’s value-add during the Women’s World Cup comes in multiple simultaneous streams and alternative match feeds.

The first feed is Match 360, which offers a comprehensive view from inside the stadium. Beginning as early as an hour before a given match, it provides digital-exclusive angles of pregame preparations. During the match, it becomes a continuous feed of in-match highlights. Following the match, it’s a source for final highlights, press conferences, analysis, and more.

Second, Tactical Cam provides an isolated shot from atop the far end zone of the stadium, giving a full view of the field, all 22 players on the pitch, and their formations. It’s a viewing option that NBC Sports has offered on its streaming of Barclay’s Premier League matches.

“In soccer, this is a little more commonplace, we have discovered,” says Pierce. “It’s really great at showing the shapes of the offense and the defense. That’s an interesting factor for people learning the game and those who really want a deep dive into what’s going on.”

In the third option, a feed from the in-stadium CableCam gives viewers access to aerial shots throughout the match.

During the Group Stage, some or all of these feeds were offered, limited only by the number of Fox Sports’ resources at each stadium. As the tournament moves into the Round of 16 on Saturday, every match from here on will offer all three viewing options.

Straight to the Cloud
An international event like a World Cup or an Olympics offers unique production and transmission intricacies with rightsholders traditionally working in tandem with a host broadcaster. That’s the case at this event, but Fox Sports is keeping these digital-exclusive feeds away from the traditional linear workflow.

To make the digital feeds possible, Fox Sports crews are traveling with flypacks to as many stadiums as they can, bypassing the trucks in the compound. The flypack includes a rack of Teradek encoders, which take in the required camera feeds and move them directly into the cloud for encoding before they’re added into Fox Sports Go. These feeds also bypass the company’s transmission operations centers in Los Angeles and The Woodlands, TX.

User Adoption and Trends
Fox Sports Go is still a relatively young app — it launched in October 2013 — but Fox has already learned a lot about its users through the data it acquires. For the company, according to Pierce, it’s all about complementing the main broadcast with digital options.

“This is all about the best screen available,” he says. “I don’t think most people are going to pick Fox Sports Go over a 50-in. flat-screen. If they are in the same room as the TV, that’s how they are going to consume the content. We’re not competing with TV. We’re supporting it.”

Pierce points out that Fox Sports brass took note of some trends that emerged during the streaming of last fall’s World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants. With Central and Pacific Time Zone-based teams in the Fall Classic, Fox Sports Go saw a significant spike early in those games before the numbers dipped.

Pierce explains, “What we put together was, people were starting on the best screen available and, when they got home in the evening, were moving back to the TV, which [was] now their best screen.”

That said, there’s no doubt that the U.S. television-viewing public is becoming more and more savvy about TV Everywhere and over-the-top platforms in meeting their live-content demands. Although tens of thousands of sports events will be live-streamed and consumed, there’s no denying that major events like a World Cup bolsters the digital industry.

“That stuff all drives awareness of TV Everyone and drives adoption,” says Pierce. “We see a ton of new users every month; the numbers just increase. I think that, this month, we will see a whole bunch of users coming to the product for the first time and coming because they want to see soccer. Hopefully, the U.S. team has a nice run, and we can capitalize on it.”