S3 Sports: Innovation in Live Apps Continues Apace

Sports-broadcasting apps, streaming services will better leverage broadcast production

The ever evolving innovations that are part and parcel of sports-broadcasting apps and streaming services will continue to accelerate in the future and will better leverage broadcast-production efforts, according to experts taking part in a session at SVG’s Second Screen Summit: Sports, held in New York City on July 28.

Eric Black, VP, technology, NBC Sports & Olympics, pointed to NBC’s multiplatform efforts related to its NASCAR coverage that began on the weekend of July 4 as an example of the evolution: “We were looking at how to bring multiplatform engagement to the next level and not just have a simulcast but see what multicamera coverage would look like across multiple devices.”

It’s not just about video, he added. Ancillary data is important and can be shaped by listening to the feedback from and metrics of the users.

Hania Poole, VP, business operations, NCAA Digital, observed that storytelling for events like the March Madness men’s national college basketball championship has evolved to deliver all types of content, not just video. The goal now is to bring together social-media content from sources like the teams, athletes, and coaches with deeper statistics as well as video.

“We want to meet all of the fans’ needs at once,” she explained. “And we are definitely going deeper into data with things that are tournament-specific and season averages. Next year, we expect to get more player-specific.”

That is all part of what Jason Thibeault, principal technical evangelist, Limelight Networks, described as a move to give end users what they really want. “Our customers are looking for ways to make content as engaging as possible and to create stickiness,” he added.

Alternative feeds and camera angles are increasingly popular offerings, but they aren’t always required or even desired. Poole said that, although Turner’s NBA Overtime product offers alternative angles, March Madness coverage stays away from alternative feeds. During the Final Four weekend, however, it does offer an online experience with alternative audio commentary more closely aligned with the teams playing along with school colors and branding.

“The fans just want the unique experience of seeing the game and winning their bracket,” she said. “They really don’t care about alternate angles.”

Finding a Pulse
Lee Brenner, global business development lead, Microsoft, shared his company’s experiences with its Pulse service, a tool designed to allow an audience, no matter how large or small, to become a virtual focus group.

“We created it for the political realm: in the past, broadcast networks would have things like 12-person focus groups to give feedback on things like speeches,” he explained. “But, with Pulse, you can get feedback from millions of people, and producers can hear how the audience was feeling rather than simply rely on whether ratings were up or down.”

For example, during President Obama’s latest State of the Union Address, Fox News captured more than 13 million votes in one hour.

“You can see the results in a moment and also break them down by demographics,” Brenner said. “The goal is to allow the audience to participate in real time and then have analysis with cool graphics using a simple platform.”

He noted that Pulse is under the control of a program’s producers. “We work with the producers in the control room,” he explained. “They control it and run it because they know most what audience information they want to get back [via Pulse].”

The Rio Olympics next summer are already poised to be a true test of how online streaming impacts TV viewing because the time zone for Rio is only one hour ahead of the East Coast. “We’re excited to think about the opportunity with multiplatform and second screen to hit them all, as Rio is close to the U.S. time zones,” added Black.

The goal is not to worry about where the content is going to be consumed but rather to focus on creating the best broadcast experience and then making sure Olympic fans can find the content they want and consume it where they want to.

The next innovation most likely will involve advertising and figuring out how to more easily monetize live-streaming services. Look for a more interactive style of advertisements, programmatic ads, and sponsored content tailored to the event.

“More than ever,” said Poole, “customized advertisements can be hugely successful and build brand awareness and engagement.”

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