Bleacher Report, Facebook To Test Out Next-Gen Live Sports Coverage With High School Football
Throughout its entire history, social media has always played a defined role in live sports coverage. Whether as a forum for commentary or a place to watch video highlights or behind-the-scenes content, social media has always provided a supplementary experience.
2016 has turned that idea on its head. Many content creators or event-rights holders looking at social-media platforms — Periscope, Twitter, Facebook Live — as the primary distribution method for live sports programming.
Bleacher Report, one of the more forward-thinking sports-media brands today, is looking to take the relationship between live sports production and social media to the next level. Through a partnership with Facebook, Bleacher will leverage video-streaming platform Facebook Live to distribute its own live productions of three high school football games, incorporating a number of technological and programming features designed to make the productions inherently social.
Interactivity, unique camera angles, data integration, and “millennial-friendly” in-game content are all a part of the plans for Bleacher Report’s Facebook Live coverage of three games: Sylvan Hills-Pulaski Academy from Little Rock, AR, this Friday; Antioch-Deer Valley from Antioch, CA, on Oct. 21; and IMG Academy-Bishop Sullivan from Virginia Beach, VA, on Nov. 19. These games will serve as, essentially, laboratories and proving grounds for Bleacher Report’s vision of what live sports production in a social environment can look like.
Many of the core features that one has come to expect from Facebook Live streams will be there. On-air talent Stephen Nelson and Michael Felder will answer questions and respond to comments coming in through the stream’s comments section. In addition, Facebook will weave in fan polls, encouraging viewers to cast their votes on various topics throughout the game.
On each game, Bleacher Report will experiment with unique camera angles. An aerial “flyline” camera will be deployed on the game at Pulaski Academy on Friday, and strategically placed GoPro cameras will be used for all three games. Bleacher will also add advanced analytics into the broadcasts, including performance metrics through a partnership with STATSports, a Northern Ireland-based GPS player-tracking and analysis company.
Many of the most engaging features, though, are designed to highlight key storylines in each of the three contests. Pulaski Academy head coach Kevin Kelley has built a national reputation by going for it on fourth down, going for two after every touchdown, and consistently opting for an onside kick. In this Friday’s production, he will wear a microphone and provide live commentary during each of such events throughout the night.
Bleacher will also design a camera complement for the Antioch-Deer Valley game to provide comprehensive coverage of the performance of Antioch running back Najee Harris, a University of Alabama commit who is widely considered one of the most talented prospects in the Class of 2017.
As for millennial-friendly content, Bleacher Report and Facebook are taking the opportunity to add some viral-worthy features to the productions. Producers will be roaming the stadiums capturing deeper content for Instagram, including using filter and effects app MSQRD, and integrating all this original content into the live show.
There are also uniquely engaging content ideas, such as the “1,000 Balloons, 1 Gold Ticket” video that Bleacher Report created. 1,000 balloons were released at a Pulaski Academy practice, and the player who popped the balloon with a golden ticket inside will have the opportunity to design and call Pulaski’s first play of the game.