Minnesota Vikings Test the OTT Waters With Vikings Now App
Team tries out new content-distribution model on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV
Over-the-top distribution is all the rage in media circles these days, but one area where the direct-to-consumer model hasn’t completely taken off yet is with individual sports franchises. Although leagues commonly take the lead on live-streaming services to mobile devices, tablets, and connected devices for television screens, teams are sitting on a wealth of content created for websites and social-media platforms.
The Minnesota Vikings and the team’s Vikings Entertainment Network are blazing trails in this space, going after connected devices designed for the big screen at home by being the first NFL team to debut an app — Vikings Now — across three platforms: Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.
“It’s a natural evolution for us,” says Scott Kegley, executive director, digital media and innovation, Minnesota Vikings. “It’s not necessarily far outside the realm of how people are consuming content. Being a user of OTT myself, I just see the value as people jump on these platforms. Less people are consuming content on traditional cable, and more people are going to mobile and tablet or, in this case, at home through a connected device.”
The Vikings Entertainment Network already produces loads of content for web and social media, including three original programs actually designed for television: Vikings Connected, Beyond the Gridiron, and Vikings Gameplan. Those shows are traditionally broken up into pieces for distribution across web and social media. Now OTT offers the Vikings a chance to see if long-form content is the type of content his fans are interested in watching in that environment.
“What we are looking at is, what is the value of those lengthier programs and how will they perform on OTT?” says Kegley. “Having more time to watch these through an app connected to a 65-in. flat-screen, people are taking the time to watch those lengthier shows. That’s what we’ve found so far. But this is Year 1; we’re learning, and we’ll take a hard look at the data after the season and make content decisions based on that.”
The Vikings were able to build this OTT experience through a partnership with online-video-platform company dotstudioPRO, which specializes in getting media clients up and running quickly in an AVOD and/or VOD/SVOD environment quickly to drive viewership and monetize content.
“Brands are becoming media companies, and that’s because we all have direct access to an audience now,” says dotstudioPRO CEO Joe Pascual. “There’s incredible value for the fans to be a little more tactile with the brands that they are in love with. When we built dotstudioPRO, we wanted to offer a product that’s turnkey but incredibly scalable so you don’t have to find another solution in order to scale with it. It’s very hands-on. We [consider] our clients business partners, and we’re invested in their business models.”
The app includes NFL Network segments and highlights and is free to download on Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. Kegley notes that there has been fan interest in seeing the app introduced to more platforms, including gaming consoles and other streaming devices. The team will focus on the three platforms it has launched with this season and assess how much and where it would like to grow following this season.