All-Star Sports Personalization Opens Streaming Summit at NAB Show NY

Custom perspectives, viewer control, democratized clipping represent varied approaches

Sports personalization means different things to different people, and industry execs offered their respective takes at the Streaming Summit Wednesday during NAB Show New York.

Moderated by analyst Brian Ring, the panel featured David McLary, VP, video technology, NBC Sports Digital; Erin Richey, UX researcher, YouTube TV; Kevin Cohen, product manager, publisher products, Twitter.

McLary outlined the need for a balance between the kind of lean-back experience that typifies broadcast TV and the lean-forward experience more prevalent in digital.

NBC Sports Digital’s David McLary: “Our goal is to find the [balance] so we’re not bombarding people with information and ruining the experience, and yet we’re still offering them a richer experience watching TV.”

“Some viewers really want to dig in deeply with whatever they’re consuming at the time. There’s the lean-back viewer, and, as a broadcast company, we’ve catered to those lean-back viewers for years now. I think the key thing about personalization is figuring out where to hit on that continuum for the specific experience you’re trying to deliver. It could be different event by event, sport by sport. Our goal is to find the right place along that continuum, so we’re not bombarding people with information and ruining the experience, and yet we’re still figuring out a way to offer them a richer experience watching TV.”

He expanded on this point with a deeper insight into the importance of aligning those personalization features with the storytelling.

“We’ve been playing around with multiple camera angles in games for years: different games, different types of events, different cameras. And, honestly, the engagement has been mixed: some of them have been successful; some have really not been successful when you’d think they would be. And the one thing that has been consistent is the idea that each game is a story. In broadcast-land, we have excellent professionals that tell the story. So the common thing we’ve seen is that, when jumping from angle to angle is distracting from the storyline, it’s less successful. When it tells an alternative narrative that’s in line with the overall story, that’s when it’s most powerful.”

McLary cited the company’s recent success with F1 TV. “What’s really cool about F1 TV is, they have a driver cam. And you can experience the entire race from the team’s perspective. You hear the team radio, you see what they see, how they’re dealing with challenges in real time, and you get to experience the whole event from the perspective of that team. You still get the through-line of the race; you get the full story. But you’re getting it from a unique team perspective.”

YouTube TV’s Richey described her view of personalization from two angles.

“We tend to see two sides,” she said. “On the one side, you have a smarter system. How can the service help the viewer get to the content they want to watch more quickly? It might be that, when they open the app, the game they want is right there front and center, easy to find and easy for them to jump straight in. Or it might be that they get a reminder on their phone when a game of a team they love is about to start.

YouTube TV Erin Richey: “We want to make sure people have the ability to set their own preferences, so they have a say in the experience of watching TV as well.”

“And the other side of that,” she continued, “is the user-configured customization. We want to make sure people have the ability to set their own preferences, so they have a say in the experience of watching TV as well.”

User-configured settings came up again in a discussion of YouTube TV’s contextual filters. Within its mobile app are filters called Stats, Key Plays, and Scores, each providing a unique set of information and navigational elements to give viewers much more control of their viewing experience.

“[In] the Stats view,” Richey explained, “you can see things like box scores and information on top players. It’s updated in real time if you are watching live; if you’re watching off a DVR, it will sync to the point you are at in the recording.

“We also have a Scores view,” she continued, “so you can keep track of what else is going on around the league, for example. We hear from a lot of fans in our observational research that they get really frustrated with spoilers. So we give users a way to disable scores for [certain] teams so they don’t have that frustrating experience.

“The Key Plays view,” she added, “is essentially a contextual scrubber for DVR playback. We know that people want to watch live but sometimes life gets in the way. With Key Plays, if they missed the start of the game, they can basically watch the top moments to bring them up to live without missing any highlights. Or, if they are at a friend’s house or at a bar, where they don’t have access to the remote control, [and] miss a key moment, they can pull up their app and watch the play they missed.”

Cohen was one of the first customers of SnappyTV while he was at Pac-12 Networks. In 2013, Twitter used SnappyTV to help it launch a successful ad-based monetization product called Amplify that would become an important revenue driver for the company. He talked about this history as he laid out the overall strategy and roadmap for Twitter Media Studio.

“In those early days of SnappyTV, there was a clear demand in the viewership lifecycle for customers to engage with events in real time. SnappyTV fit that niche, and it was a revolutionary product at the time. When Twitter acquired it, the core thesis for Snappy TV as a SaaS product was really about capturing the most compelling points in a live broadcast and sharing them with followers on social media. But what [the acquisition] really did was take the social-media presence from being a marketing expense, a tune-in tactic, into a legitimate business.”

Recently, Twitter has been working on integrating SnappyTV into Twitter Media Studio to create a simple, seamless workflow for publishers using Twitter Media Studio.

“Live clipping has been very successful for us,” added Cohen, “but there is some integration friction where not everyone using Twitter Media Studio has easy access to this feature set. So what we’re doing today [is] bringing the best pieces of SnappyTV seamlessly into Twitter. Now anyone going live on Twitter Media Studio is going to have access to instantaneous live clipping, high-speed composition of those clips, and also instant analytics associated with them.”

He talked further about a complete democratization of clipping that he sees as a major new growth opportunity for publishers.

“We’re seeing larger publishers use clipping for smaller streaming events. For example, Liverpool FC used clipping for their Parade, and we might not have seen that before. We’re really excited about the breadth of publishers, not only in sports but also in news, for example, that are using this tool and getting great results.”