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 [cer