Inside the International Federation of Hockey’s Decision to Tap NAGRA for OTT, Digital Offerings

The International Federation of Hockey (FIH) has two billion fans globally and Thierry Weil, FIH, CEO, faced the same challenge anyone with two billion fans (and 30 million active participants) has: how can you understand them better and start to build a real relationship? FIH hopes to find that answer via a new 10-year relationship with NAGRA whereby NAGRA will manage a multi-faceted digital platform on a global scale.

Thierry Weil, FIH, CEO, says Nagra will take the sport’s digital engagement to new levels with fans and participants.

“Streaming live games is about more than just streaming,” says Weil. “You have to get in contact with fans to better understand them. We know the individual clubs, but with two billion fans it would be great just to know half of them. And the way to do that is with virtual and digital content that works in parallel with broadcasters.”

Deployed and operated by NAGRA as a “sports-as-a-service” offering, the multi-faceted digital platform will be developed for web, mobile and smart TVs. It will include live matches, replays, highlights, videos, archives, news, articles, live scores, results, and statistics, as well as innovative social sharing functionality where fans and participants can capture and share instant moments online.

Jean-Luc Jezouin, NAGRA, CEO, says the company will work closely with FIH to enhance their digital offering to hockey fans.

Jean-Luc Jezouin, SVP Sales Development for NAGRA, says the goal is to provide something that TV broadcasts cannot provide: a sophisticated and super-scalable platform that can leverage the work the company already does for Telefonica in Spain and the more than one billion consumers around the globe whose experience is enabled by NAGRA.

“A lot of companies do pure streaming, but this is more than that,” says Jezouin. “And on the operator front normal people can enter the content, like interns, marketing, or even volunteers.”

Many of those volunteers are players or participate on some other level with organized FIH events and leagues. The goal is to reach those 30 million members with an app that is in their pocket on a smartphone and a tool that FIH, a league, or event a club can manage memberships through.

“Now we can start centralizing content for our members, clubs, and federations,” adds Weil. “It’s the right thing to do for them.”

The new service will be launched simultaneously with the resumption of live international matches. In addition, the platform will provide the FIH, continental federations, national associations, and clubs with a centralized management service for their millions of participants and fans. In the meantime, fans will be able to see past match highlights and interviews with players.

“We have a huge base of volunteers of every kind of sort, those who are on the street and those who are getting data and volunteering to work on games,” says Weil. “They love hockey.”

The move to NAGRA is the next step in an OTT development plan that began in 2019 with the football streaming provider MyCujoo.tv. Weil says that MyCujoo.tv played a big part in getting FIH to this point but it was missing some key elements around the games that could take engagement to a new level.

“We can use the entire expertise of NAGRA and that was tremendously important,” says Weil. “There are many OTT service providers and they are more or less the same but NAGRA offers a new way with OTT and fan engagement. It’s a complete package and we were continuously talking to each other to make this happen.”

FIH has leagues in 137 countries and now, for the first time, all of those organizations will be under one content roof.  most popular in India and Pakistan and is growing in Japan and China, especially the women’s side of the sport.

“China is a huge territory and the U.S. is as well as our national association is not linked to college hockey but there are 76 different teams that we can touch,” says Weil. “And in Argentina it is the second most popular sport after football.”

Those countries will require different languages to be provided and the plan is for NAGRA to start with three or four languages, including English, French, and Spanish and then potentially adding in Mandarin.

“This is the start of a wider journey that goes beyond just sports streaming,” says Jezouin. “With this partnership, we are taking field hockey into a realm of global digital transformation and harnessing the power of player participation as well as fandom. NAGRA’s cloud-based video content management technologies and services and drive for innovative business transformation will enable the FIH to deliver a new level of engagement for the sport and provide hockey fans with an unmatched experience.”