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Making sports content more compelling

Across all forms of sports, statistics are and have always been hugely sought after. Fans want to compare players, teams and countries so they can learn how those they follow

Across all forms of sports, statistics are and have always been hugely sought after. Fans want to compare players, teams and countries so they can learn how those they follow are progressing against competitors and in their careers. Sport is a hugely popular category on TV and in most places it’s a large and premium part of the entertainment experience.

It is perhaps no surprise then that major TV players are investing large sums for the rights to sports content, but it’s arguable that they have yet to fully utilise its potential and make sports viewing a more fully immersive and attractive experience. Sports fans are fiercely passionate and loyal to their favourite athletes and teams but watching sports on TV can be less satisfying than watching movies and TV – and it’s metadata that’s to blame.

When people are looking for sports content, the metadata traditionally hasn’t been as rich as it is for other types of content. If you are watching an episode of a soap or drama series, it’s relatively easy to find a detailed synopsis or cast information within the TV guide. Yet this isn’t something that has traditionally been provided for sports fans. For example, you don’t find the same detail for El Clásico or your local derby match when watching events on TV. Instead you’d have to look elsewhere – for instance online – to bring in an added level of rich detail to your experience as a fan.

This lack of detailed information on sports means that as companies start to deploy search and discovery experiences that include recommendation, the level of metadata needed to drive these systems isn’t readily available. Thus, sports content isn’t as discoverable as it should be for the casual sports viewer, or as immersive as it could be for the devoted fan.

Rethinking the discovery experience is therefore a great way to increase viewer engagement. As sport is by its nature a rapidly evolving story that changes every time a match is played, one key factor is the speed at which detailed content can be updated.

There is a range of content that could be provided to fans including:

– Over-the-top links to sporting events by game, league, team, player and season
– Headshots and action shots for active team members
– Real-time scores and fixture updates
– Headline notifications for comebacks, close finishes, extra time and upsets
– Pre-, mid- and post-game excitement scores and rationales, plus season storylines

By providing this level of detail and treating athletes more like cast and crew members, operators can provide fans with the ability to track favourite players across events and leagues and delve deeper into their career highlights, all within the TV guide.

Recently a number of technologies have become available to customers to help them further enjoy their entertainment experience. This includes the DVR and of course the advent of being able to stream content to your mobile device wherever you are. These have changed the way that content, including sport, is consumed. However, it has also introduced new problems. For example, when you set a recording for a game but the game runs long, the DVR will often stop recording before the game ends. Of course, the majority of sport is still consumed live and this is important, so it’s in this live viewing area we’ve seen people adding interactivity to content to provide a richer and deeper experience.

Aside from the development of these types of devices, we are also starting to see the use of technologies that deliver personalised discovery experiences before, during and after the game. Providers will be able to highlight the most exciting games and also understand in real time how relevant those games are. We’ll also see the enhancement of recorded sports content so time pressed fans can quickly find where the exciting moments are so they don’t need to watch through the entire recording.

Major sporting events this year such as the Olympics and Euro 2016 should provide a big impetus for operators that screen this content to add value where possible. Discovery experiences have become an important differentiator for all types of content in recent years. For brands that screen live sports, discovery experiences are even more important – to encourage subscribers to consume the content that operators have invested vast sums of money in, operators need to ensure that they are providing a truly immersive service. Their aim should be to build a relationship between viewers and selected top athletes, linking the athletes to their backstories, premium images and key career moments that are discoverable on OTT services.

By creating and delivering these immersive and interactive experiences, which bring sports fans even closer to their favourite teams and athletes, broadcasters will begin to make sports fully interactive and add a new level of detail for fans to find and enjoy.