With the Premier League kicking off again this week, we are likely to see the most tech-heavy season to date, but some of the most exciting tech will actually be on the side-lines, improving the fan viewing experience. Based on our experience in the industry and speaking to the clubs and broadcasters with which we work, I see three key areas for technology this season – mobile, content production and online live streams.
Clubs, and the league, are looking to technology to recoup some of their ratings losses in recent years, primarily due to “Millennial flu,” a.k.a. younger viewers’ lack of interest in hours-long sporting events carrying massively intrusive ad loads. More football stadiums are adding high capacity Wi-Fi in their stadiums and supplying fans with live video feeds of content only available to fans attending events. They are betting that content like side-line interviews, behind-the-scenes features and unique camera angles will carry additional value and help get fans into seats and re-energise flagging fan support.
It’s not just live streams that makes mobile a winner for clubs. Clubs are increasingly using apps to offer highlights on-demand and exclusive content for fans. Video is critical to football, people want to see what they missed, and they want to play those glory moments over and over and show off to their friends in the pub – mobile is the best way to do this. Football bosses are hoping that a mobile offering will at least get casual interest from on-the-go viewers.
With more and more fans watching live streams online, there is no room for delay. Just look at the outcry when iPlayer was delayed during the World Cup. Viewers will abandon your service if a video doesn’t play within two seconds, and a stream cutting out at the crucial moment will hit your reputation hard. Anyone gearing up to show the Premier League needs to ensure they have a proper Network Operations Centre in place, which monitors your live events and linear channels proactively, with dedicated engineers ready to resolve issues before your viewers see them.
Clubs like Arsenal are using live streaming through their mobile app to engage fans from over 200 countries, reaching their global fan base, and use advanced analytics to guide content decisions and fan marketing strategy.
Content production pressures
Broadcasters and content producers need to be agile to react to the changing conditions, whether that is getting content into new markets or content or adding new technologies like AI and VR/AR which fans are increasingly demanding. It is vital they are able to repurpose for multiple platforms, need to be able to deliver versions in multiple formats, multiple languages and with different cuts. They need to understand how consumers are viewing their sports content so they can continuously improve the fan experience, demonstrate ROI and provide the most engaging multi-screen video service possible and keep engagement high.
In a time-sensitive live game environment, the pressure to deliver content more quickly than ever before is immense. Broadcasters need to get clips out to multiple stakeholders and partners in multiple countries within minutes. Highlights need to be compiled and distributed as the match is in progress as well as for half time and full time reviews. Automation is helping broadcasters like Sky achieve this for their partners around the world, a process that, if done manually, would require an immense amount of resources and hands-on work.