Why next-level sports production relies on putting fans in control

August 23, 2021 by Joe Ferreira, Vice President, Sports & Events
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You’re on the edge of your seat at the World Cup final. Your team has a penalty shot in the final seconds of extra time to take the lead and secure a championship. Wanting to see the perfect angle for this moment, you use your remote to switch between cameras and zoom in on the action. You also see various options pop up: You can replay the foul or view data visualizations on the taker’s successes and the goalkeeper’s save percentages. It’s yours to decide.

What might sound familiar to a gamer is quickly becoming the new TV standard for sports fans. Consumers looking for ways to take control of their experience may seek other sources of information — sometimes taking attention away from your content. But rights holders and media companies that provide enhanced content to keep consumers in their ecosystem will benefit from increased viewership, fan engagement, and new monetization opportunities.

So far, enhancing traditional broadcast coverage with new fan engagement formats has required complex and costly production workflows, technologies, and equipment. But IP and cloud advances enable the ingestion and management of multiple video and audio streams — streamlining workflows and opening up new possibilities.

...IP and cloud advances enable the ingestion and management of multiple video and audio streams, streamlining workflows and opening up many new possibilities.

The changing fan expectations

Over the past year and a half, live sports broadcasting has benefited from increased innovation, with remote and centralized production workflows delivering a greater volume of content to meet demand for more types of live sports coverage.

Consumer control is a new trend as well. Historically, broadcasters, rights holders, producers, and sports events directors have controlled the fans’ viewing experience. Today, passive live sports consumers increasingly trend toward the minority.

Today, passive live sports consumers increasingly trend toward the minority.

Virtual fan engagement brings live sports to life

The value of live sports rights lives and dies on the back of fan engagement. Production workflows designed to bring fans together virtually when physical attendance wasn’t possible are now shaping the future of live sports.

For example, “watch together” events enhance the experience and create emotional affinity among fan communities. Even as life returns to normal, not every sports fan will be able to make events in person, and bringing in-stadium experiences into the living room helps them feel closer to the action and more engaged

Robust and reliable IP multicast transport networks underpin innovation in fan engagement. A managed transmission network compensates for the shortcomings of the transport protocols that use the public internet — essential to the practical delivery of watch-together features — ensuring the transport of multiple feeds to and from various locations at ultra-low latency and without packet loss.

While simplifying virtual fan participation in live sports broadcasts has been fundamental in maintaining its appeal to global audiences, broadcasters and sports leagues can take the viewing experience to the next level — and put fans in the driver’s seat.

While simplifying virtual participation in live sports broadcasts has been fundamental in maintaining sports appeal to global audiences, broadcasters and sports leagues can take the viewing experience to the next level — and put fans in the driver’s seat.

Personalization puts the sports fan in control

We’ve come a long way from the days of traditional broadcasts, when the only choice viewers had was whether to tune in or not. Simply delivering high-quality, high-def broadcasts isn’t enough anymore — that's table stakes. Viewers want second- and third-screen experiences that enable them to interact with each other and live content in real time. Consumers expect to shape their viewing experience by selecting camera angles, audio streams/languages, live betting lines, replays, and personalized game highlights in a user-friendly manner.

With more content available than ever, consumers look to multi-views of the same game or multi-game views as essential features rather than nice-to-have options. Fans curate their own experiences and essentially produce their own shows.

Fans curate their own experiences and essentially produce their own shows.

New fan experiences bring new revenue opportunities

Fan-controlled viewing brings media companies and rights holders revenue growth opportunities as it boosts audience retention and loyalty. With viewers signaling their interest in specific sports, leagues, and players, this deeper audience segmentation allows for customized content packages and more precise ad targeting. Data-sharing goes both ways. From real-time game and player statistics to wagering-specific data, rich viewing experiences support the needs of increasingly knowledgeable audiences.

The 2020 Breeders’ Cup, a premier horse racing event, is a great example of the power of data-rich personalized fan experiences. Working closely with LTN Global, the Breeders’ Cup featured up to 14 camera feeds dedicated to each horse, including video switching, graphic overlays, and audio embedding. The “Contender Cam” enabled fans and bettors to choose the live feed dedicated to their preferred horse and watch it prepare for its race. This provided important insights to wagerers who could check the horses before placing bets. The result? A simulated live experience for bettors who couldn’t visit the paddock in person.

Fan-controlled viewing brings media companies and rights holders revenue growth opportunities as it boosts retention and loyalty.

The era of fan-curated viewing experiences

The success of live sports content will increasingly depend on providing audiences more control, more data, and more opportunities to engage. Building and keeping a loyal audience in your ecosystem will open new paths to innovation and revenue. These approaches will be the core tenets of high-performing sports organizations, networks, and agencies in the years to come.

The success of live sports content will increasingly depend on providing audiences more control, more data, and more opportunities to engage.
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