Smart devices, coupled with ubiquitous broadband connectivity, is transforming the way we consume media and this is something that sports clubs are aware of and keen to nail down, says Luc Doneux Sports fans have become spoiled by the sheer quality of television coverage. With multiple angles, super slow motion replays and tight close-ups, it […]
Smart devices, coupled with ubiquitous broadband connectivity, is transforming the way we consume media and this is something that sports clubs are aware of and keen to nail down, says Luc Doneux
Sports fans have become spoiled by the sheer quality of television coverage. With multiple angles, super slow motion replays and tight close-ups, it is ever easier to get pulled into the action, to appreciate the skills and to share the passion.
The challenge now is for sports venues to match that engagement if they are to attract fans to attend live games. Sport is a big money business recent research suggests the global valuation is rising from US $121.4b in 2010 to $145b in 2015. The big clubs and venues earn a third of their revenue from match-day income, so keeping the fans coming back is a commercial pressure as well as a builder of loyalty and atmosphere.
It is not just the excellence of television coverage that threatens to keep fans away from sports venues. We are also seeing a huge rise in the consumerisation of media. Fans, especially younger attendees, may reject a stadium experience if the broadband connectivity is nil or of poor quality since social media interaction is such a big part of sport these days. Smart devices, coupled with ubiquitous broadband connectivity, is transforming the way we consume media and this is something that sports clubs are very aware of and keen to nail.
That puts us in contact with our preferred entertainment which may well be our favourite sports team at all times. That in turn raises two challenges. First, that insatiable demand for content and information needs to be fed; and second, it makes it even more challenging to make match day exciting enough to attend in person if you can see all you want to see on your smart phone.
So sports teams, and their home stadiums, want to engage more closely with the fans. They need them to be ever more fanatical, in short. But they are also commercial organisations, so they need to be able to monetise it. We could call that the return on emotion, RoE.
Maximising the RoE means maximising the stadium experience. That is not just during game time, although access to multiple angles and slow motion replays will certainly build engagement.
It extends before and after the game. Excitement can be built through a programme of pre-match content, which starts out on mobile devices. It could be interviews or expert analysis of the coming game, which fans could access on their phones while travelling to and from the match.
Once at the stadium, interesting and informative media before and after the game will encourage people to spend more time on site. For the fans, the benefit is in the shared experience with all the other fans. For the team or the stadium, it is more revenue opportunities around food, drink and merchandising.
One of the most obvious ways in which the television experience can be emulated in the stadium is through multiple replays on giant screens around the playing area, during the game. This is hardly revolutionary, and jumbotron screens are a common sight.
But there is much more available. If a professional broadcaster is covering the event, there will be a huge amount of content that is never seen. Imagine a 90-minute football match, with 18 cameras around the pitch. If only one of the cameras is on air at a time, that means there are 17 outputs multiplied by 90 minutes or 25 and a half hours of content on the cutting room floor.
Except of course it will not be lost. Most outside broadcast units will be recording virtually all of the camera outputs to a server network. So the content is there and available to be accessed.
Many sports venues are also investing in their own production facilities. It may not be as elaborate as the most sophisticated outside broadcast trucks, but it enables them to do multi-camera coverage of their games and events that are not being broadcast. These in-house systems will work on the same principle, of recording every camera to a server network, so there will be a similar pool of content available.
The in-stadium production system will also allow the owners to cover pre-match entertainment. That can be combined with pre-recorded content highlights from the training ground, for example and shown not just on the big screen but on screens in the catering areas and in VIP boxes. That also creates advertising opportunities, which increase revenues streams.
Sports naturally also attracts user-generated content (UGC), and venues could make this a featured part of their entertainment. Competitions could be built around UGC, with clips shown as part of the pre-match entertainment and prizes awarded on the pitch.
With careful system design, the stadium can direct different content to screens in different parts of the building. While the UGC competition is entertaining the fans in the catering areas, sponsor videos could be shown in the VIP boxes.
There is no shortage of content available. The club or stadium will have an archive; stories and features can be shot in advance; UGC will bolster interest and engage fans; and match-day coverage will generate much more content than can be shown. What is needed is a means of managing all of this content, and delivering it not just to the big screen above the pitch, but to the hundreds of screens around the stadium, and to the potentially thousands of screens in the stands the smartphones and tablets of all those who attend.
These days systems achieve the maximum use of content to engage fans and generate revenues. It connects the on-site television production infrastructure (both stadium and outside broadcast) to a cloud-based platform to aggregate the content, enrich it and instantly deliver it to any connected device.
Those connected devices could be at home or anywhere in the world, of course, but most important they will be in the stadium.
That is the way to enrich the experience for the fan, to keep them coming back to the live event.
To put this in context, lets take a look at one installation, Sporting Park. The US soccer team Sporting Kansas City moved into a new stadium in 2011. It has a little over 18.500 seats, but the principles can be extended to much larger venues.
To make sure that the fans came out to each home game, rather than sitting in front of the television at home or in the local bar, they made their new stadium probably the most technologically advanced venue in the world, thanks to Cisco and EVS.
The Cisco Connected Stadium infrastructure provides fast Wi-Fi capacity at every seat, with sufficient bandwidth to support the necessary thousands of simultaneous users. Cisco also provided its Stadium Vision IPTV application to broadcast content as required.
Mobile technology developer Sporting Innovations, designed Uphoria, the team app. This is completely focused on the stadium experience, with social interaction, competitions, and ticketing for future events. Most important, it includes a special feature called Playback. This means that any fan in any seat in the stadium can call up their own live slow motion replay on a smartphone or tablet enabling them to instantly playback the action from multiple angles. Whether fans miss something during play, cant wait until they get home or simply want to catch the action in another way, they control their experience right in the palm of their hand.
The content comes from EVS C-Cast, which tracks it on the server network even as it is being captured. Thanks to C-Cast, within a couple of seconds of an event taking place it is published on the apps timeline, meaning fans can review what happens from multiple camera angles.
It is a remarkable new way for fans to achieve both the insights of excellent television coverage and the irreplaceable excitement of being at the stadium with thousands of fellow fans. By implementing this proven technology, stadiums and sports venues can score with their fans.
Luc Doneux, Executive Vice President Sports Division, EVS.