eSports is leading where sports broadcasters need to follow says Limelight Networks’ Miller-Jones
Sports viewership is often about a lot more than simply sitting down to watch the match on TV these days. In a world driven by the need to capture eyeballs, especially young viewers, technology is evolving that creates an interactive experience designed to draw the user in and provide them with content on demand. Steve Miller-Jones, vice president of product strategy at Limelight Networks, gives us his take on why he thinks eSports is where sports broadcasters need to look for best practice.
As a sports fan there are many ways to keep in touch with the action as it happens, many of which today don’t include actually watching the sport itself. The live streaming of sports is certainly on the rise, but the proliferation of WiFi, mobile devices and the services that go with them, from text alert to apps, social media, news feeds and even gambling applications, provide all sorts of options for the ardent sports fan to stay not only informed, but involved.
So how can content and rights owners and producers make the sport itself more engaging? How can they ensure in the world of hyper-connectivity that content is indeed still king? The answer lies in interactivity. Let’s consider some of the ways that interactivity can drive engagement with the video itself, but first we must consider how important the timing of the video itself is.
Catch up with eSports
One criticism often directed at live online sports streaming is that it’s always, “behind the action,” that latency makes the stream somewhat delayed from the broadcast feed, news alerts and updates that a sports fan can be bombarded with during an event. This latency varies anywhere from minutes, down to just a few seconds. Luckily new technology can reduce this to under a second. Getting a few seconds latency for high quality, “lean back and watch” content is probably approaching a good solution, but where interactivity is involved, it’s still too much of a delay.
A good example is eSports or competitive gaming. The games are so fast and the interactivity so important, that a couple of seconds delay is still not good enough. Play-by-play action simply cannot be delayed by even a few seconds for any meaningful interaction to take place in the sport. The growing viewer base of eSports today are fully engaged, and they expect and demand to be interacting with time synced video.
So what can sports owners and producers learn from eSports and other sports-oriented applications such as gambling that rely on low latency streaming and interactivity to be successful?
Show me what I want
True personalisation lets me watch what I want, when I want it. Part of this is getting me the video quickly, wherever I am and to any device, but also includes the data I’m interested in. Let me pick the data overlays that I see. Let me choose what commentary I want. Let me choose what subtitles to display: Referee? Coach? Fan commentator? Give me choices and I’ll use them.
Give me interactivity
Let me pause, rewind and analyse something that happens. Allow me to overlay similar events from the same game, pull up previous and related data. Allow me to switch cameras and viewpoints. Giving the enthusiast something to do while watching the sport is a key way to increase engagement with the sport. It will make me feel like I’m really involved in the game.
Let me join in
There will always be separate social media and news, but bring them together into the viewing experience and allow engaged fans to interact together with the video. There will be issues with moderation, but allowing an online chat to start up on a specific event during the timeline of a game, within the scope of the application that I’m watching the video, would be truly engaging.
All of these speak to integrated data services, and also to augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and potentially virtual reality (VR). These surely are the future of sports consumption.
AR gives us personalised data that we’re interested in that we can adjust and interact with. MR gives us the ability to interact with and analyse something that happens in the sport. And VR gives us a way to really experience the action with a dispersed group of fans; it may be an individual experience from those physically around you, but can also provide a great experience for dispersed groups.
The key to success is taking the lead from gaming and eSports, which have been doing competitive group gaming for years.