FIFA World Cup’s rich second screen experience explained

Streaming to second screens has rightly been heralded as a major component of 2014 FIFA World Cup coverage and arguably the biggest innovation for many a year in terms of its long-lasting impact on how audiences will engage with the tournament.

Untold as yet is the story behind the distribution and presentation of multi-screen coverage. FIFA initiated its multimedia project with the ambition to offer a simple but flexible service to its mobile and broadband licensees. It would allow the football fan to access the vast amount of material that will be produced for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup. After a consultation and research phase conducted jointly by FIFA and the host broadcaster HBS, the service suppliers were eventually chosen at the end of 2012. While technical orchestration of the content is being handled by EVS, HBS is powering an interactive, personalised and multiscreen experience from Brazil partnered with deltatre and Netco Sports.

“The innovation for 2014 is not so much about the data itself but from the seamless integration and exploitation of this data in web players and mobile apps,” says Gilles Mas, deltatre’s world football unit director. “It is about how we editorialise the raw data that creates value and then how it is contextualised within the live experience that makes it so relevant.”

Among digital media services offered by HBS to rights’ holders and managed and delivered by deltatre is an advanced web video player. For more conventional broadcast production services it is also providing, for HBS, a suite of studio graphics production and live telestration tools.

In addition, the Italian-based company will collect and generate statistics for all 64 games to produce the official results system for FIFA. This set of data is used in HBS’ multilateral matchday production and can be further used to create TV graphics for broadcast rights holders. Deltatre is also providing a set of tools, including the data feed, to populate the official website and associate FIFA online services during the tournament.

Mas continues: “There are some sports where data on its own has great value. Baseball might be one example where data could be sold independently of the live game. But, with football, data is complementary to the picture. It adds a richer experience to the coverage but there is no doubt that the primary experience is what is happening on the main screen.”

About forty rights’ holders have already signed to take the mobile and web services from FIFA and HBS. This includes customers for the white label services in the form of FIFA World Cup smartphone and tablet apps and the web player, which are customisable in design and content by FIFA’s media rights licensees. There are also many broadcasters with their own digital platforms and services (the BBC being one) who want access to the main content feeds alone.

“We are very satisfied with the amount of service bookings by our rights holders,” says Stefan-Eric Wildemann, manager of sales and distribution at FIFA TV. “It shows that broadcasters have shifted focus on distribution over multimedia platforms and that our solutions for the upcoming FIFA World Cup are at the forefront of what is currently being offered to sports fans.”

Functionally, the web player (based on deltatre’s Diva) and mobile player are similar, with a platform difference. The mobile product chosen by FIFA and HBS is in this case developed by Paris second screen specialist Netco Sports (which numbers ex-Arsenal and Barcelona player Emmanuel Petit as ambassador).

“The two [digital] experiences are similar and aim to give an extension of coverage of the competition and games through video content available as VOD clips or live feeds as well as the statistical coverage we are packaging for the web experience,” explains Mas.

The Diva video player includes PVR functionality to enable shuffling back and forwards during live streams. “This is elegantly represented through timelines on which we post the main events of the game,” he explains. “If there was a red card, for example, this is flagged on the timeline and users can go back and view the incident.” Other functionality includes picture-in-picture, viewer selectable camera angles, multilingual audio tracks and video search.

The statistics coverage integrated into the live experience includes player biographies, formations, group tables, results, live scoreboard overlays and squad lists, although the focus during the games will be on player tracking. deltatre is gathering raw positional information generated in real-time at every stadia, using optical systems provided by US sports tracking specialist STATS, to create a range of statistical analysis including distances walked, jogged and run per player, heat maps, distance covered and so on. An operator is tasked with assigning shirt numbers to each ‘object’ on the pitch within the deltatre software prior to each game. Through the player, viewers can integrate with social networks with links to Facebook and Twitter.

“The aim with all of this interactivity is for viewers to become engaged with the game and spend more time exploring all the features Diva, and by extension, the broadcaster, has to offer,” says Mas. “By combining live tournament data, editorial coverage, social media feeds and video footage from every camera angle on the pitch, Diva has changed World Cup viewing into an interactive, engaging experience.”

Through C-Cast, EVS is orchestrating the assembly of all-content for Netco and Deltatre. “We have a range of APIs to integrate C-Cast into our solutions,” explains Mas. C-Cast effectively serves the content onto deltatre’s origin hub – a platform from where deltatre packages and encodes content into to the required format for distribution by content delivery network.

On the broadcast graphics side, deltatre’s graphics engine is utilised by HBS as part of its catalogue of services for broadcasters looking to create pre-match programme or post-match studio analysis and news with official FIFA World Cup templates. This service also enables a customised version of the Extended Stadium Feed (ESF) with TV graphics in any language for rights’ owners. For virtual graphics, the deltatre system syncs with Piero from Red Bee Media and Viz Libero.

Additionally, deltatre’s Magma Football software production tool allows operators to quickly browse and extract data from the official FIFA Competition Results System (including player tracking) to populate TV graphic templates using a dedicated or broadcaster’s existing graphic engine.

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