Football Production Summit: Connected fans in-venue, at home, demand more

It wasn’t too long ago that being a connected fan would involve nothing more than watching 24-hour sports networks, all of the games, and having a subscription to two or three local newspapers. But those days are long gone and football clubs, leagues, rights holders, and even athletes are all struggling with how to meet the needs of connected fans without jeopardising rights deals and related entities.

Grappling with those challenges, and an ever-evolving landscape of devices, social media platforms, and more, was front and centre during a panel discussion at the SVG Football Production Summit in Barcelona.

David Leporini, Viaccess-Orca, EVP Marketing Products and Security, said building the connected fan base is a multi-step process that begins with content security so that premium content can be made available to sports fans anytime, anyplace. But the fan needs more than just content: they need a way to personalise their experience and, ultimately, have a one-to-one relationship with the content owner.

“If you don’t do it someone else will; if you don’t enrich the content someone else will,” he added. “Footytube, for example, builds up its site with information and video clips from fans. So if someone else is doing it, you are losing your audience and ability for monetisation — and that is what makes up the value of the assets.”

In addition the responsibility to prevent piracy of things like pay TV content needs to advance to where the rights holder and the content distributor share in the responsibility as it lends more balance to the business side of things.

Xavier De Vynck, EVS, Vice President Business Development, said that more and more today’s football fans head to the stadium with the expectation that they not only will experience the match in person but that they will not be cut off from the living room experience.

“We see fans in the stands wanting the same kind of user experience as the people at home, with replays and the ability to review certain situations,” he said. “Also they will want exclusive content only made available to people in the stadium.”

EVS C-Cast, for example, can allow for replays and alternate camera angles to be brought back into the stadium and publish up to four angles within 30 seconds of an event occurring. And next-generation services will do things like incorporate deeper statistics and even biometric data.

“When you have a moment with emotion you can use it and create a return on the investment as the more video you give to the fans the more consumption you will create,” he added.

Scalable data delivery

With content created, the challenge then becomes getting the video clips and content onto the devices within the stadium and Vitor Teixeira, Streambolico, Business Director said that is a hard and difficult task. For starters, bandwidth of about 2 Mbps is needed for one live channel to be streamed to fans. Portugal-based Streambolico looks to solve those demands by offering services like scalable data delivery of video that can increase video delivery speeds by up to 10 times from a WiFi hotspot and more. The solution includes the use of a proprietary server that supports RTSP, HLS, and smooth streaming and a client SDK that supports Android and iOS devices.

“Fans expect to be connected during the event and to also have full access to all technologies available through mobile devices, like social media,” he explained. “Live streaming to mobile devices is what we do and revenue can come from either video advertising or a premium experience that gets an emotional return.”

Stefan-Eric Wildemann, FIFA TV, Senior Manager Sales & Distribution, added that the connected fan is also about the one sitting at home in front of the TV. Last year’s World Cup in Brazil, for example, was highlighted by a massive multimedia effort that gave football fans around the world a well-integrated app experience that included everything from in-depth statistics, behind-the-scenes footage of things like press conferences and players arriving at the stadium, and, most importantly, multiple-angle replays of key moments that were built via EVS C-Cast technology.

In-stadium engagement, he added, is not part of the pre-requisite for stadiums that serve as World Cup match locations. And for all of the potential good that can be done with video, in terms of revenues and building a relationship with the fans, there are also issues related to referee safety and even the ability of fans to create content in venue. Phones have cameras that are increasingly powerful in terms of video and photo recording and many still cameras of course can now capture video at 1080p resolution and beyond. So fans, increasingly, have the opportunity to create their own content captured from within the venue, post it to social media, and even sell advertising against it.

“There are a lot of mine fields around the connected stadium,” he said.

Teixeira added that it is also important that an app is created that can be made available to fans in the stands and really drive them to the live footage or high-value footage the club wants to offer.

“That makes the experience one that is controlled where you can guide the fans,” he added.

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