Live from Wimbledon: Taking social media further with Wimbledon Digital
For the 2019 Championships, Wimbledon Digital, the social media team for the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), has launched a daily live show for social platforms, a move that coincides with a concerted effort to improve workflow efficiencies from last year.
Wimbledon Digital has also been integrated more tightly with the Wimbledon Broadcast Services (WBS), the in-house department that took over as host broadcaster for the Championships last year.
Speaking to SVG Europe, Will Giles, digital editor at Wimbledon Digital, commented: “A lot of stuff was new last year, as the host broadcast [with WBS] started last year, but the key things for us is just establishing efficiencies between digital and broadcast, making them one and the same, and I think this year we’ve got a lot better at that.
“We’ve been able to connect up the whole central content system with access to all courts. We can then clip and stream every court [for social media],” he added. “We could do that last year but we’ve just got more efficient at it. It’s just a lot more joined up; I think the main thing is just making digital and broadcast as closely aligned as possible and understanding that we can help each other and we’ve just both a part of the same team.”
Engaging younger and mobile viewers
For the first time Wimbledon Digital has produced a daily live programme specifically for social media viewers, called Wimbledon Coffee Morning.
Commented Giles: “We are doing a self-produced live show which is going online, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and that is new this year. Previously we’ve had the Wimbledon Channel, but we wanted to make something that was a little more social-focused, that was really appealing to more of a social audience.”
On who that social audience was, he added: “A younger audience, and you’re talking to an audience that’s watching it on a device, not the TV, and what that difference entails.”
Last year AELTC streamed live audio coverage of matches to social media for the first time, registering almost 750,000 views and generating direct engagement with just under 60,000 fans. The Wimbledon Radio Channel, Wimbledon’s live radio broadcast of The Championships, produced by IMG and encoded by IBM, was delivered to Facebook using Visual Radio, a then-new component of Grabyo Producer. The listening experience displayed custom graphics and animations on an audio frame, and enabled radio distribution to Facebook, Twitter, Periscope and YouTube as well as websites and mobile apps. Viewers were then able to discuss the action with other listeners through comments or posts, connecting the wider fanbase and community.
Using social media means viewers can interact with Wimbledon Coffee Morning, which runs daily for about 45 minutes (see an episode here). Giles explained: “So whether it’s getting people to comment below [the live stream], or answer polls that then come up on the screen, adding some kind of digital graphics, bringing in social media feeds and stuff.”
The technology behind the social media programme is from Grabyo. Added Giles: “It’s basically a mini broadcast gallery [here in the Wimbledon Digital room] running through an online platform [from Grabyo] because you can bring in VTs and that sort of thing.”
Grabyo provides a live production manager that helps oversee production each day. Using a laptop, encoder and a single camera, the production runs through Grabyo Producer, which allows the team to overlay graphics and insert video on demand clips. The production also uses Grabyo’s partnership with never.no, a social interactivity platform which allows the team to run live polls and pull in audience commentary from social media. Poll results and audience comments are then displayed over the stream in Producer and pushed to live.
Continuous workflow improvement
Giles stated that Wimbledon Digital improves its game for each Championships. “Every year we become more attuned to what people want to see. Obviously it’s pretty dependent on the tennis.”
However, this year the increased integration with the broadcast side, feeds, clipping, streaming plus Wimbledon Coffee Morning programming means there is more content available to use than previously, which has in turn created its own issues.
Noted Giles: “One of the things we’ve had to really deal with this year has been the sheer amount of video content that we get through from our broadcast team. We’ve had to get a team of four people basically managing uploading, which is the biggest team we’ve had doing that before.
“It’s just the volume of stuff,” he went on. “You put so much effort into the [content] creation, and it all looks great, but then you think well if no one’s seeing it, if you haven’t got people to put it anywhere, then what’s the point?”
He added it is not simply a case of sticking content online anywhere; a carefully judged approach is required to make social media engage viewers: “It all has to be optimised, in the right places, so [uploading] is a pretty big task. There are still more efficiencies we could make on how we do that, but we’re getting there,” continued Giles.
Giles concluded: “We’re capturing more content now than ever before, we’ve got more eyes on everything than ever before because of these systems, and in turn we’re creating more engaging content that people want to see and we’re quicker at working like that.”