‘Manager Mode’ trialled during Viaplay’s Danish Cup Final broadcast

Last month’s Danish Cup final was notable not only because Silkeborg beat AGF 1-0 to claim its second ever Pokalen title, but also for the option for those watching on Viaplay to view the game in ‘Manager Mode’, with a map of player movements, player names and key statistics, writes Anders Lorenzen. 

When Anders Raden-Rygaard, the head of commercial for Divisionsforeningen, the representative body for Denmark’s four men’s football leagues (3F Superliga, Nordic Bet Liga, 2 Division and 3 Division), attended a US sports convention a few years ago he came across the gamification technology behind ‘Manager Mode’.

Speaking to SVG Europe, Raden-Rygaard admits that he belongs to the generation which prefers to watch football matches in the traditional way, but the technology piqued his curiosity, and he wondered if it was worth trying the technology during the broadcast of Danish football matches because he thought it could be a powerful tool in attracting younger audiences and increasing viewing figures.

The concept of Manager Mode originated in the popular EA Sports-developed football computer game which in Denmark is extremely popular with younger football fans, so Raden-Rygaard thought it was an opportunity he needed to pursue.

The integration of Manager Mode into sports broadcasting is a good example of the evolution of sports broadcasting and how gaming and television are becoming increasingly entwined.

In the EA Sports video game, Manager Mode allows the player to receive all kinds of different match stats as well as individual player stats, and these are also the most obvious elements to transition into the broadcasting version of Manager Mode, such as team procession, number of turnovers and counter-attacks, as well as live stats which we are familiar with from tennis such as the speed at which the ball is travelling. In the feed published on Viaplay, a small graphic box indicated the movement of all the players.

Raden-Rygaard proposed the idea to Viaplay, the commercial broadcaster which together with TV2 (one of Denmark’s two terrestrial broadcasters), has the right to the Superliga matches – the top-flight Danish football league. They agreed it was worth a shot and set up a meeting with Genius Sports, the sports data and technology company that could provide the feed for them.

It’s a service Genius Sports already provides to the likes of Premier League Productions, which provides a live ‘Premier League Data Zone’ viewing mode for the live Premier League matches it distributes around the world with information such as player names, passing accuracy, shot speeds, sprints, total distance travelled, touches in the final third and pitch maps presented via an ‘L-bar’ overlay.

After doing some technical tests, Divisionsforeningen and Viaplay found  that the output delay on implementing the Manager Mode stream would only be three seconds, and so on that basis it was agreed it would be feasible to make it live, rather than release it after the match.

The extra resources needed to implement this were minimal as they already had all the data needed to produce the stream, explains Raden-Rygaard. “All the Danish Superliga stadiums have all the cameras to make the player data for the matches meaning we did not have to do a lot of pre-work and it was a pretty straightforward process.”

From a financial point of view, Raden-Rygaard explains that there were of course some costs but it was more than manageable: “We had a start-up cost, and some of the feed was made in Los Angeles, so there was some transition costs,” he added.

From a technical point in order to create the feed, as they were already in possession of the data, it was a pretty simple procedure. Viaplay sent the broadcast output to Genius Sports who then sent the Manager Mode feed mixed with the output back to Viaplay.

And so, on 9 May this year during the Cup Final between Silkeborg and AGF, the technology was deployed in a separate stream on the Viaplay broadcast.

“The new generation of football fan demands more insight and data than ever before. We were delighted to deliver ‘Manager Mode’ for the Danish Pokalen, providing viewers with brand new insights including player IDs, pitch maps, shot speeds and trails,” says Paul Hunt, sport business director at Genius Sports.

“This initial launch was a huge success and really, we’re only scratching the surface as to the data we can display and the opportunity to provide Danish football sponsors with dynamic new inventory within the live broadcast.”

While an assessment will now be made on whether to use the technology again, the initial response was promising. Of the viewers who watched it on Viaplay, some 20 per cent watched the Manager Mode stream, while 30% hopped between the two different streams.

The Danish Superliga is now on summer break until the weekend of 20 July, if you were to ask Raden-Rygaard about his views, he describes Viaplay as the perfect partner for the trial and says he very much hopes it will be used again.

He also adds that the version of Manager Mode used was very basic, and there are many more advanced features that could be adopted in future. For this first trial, the aim was to establish whether there was support for the concept and from then onwards the product could be tailored and improved.

But he adds that there would be huge commercial potential for broadcasters to pursue this. “As this was a trial, we agreed this should be a non-commercial feed”, Raden-Rygaard explained. Talking about the commercial potentials, he added: “For instance, you can insert specific sponsors in the feed, and add them anywhere on the screen.”

In terms of what other future potential use cases are, Raden-Rygaard expresses the view that the sky is the limit, and Manager Mode could be used to feed into stadium display screens that already receive the TV stream and sports events streamed on public big screens.

He adds that it is his understanding that Viaplay can see the potential for Manager Mode, but stresses: “It is important to get it right”. Next for this potential is further discussions between Raden-Rygaard and Viaplay, and if Viaplay, who ultimately has the final say, decide to use it again the parameters need to be set, what matches to use it for and how often.

Offering his own opinion, Raden-Rygaard said: “I don’t think it should be all matches that have this feature, you should look at the 32 rounds of the Superliga and select some special matches.”

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