TX Sport on a new era for sports production (part one)

In the wake of London 2012, many governing bodies have sought to widen their profile and capitalise on the legacy of the Games. TX Sport is one of the production companies enabling them to do it and, in the first of a two-part feature, its head of production, James Poole, has some interesting things to say about the emerging opportunities for ‘niche’ sports and the continued rise of live web streaming.

TX Sport does a lot of things, from traditional TV production through to the cutting edge of the second screen. Where is the main interest in your services coming from at the moment?

Our core business is mainly working with what you might call the ‘niche’ Olympic governing bodies, and there was a definite increase in demand after London 2012 from these bodies to do things with video. They realised that there was a massive opportunity post games with a general increase in awareness of their sports, as well as a more direct increase in participation, and we have had lots of conversations to discuss how they can use video to engage with this new fan base.

Most of those conversations have been around developing online video offerings as this is very cost effective and you can get a larger volume of content for a more limited spend – and that is very important for governing bodies that receive minimal funding and sponsorship, but know they have to be more active online and on social media to engage their audience or risk losing them to more pro-active sports.

Any examples you can illustrate this with?

One example is our work with the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE). Boxing was one of the big British success stories at London 2012, and we have recently developed an online video strategy with the ABAE that will see us producing regular high-end video content which can be pushed out via YouTube and promoted by the association and Olympic boxing stars on social media.

We recently did a few test videos using a small crew, shooting on a Sony EX-3 and a Canon 5D to get the styling of the videos right, and were really pleased with the results. It gives us a completely file-based workflow, beautiful pictures with a nice shallow depth of field from the 5D, and we can safely get three or four videos out of a single day of shooting, turn the edit around inside a day or two ready for the ABAE to upload and promote.

I definitely see us doing more work like this with sports federations, clubs and events – high volume, short-form online video, with slick production values, for an affordable price. It is important you have a strategy, though, as we have found in the past that fans don’t react as well to random pieces of content with nothing tying them together – you need to tell a story.

What have been the main enabling changes over recent years?

The biggest change in the last five years has been that it is now extremely easy to produce live web streaming coverage of sports events. You have more kit, more ready-made platforms and more service providers that enable you to do it easily and affordably.

This democratisation of live online video has created a new demand from the lesser known sports and leagues as they now finally have a way to make coverage of their events available to a wider audience, and they can also be in total control of the output.

I used to work for the British Handball Association and managed all of the video and broadcast activities. I initially brokered a deal with Sky Sports to show highlights of European Qualification matches, but there was no live coverage; we had to produce it ourselves with no financial assistance from Sky, and the broadcast slots they gave the highlights shows were not at very favourable times. It wasn’t a great deal but being on TV did help us attract some sponsors.

After that, we looked at ways we could finally get live coverage of our international fixtures, and decided that doing live streaming on YouTube would be the ideal platform for us.

There has never been such a big opportunity for niche sports to take control of their media output, and with YouTube now rolling out a pay subscription option, these sports might finally be able to actually generate some revenue from their media coverage, rather than throwing money down a black hole in an attempt to try and get an expensive highlights package on a TV channel that simply treats it as filler.

We have approaches from various leagues, clubs and federations that know there is this massive opportunity out there, but just need a production partner to help realise their ambition.

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