Connectivity and portability have considerably influenced content consumption patterns. As sports fans use mobile as primary entertainment devices, they want to customise their experience when it comes to live sports. Leagues, teams and individual sporting events are capitalising on this new reality. Branded apps for specific teams or events are delivering live and near-live action and engaging fans like never before.
At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, a first-ever multimedia operation resulted in the download of over 10 million apps, with almost three million daily users choosing to enrich their experience through second screen services. Throughout the tournament, more than 24 million unique users watched content through the multimedia solutions. More digital data was streamed from the 2014 World Cup than any other event in history.
While these figures are proof of the power of live sports literally in the hands of its fans, they don’t tell the whole story. Most stakeholders in the business of live sports are aware that the way fans consume sports has changed and continues to evolve. Even so, there are few hard facts to back up the change in fans’ expectations of in-stadium content and the experience it brings. What are the attitudes and preferences of today’s sports fans? What do they want to be made available to them? And most importantly, what does this mean for venues, brand owners and rights holders?
To help answer these questions, EVS conducted a comprehensive survey across four countries. A 22-question, multiple-choice questionnaire was designed to measure the attitudes and preferences of sports fans with reasonable detail. Random probability sampling was done for five sports (football/soccer, basketball, hockey, baseball and tennis) across Germany, Belgium, Spain and three major cities of the United States with a goal to qualitatively measure the importance of digital media and video consumption to fans and to gain insight into their preferences and expectations.
The study reveals the impact of age, nationality and social media use has on viewing habits, and what fans do and don’t pay for. It gives insight into how frequently fans view sports online, through which devices and how many would accept advertising to view content using mobile devices inside venues.
There is one key factor in today’s connected world that has enabled the widespread access to information that consumers have today. Mobile devices – smartphones and connected tablets – mean the majority of people are now carrying around a computer in their pockets all day, every day.
Through these devices with a connection to the internet, a wealth of information is always at our fingertips. Following sports online has become one of, if not the, primary sources of sports news and content. More than half (55%) of EVS’ Global Fan Survey respondents said that their smartphone was their preferred method of getting this information from the internet. (The age range of those asked made a huge difference to this figure – 75% of 18 to 25 year olds preferred the smartphone for this purpose versus 34% of those aged 45 and above)
Because of the ubiquity of mobile devices, more of the general public expect to have a reliable internet connection in public areas – this also extends to sports stadiums and arenas. According to the survey, 77% of season ticket holders use their mobile devices while at the game. This shows that the availability of a reliable internet connection inside a stadium is becoming increasingly important – it allows fans to connect their devices and consume content the way they want to.
Of content currently consumed on mobile devices, sports news is the most consulted media at 60%, while just under half (49%) of people watch match highlights. The next most popular on mobile devices is a live game/event stream, which is currently viewed by 41% of EVS’ respondents.
VIEWERS ARE SHARING THE EXPERIENCE
When asked, a majority of those using a mobile device inside the stadium (65%) said they were using it to consume content and monitor activity on social media platforms. When inside the stadium watching their favourite team, social media is an important platform for sports fans to easily access all of the information they seek in one place. Statistics are so important in today’s sports that each player or team’s performance is now constantly measured against their previous games or against their opponents.
Again, not surprisingly age makes a critical difference in the level of social media interaction. 73% of the 18-24 age bracket follow sports on social networks, much higher than other age brackets asked.
Social media users share content whether it’s self-generated or from another source. Over half of the people surveyed (55%) view video highlights on social media platforms and just under a quarter (24%) share these videos.
WHAT THE FAN WANTS…
When given the choice of what content they would be most interested in consuming from their mobile devices inside stadiums, 73% respondents said they would be most interested in viewing instant replays where they can choose the camera angles. This allows them to see the action from a different perspective than from their seat and to personalize their experience.
Next to that, 63% said they are interested in viewing informative content like data and graphics. When asked when they would prefer to consume this content at the stadium on game day, 22% said before the game, more than a third (35%) said during the game and 9% said they would like to consume content after the game. However, a healthy 34% of sports fans would want to consume this content all the time.
While knowing how fans are using mobiles devices inside the stadium is valuable information for stadiums, even more beneficial is understanding the value of providing fans with this content, and even more how they could turn this into new revenue streams. 48% season ticket holders are willing to pay in order to access multi-angle replays and informative game data through their mobile devices. Of even more interest to clubs or stadiums is that more than four-fifths (83%) would accept advertising on an application to view the same content.
CONNECTED SCREENS = MORE REVENUE
Mobile devices included, there are now more screens available to viewers, allowing them to consume a nearly steady stream of content. With the right infrastructure, it is possible to deliver replay content directly onto fans’ devices, giving them the option to watch from multiple camera angles. This adds a personal connection to the content consumption for in-stadium supporters.
Imagine you’re at a stadium and there’s a contentious decision on a key moment in the game. Fans inside the stadium can now review the play themselves, making their own decision on the call by watching the replay from a number of different angles with the ability to pause, rewind and watch in slow motion. Being able to review content in this way gives fans a more personal experience.
Delivering these kinds of replays also allows fans to see action that they might have missed when distracted or using in-stadium services. It lets them review what has just happened on the pitch/court from a different or much closer perspective. Reliving memorable moments in this way proves how the mass adoption of social media and personal technology is affecting the way we consume live events.
And technology is pushing this further, allowing fans to see and learn more. Biometric data, such as a player’s heartbeat or oxygenation levels, can be integrated into content. Not only fascinating, this kind of data helps fans measure the players’ performances in the game and understand the physiological impact on them.
Together, these functions bring fans even closer to the game and to the players, boosting momentum for critical points and plays, and building suspense as the clock winds down or seconds tick to the final whistle.
THE RIGHT INFRASTRUCTURE
In-stadium screen content is primarily taken from the cameras in the broadcast infrastructure, edited and delivered by in-stadium teams. In a similar way, a system that allows the delivery of this enriched digital content to mobile applications can be easily added to existing workflows. It isn’t a complicated or cost-prohibitive process for a club or stadium.
Broadcast production facilities in the form of a permanent install or OB van are already in place at the majority of sports venues. The latest multimedia content delivery platforms can be easily integrated into these facilities and operators can quickly generate the highlights and replays to deliver to their application’s users.
The latest solutions also allow clubs to easily produce content of non-televised events like half-time entertainment, giving fans inside the stadium something they wouldn’t have at home. To deliver this content, however, viable connectivity needs to be in place. These networks are increasingly being added to existing stadiums and are being entirely integrated into new venues as they are built. Once connectivity is in place, it is not only multi-angle replays and highlights that can engage fans – many other benefits arise for clubs and stadiums.
Food can be ordered from in-stadium stalls and picked up as soon as it is ready. Merchandise can be ordered and paid for in-app, to be collected from the club store on the way out. Tickets for next week’s game, or other events at the venue can be purchased in-app. The move to cashless payments and digital wallets will only enhance this trend.
Unique video content embedded within the context of the event may also incite fans to consume more – merchandise, food and beverages or tickets to the next game. This is especially true when they are reliving that special moment that raises their level of emotion during half time or at the food stand with friends before leaving the stadium.
Branded apps are an excellent way to build loyalty and create a more immersive, personalized experience for fans while also presenting a huge range of potential commercial opportunities.
Coming to this kind of connectivity and fan engagement, the proof of concepts are coming from the early adopters. When building their 18,500-seat Sporting Park stadium, MLS (Major League Soccer) team Sporting Kansas City wanted to integrate reliable Wi-Fi connectivity to lead the way for extensive video capabilities. One element of this was Playback, which is featured in their in-house Uphoria mobile experience. It delivers in-stadium replays directly to spectators’ smartphones, allowing unprecedented opportunities to view replays from multiple camera angles immediately after they happen in the game.
It is a trend that is continuing to grow. HuskerVision, the media organization that supports the sports teams of the University of Nebraska, recently implemented a live production workflow into its 87,000-seat Memorial Stadium. The system simultaneously drives content from cameras around the stadium to screens in the venue and to a branded mobile app available for download to stadium attendees’ tablets and smart phones.
At the 2015 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, enriched content was delivered to football/soccer fans via mobile devices and the in-stadium jumbotrons. Taken directly from the host broadcast feed, Wembley’s superfast 4G connection delivered replays and highlights straight to mobile devices. Today’s fans want more – more angles, replays and more team or player inside information. All of these qualities mean opportunities for greater engagement inside the stadium, a greater return on emotion and more revenue. The connection between an enhanced live experience, brand loyalty and revenue is clear. Thankfully, the technology now exists to connect the dots.
Welcome to the new connected fan.