CSVS 2012: Serving Sports Fans Whenever, Wherever Is Key to Mobile Strategy

Talk of the second screen was everywhere at SVG’s College Sports Video Summit in Atlanta last week, from finding sponsorship dollars to determining how best to program the experience to devoting part of your broadcast facility to mobile platforms. On Day 2, leading experts in creating sports content for mobile convened to discuss the most important elements of the second-screen experience: What are fans looking for? And how can fan expectations be met?

“We build products with the idea of mobile first, and that’s simply because that’s where our fans are going,” said Jay Lee, senior director, product development, mobile, ESPN Digital Media. “We see that in our traffic, we see that in the way in which they consume everything from text — stories, headlines, alerts — [to] video. It’s all migrating over to mobile, so we really design products with that philosophy in mind. If you look at how you use your devices today, there’s an expectation that what you’re thinking about at that very moment is what you should get.”

Not only do fans want access to news, statistics, and video through their mobile devices, they want to locate news items quickly, find intuitively formatted statistics, and stream video without interruption.

“From a fan standpoint, what we see is [that] the quality of the video is probably the first key component [of the experience],” said Chris Wagner, EVP/co-founder, NeuLion. “Delivering live HD video on mobile devices kind of sets the pace now. The consumer has gotten to the point where they really expect a great experience on a mobile device.”

However, the panelists stressed that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for mobile sports-content creation and distribution. Video highlights, live game coverage, and social networks are all key elements of the second-screen experience but are used very differently, depending on the location of the user and the device.

“The experience of using a smartphone in an airport while you’re waiting for your flight is very different from using an iPad on your couch in front of the TV,” said John Ore, VP, product management, CBS Interactive. “Those both can be considered mobile but in two entirely different use cases, so you really need to identify where you’re trying to reach your fan and at what time.”

Although the synchronous second screen can be used to enhance a first-screen presentation, synchronous and second screen should not be considered synonymous.

“The idea of a second screen is great if your team is on the first screen, but, if your team is not on the first screen and you’re on the couch with your iPad, what are you doing? What are you looking for?” Ore asked. “Those may not be connected experiences, so I think you have to [expect] that the expectation of the fan is going to vary on your content based on where they are.”

Echoed XOS Digital VP of Digital Sports Networks Barry Loudis, “As someone who watches a lot of television, I like having secondary companions to my television, but having that first video is very important.”

In addition to considering the location of mobile content consumption, content creators must also consider the platform itself. With the abundance of mobile devices and platforms on the market, it’s easy for content creators to find themselves overwhelmed.

“You don’t need to be everywhere on that first day,” said John Burris, president, Silver Chalice. “As you think about trying to be everywhere, you don’t need to be everywhere in the same way. What I mean by that is, you don’t necessarily need to build a native BlackBerry RIM application but you might want to be on an optimized mobile Web experience on a RIM device. You may invest more on the platforms that are truly going to drive most of your usage.”

The panelists urged those looking to serve mobile fans to start with a mobile Website and gradually scale up from there. The average mobile consumer does not, or cannot, distinguish the differences among the various mobile platforms; content creators must be mindful that fans expect content available on an iPhone to be also available on Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry.

“I think the distinction between [mobile] Website and mobile [application] is actually going away,” commented Lee. “It’s how you’re building that [mobile] Website that’s really the question. Are you formatting it in a way that it can scale up and down? Are you looking at technologies and design trends out there that will allow you to have one site that works across all streams? How you are actually building it from the ground up, thinking about different screens, smaller screens, expandable screens, is really the key.”

Not to be overlooked, the panelists stressed, is the effectiveness of e-mail and SMS messaging in driving fans to consume content. Fans may not always think to open an app or load a mobile Website; getting the information in front of fans is pivotal to consumption.

“One thing that we’re just zealots about is the ability to alert fans and audiences to things that we’re creating,” said Burris. “For example, whether it’s on a Website with e-mail or it’s using SMS or native alerts in the iPhone and Android, [alerting our fans] to the things they care about is huge. Having those platforms in place is as important as having a great Website experience because, without those things, we’re really asking our fans to do a lot. The appetite is there, we’ve just gotta serve this stuff up.”

CLICK HERE for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the College Sports Video Summit.

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters