Golden Boy, Facebook Bring Boxing Into the Connected Age

Five-match pact calls for free live stream with social, unusual camera elements

Watching premiere boxing doesn’t require a pricey pay-per-view event anymore. Fans of the sweet science can get all the jabs and hooks they want for free, thanks to a five-match deal between Golden Boy Promotions and Facebook. Although live coverage won’t start until Aug. 11, Golden Boy (created in 2002 by Oscar De La Hoya) is busy preparing the backend systems that will take advantage of Facebook’s social graph to bring boxing into the connected age.

Golden Boy is no stranger to digital, having already streamed local Los Angeles fights to Ring TV. Last week, 5,500 concurrent Facebook viewers visited its page to watch the press conference for the rescheduled Sept. 15 rematch between middleweights Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.

For its live Facebook matches, Golden Boy will use a six-camera setup to capture a 1080i feed, which will be sent to a production truck onsite. Onboard, a producer will use a Wowza ClearCaster encoder to output a 720p stream for Facebook, delivered to the social network via standard IP with LiveU cell muxing used as a redundant backup. Facebook will create a few lower-resolution encodes for lower-bandwidth connections.

What will make the coverage exciting are the social-media elements and unusual cameras Golden Boy has planned. A social producer in the production truck will be tasked with monitoring fan comments and bringing the best questions to the on-air commentators. That producer will also run polls from time to time, perhaps asking viewers who had the better walk-out music or who they think won the previous round. At some moments, fans will drive the broadcast, voting on what segment they’d like to see next or asking postmatch questions to the fighters, for example.

Interactive features can easily become a distraction, and the Golden Boy team is well aware that it needs on-screen elements that add to the experience, not detract from it. It’s easy to clutter up a match with too much interactivity, so finding the right balance means being selective. The team is looking to the experts at Facebook for guidance, since Facebook knows what its users want in a live broadcast.

Besides the six cameras covering the action in the ring, Golden Boy is going to use human-worn point-of-view cameras to mix in some unusual angles. Although the details haven’t been ironed out yet, cameras are likely to be worn by judges, referees, or trainers. The team is creating a camera to be incorporated into glasses frames, essentially sunglasses without lenses and with a small POV camera on the side. But cameras mounted in headbands or pinned to lapels are also a possibility.

“The big thing with Facebook is, they don’t want this to be a traditional type of broadcast. They want to do new things with different types of camera angles, different types of cameras, a lot of interactive graphics, and really push the boundaries of the production,” says Coordinating Producer William Wright. “Viewers watching will be treated to a very different type of broadcast for boxing, not a traditional type of broadcast.”

When Golden Boy announced its Facebook partnership, it mentioned that it will also stream “strategic shoulder programming.” Well, the company is ready to give a few more details. Starting today (Monday, July 9), Golden Boy will stream shortened versions of five classic fights, the first possibly being Pacquiao-Marquez in anticipation of the Pacquiao-Matthysse fight coming up on Saturday. Matthysse-Provodnikov may be streamed as well. The fights will feature new commentary delivered as the videos stream, with De La Hoya himself possibly taking part, as well as interactivity with Facebook users. The action starts at 9 p.m. ET.

Golden Boy may produce other shoulder content in the future. The team is currently working with Facebook to explore ideas.

So far, all monetization is being handled by Facebook, which will sell ads for the live events. Sponsors won’t be integrated into the fights just yet. Golden Boy is treating this as a test, and, based on how well it does, an integrated sponsorship campaign could follow.

“This is going to be a premium presentation with premium fights, something that you normally would’ve found on premium pay cable,” says Gabriel Rivas, public relations coordinator, Golden Boy. “This is going to be a commercial-free experience brought to you live and free on Facebook.”

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