Second Screen? No. Let's Talk Companions ...

Anyone working in sports would say that they are fortunate to do so. We get access to unbelievable experiences, perks and often get the opportunity to meet childhood heroes. But one of the things I find most exciting is that we have the freedom and the opportunity to innovate and look at new ways of delivering content and experiences to fans.

Sport is very much seen as premium content, and, as a result, fans expect a premium experience.

Sports media owners and broadcasters have always pushed the boundaries when it comes to the next-generation experience, whether it is HD, pay-per-piew or, increasingly, the use of different devices. I’m not the biggest fan of the term “second screen.” I much prefer speaking about companion applications or services. The pace of modern life means that content has needed to be made accessible to fans on more platforms (or screens) than ever — it’s not just the second screen they turn to but the third, fourth, fifth screen and more. Fans have changed, and digital platforms allow interaction from a broad range of stakeholders on a global level.

The FIFA World Cup drew 672 million tweets from more than 150 different countries — a clear indication of the game’s global popularity. This global popularity means a wide range of stakeholders are going to look to engage with soccer, and not all of them will be official rights holders — enter the companion application.

A great number of innovative and engaging companies have developed phenomenal online experiences for fans over recent years. These are much more than a second screen, though. They offer a content cycle and a consistent narrative for fans throughout the week. Key to some of these applications has been their ability to integrate social platforms and create their own communities and ecosystems to aid them in furthering their audience growth.

Giving fans the ability to curate their own analysis in their social timeline and/or creating a destination hub for this content to live online has been a huge step forward and extends the match day beyond the referee’s whistle at kick off and full time. 

Broadcasters have also seen fit to use the second screen as a means of extending themes in programming and placing the tools that their on air talent use into the viewer’s hands. The touch screen is now common place in sports broadcasting and giving fans the ability to be the broadcast analyst in their own living room with a tablet device is a great way to complement the primary screen.

The variety of companies developing companion experiences from different stakeholder groups is certainly interesting. Sponsorship of a property is now not enough for some brands seeking to be involved in the sport and they are seeking to develop their own experiences. The advantages in data capture are obvious but it is an extension of a content led marketing strategy by brands to deliver interaction with fans who they hope will be potential customers — delivery of knowledge leads to increased value being delivered through positive brand association.

We have seen this in soccer across the globe from major competition title/presenting sponsors, apparel manufacturers and consumer electronics companies. Some of the most exciting moves can be seen where computer console manufacturers have chosen to integrate on field performance and news into their flagship gaming titles in a number of sports. Manufacturers of televisions are looking at Connected/Smart TV experiences and a fully connected technology ecosystem that places them at the heart of the viewing experience — evolving their role from so much more than just being the devise that puts the picture on screen for the TV networks. 

For me, the “second screen” in soccer is no longer a game-changer. Fans are already coming to expect to be able to watch content on whatever device they want and whatever is easiest for them at the time. The key differentiator comes through true companion experiences. Who owns and monetizes these is a battle that will run for a while as marketers look to capitalize on technology advances. 

Content on every screen for sports fans is here to stay. The challenges we face as marketers are numerous as we look to maximize the opportunity here. Key to it will be realizing quality content will always be king and new technology should be used to enhance delivery at the appropriate time, on the appropriate platform in the content cycle.

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