‘Any club would be crazy to ignore the capabilities of live streaming,’ Altrincham FC co-chairman speaks to TicketCo after successful launch
Altrincham Football Club officials could never have imagined that a single fan would not be allowed to attend their first National League fixture of the season against Weymouth earlier this month.
Everything was seemingly in place for supporters to return to stadiums when it was confirmed that English football’s top non-league tier would kick-off on October 3. But many clubs, including those in the National league, were plunged into additional financial challenges, when a spike in COVID-19 cases in the UK put plans for supporters to enter stadia on hold.
Consequently, clubs have once again been forced to not only adapt their plans to build new revenue streams, but also reconsider how they can engage with their fanbase. With the help of TicketCo, Altrincham sourced its solution in the form of pay-per-view live streaming.
To find out more about how the Manchester-based club has adapted to hosting fixtures behind closed doors, not using any of the 7,723 capacity of the J. Davidson Stadium, we spoke to co-chairman Bill Waterson about how TicketCo has helped the club establish a secure and sustainable revenue stream via the power of our modern technology.
Live streaming was not an alien concept to bosses and fans of Altrincham after a service was provided to supporters for the club’s National League North play-off campaign in the summer. Contractually, Altrincham were obliged to stream its games with the support of a third party. But it quickly became apparent the club required a more advanced service.
“Live streaming games was a service we wanted to deliver this season regardless of how COVID-19 developed in the late summer and early autumn,” said Mr Waterson.
“We knew we had the technical capability to broadcast games, but we were short of a means of broadcasting it and doing so in a secure and financially viable way. We wanted to use our own broadcast capabilities by using our own cameramen and commentators, but at the same time we required a strong commercial model. TicketCo fit the bill for all of our requirements and we are delighted to be working with them.”
Altrincham had explored the market seeking the answer for its pay-per-view live streaming ambitions. It then discovered TicketCo and did not look back.
Mr Waterson’s fellow co-chairman Lawrence Looney lives on the Isle of Man and was impressed by TicketCo’s successful launch of FC Isle of Man’s live streaming service during its pre-season friendly against Guernsey FC. FC Isle of Man reached a fresh global audience via TicketCo Media Services HD quality live stream as the club sold both physical and live streaming tickets to supporters for the game on the same platform. Mr Looney spoke to FC Isle of Man and on the basis on what he heard contacted TicketCo.
“FC Isle of Man had nothing but good things to say about the service TicketCo provided,” said Mr Waterson. “It became apparent that live streaming was going to be huge part of our business model for this season when COVID-19 cases started to increase as restrictions continued to ease.
“One key attraction to us was the fact the payment and streaming service was all available via one platform.”
TicketCo’s team have supported Altrincham throughout the club’s pay-per-view live streaming journey.
“It’s been fabulous working with TicketCo, they have bent over backwards to ensure our live streaming process has been of great quality but at the same time easy for fans to access,” said Mr Waterson. “TicketCo’s support line responses are extremely quick, and consequently we’ve been able to access help both on email and on the telephone to help us overcome an issue when we face one.”
The TicketCo Media Services platform was set up quickly and the operational team at Altrincham completed their training swiftly. “Getting set up and getting the team up to sped with the technology was incredibly straight forward,” said Mr Waterson.
“We were able to get set up and operational in no time at all and haven’t looked back.”
Altrincham first used TicketCo’s HD streaming service when Salford City U23s visited the stadium on Tuesday, September 29, for a pre-season friendly – a game the hosts won 5-1.
Initially, the game was scheduled as a test event for fans to return to the terraces, but it quickly transpired the fixture would act as a test event for live streaming instead.
Mr Waterson said: “We marketed the live stream to supporters the day before the game as the developing COVID-19 situation meant we had little notice from Government regarding our ability to welcome supporters back into the stadium.
“Despite the short notice, 60 per cent of our season ticket holders tuned into the game using a free access code and a number of non season ticket holders used TicketCo’s pay-per-view option too – it was a great success.”
The following Saturday, 749 users tuned in to TicketCo Media Services to watch Altrincham’s first National League game of the season against Weymouth.
“Many of our season ticket holders live in the same household, so to have 749 individual users’ login to watch the game was beyond all of our expectations,” added Mr Waterson.
“That represents almost 75% of our average attendance based on last season in a lower league. We believe we can push our streaming figures over 1,000.”
TicketCo’s pay-per-view online streaming service also helped Altrincham reach a global audience and potentially unlock a new international fanbase.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, National League clubs were unable to live stream its games to users in the UK. Should those restrictions return, Altrincham bosses may consider setting up a live stream service for supporters that do not live in the British Isles.
Mr Waterson said: “The analytics from Saturday’s game really opened our eyes. We had viewers tune in from Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Canada – one person even watched from Afghanistan.
“It’s exciting to learn this new information. Although we only have a small fanbase outside of the UK, we will consider providing a live streaming service to supporters that live abroad once COVID-19 restrictions ease. TicketCo make the service we provide easy to execute, so we’d be silly not to consider these opportunities for the future.”
Altrincham supporters have welcomed the pay-per-view live streaming service and have told the club they will continue to use it. And for most fans accessing TicketCo’s streaming service could not be simpler.
“A small fraction of supporters have contacted us about struggling with their internet speed, but the majority have praised the service and look forward to tuning in until supporters are allowed back into stadiums,” said Mr Waterson.
“We have a vast fanbase, some are tech-savvy and others not so much. But this hasn’t affected supporters not used to using technology as the TicketCo system is so easy to navigate.”
With the British Government suggesting fans might not be allowed back into sporting venues until March 2021, Altrincham have firm plans to develop and improve the pay-per-view live streaming product it offers.
“We have introduced graphics and captions to our product, next we want action replays and a selection of camera angles to improve the stream’s quality,” said Mr Waterson.
“TicketCo’s platform allows us to upsell products like programmes too, so there is an option for us to maximise revenue from other channels which we are keen to explore. Now we know we have established a quality streaming partnership with TicketCo, we want to do a lot more with regards to what we offer to fans digitally.
“For example, we could stream our youth team’s games should the demand be there for it. That’s the beauty of TicketCo, we can almost instantly create a pay-per-view streaming service for supporters should the demand be there. Live streaming offers an alternative that has longevity even for when fans are allowed back in.”
Mr Waterson has watched Altrincham since the 1960s and experienced the highs of FA Trophy glory at Wembley to the lows of being denied access to the Football League due to a controversial voting mix-up.
But the off-field developments that 2020 has presented will perhaps shape the club’s future like no other calendar year has before.
“Club’s that don’t explore live streaming are crazy, to put it simply,” he said. “Our partnership with TicketCo proves that you don’t have to be a big club to provide a professional service to supporters.
“Of course, for clubs that currently do not film their fixtures it will be more of a stretch. But we have five people working for us to provide the streaming service, we would accommodate nearly double that figure to operate turnstiles on a matchday when fans are allowed in.
“Clubs must immediately prioritise live streaming as a vital revenue stream. You don’t need a massive team behind the operation, it can be cost effective, and with TicketCo’s support we are now treating this service as a vital means of income for the club.”