Oxford City Stars enter hybrid events revolution
Oxford City Stars ice hockey club has introduced hybrid events to supporters to increase its reach.
The NIHL Division One South club broadcast its first match live online at the weekend as part of an innovate pilot scheme.
The Stars have partnered with online sports broadcaster OXSO and TicketCo Media Services to live stream home fixtures. The club is marketing the online broadcasts to home and away supporters who are not able to attend matches in person.
Stars’ director Greig Box Turnbull said: “We’re excited to offer hybrid ice hockey matches so people can both watch games in person and online. We obviously want to pack out the rink every week, but we are also mindful there are people who can’t always travel to matches and this caters for them.
“Our first streaming weekend got off to a flyer with the Stars winning 3-1 and a decent amount of people purchased streaming passes on top of a good physical attendance.
“Interestingly most of the sales of streaming passes took place in the final hour before face-off. I believe all the sales went to people who would not have come to the rink for whatever reason and so they could still enjoy the match and we maintained engagement. Streaming matches online will undoubtedly help the club improve accessibility and unlock an additional revenue stream that would have remained untapped.”
Online broadcasting technology
Stars’ matches are produced and broadcast by OXSO, an online broadcasting company owned by talkSPORT commentator Andrew Self. OXSO previously provided online radio style commentary of the Stars’ home matches.
Streaming is being offered to ice hockey fans on a trial basis to establish whether it can be made sustainable to continue broadcasting matches. The support of OXSO helped the Stars join the streaming revolution.
“OXSO invested in the equipment required and have the expertise to create and deliver the production,” said Greig. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it with OXSO and TicketCo and we are incredibly grateful for their support. We have created a commercial structure that if we achieve reasonable ticket sales will make this sustainable. Selfy is a fantastic commentator and supporters will get to watch ice hockey with commentary to provide a full TV style experience. Obviously, it is early days and I am sure the set up will improve as we grow.”
The Stars hope that by providing hybrid matches it will improve its fan engagement, by enhancing accessibility.
Andrew Self of OXSO said: “We are taking our matchday production to the next level and it is a big opportunity to build something special for the Stars and ice hockey. Streaming offers people who cannot attend matches the opportunity to watch games live and be connected to the action. This is new territory for us and it will require refining and support to help us make it a permanent part of the Stars’ matchday.”
The club now hopes to sell advertising and sponsorship on the online broadcasts to help support the streaming venture.
The Stars were the first British ice hockey club to partner with TicketCo for digital ticketing.
Adding online broadcasting and the associated ticket sales via the same platform was a natural progression for the club. Streaming matches and selling streaming passes via the same platform means streaming keys cannot be shared.
Greig said: “The platform gives us full confidence in our ticketing, the robustness of the system and security.”
The Stars’ streaming debut has offered the club hope for the future.
“It is early days, but we got a good response from the first match,” said Greig. “We had some teething problems in the first period due to the quality of our internet speed, but it settled down pretty quickly. One big positive was seven people who purchased a streaming pass paid an optional £10 instead of the standard price of £6 to help support the pilot scheme, which is fantastic.
“Hybrid matches present a huge opportunity for us to make sure everyone who wants to watch a match can, regardless of where they are. It’s incredible to think as a semi-professional club we can control our own Media Rights and ensure people can watch the Stars both at the rink and at home. Hopefully we can maximise this opportunity and build a strong platform for growth.”
Photo: Paul Foster