Taking British ice hockey to global audiences, with Swindon Wildcats
Unrestricted pay-per-view live online broadcasting is helping British ice hockey clubs connect with fans both domestically and globally.
As supporters’ demand for sport via digital platforms grows exponentially, more clubs are choosing to add a fresh revenue stream to their financial model by broadcasting games live.
Streaming is easy-to-operate, convenient for supporters, cost-effective and grants clubs the opportunity to broaden its fanbase. Leading the National League’s live streaming revolution is Swindon Wildcats.
The National League club’s home fixtures can now be watched in 249 countries worldwide. TicketCo Media Services spoke to the club’s Marketing Manager Keziah Farthing to learn more about Wildcats’ streaming setup and why hybrid ice hockey is taking the sport by storm.
Tied by the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent social restrictions, British ice hockey clubs had to explore new ways to bring revenue in while fans were unable to attend matches.
It led to the Streaming Series and the Spring Cup, two tournaments broadcast to viewers across the globe exclusively via TicketCo Media Services. Both competitions marked the beginning of a new digital era for the sport.
Keziah said: “It’s been a huge period of change and it’s no secret that live streaming helped us to survive through the pandemic. Taking control of our own broadcasting has been great for the club.
“We’ve improved accessibility to both home and away supporters. The success of the Streaming Series and the Spring Cup helped fans buy into the idea of watching games at home.
“We have fans tune in from all over the country and the last 12 months has been a huge learning curve for the club.”
Hybrid ice hockey
The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means clubs can now operate rinks at full capacity. But the return of physical supporters hasn’t signalled the end for live streaming.
In fact, clubs are benefitting from an additional revenue stream by welcoming viewers on a local, national and international scale. Supporters can watch games in HD quality on their TV, or any other device, at home. It makes matches accessible to everyone, including those who cannot attend physically because of health, travel or financial implications.
Keziah knows broadcasting games is not negatively impacting physical attendance numbers.
She said: “Deciding to live stream games while fans are in the building was a no-brainer. We understand not all fans can attend games, so we’re granting every supporter the opportunity to connect with the club.
“This includes away fans, many of whom cannot travel to our rink on a game night. But now they can watch the game live at home. It’s great for the sport, helps build more interest in ice hockey and generates additional revenue for the club.
“Everyone is a winner.”
Deciding to watch the Wildcats play via pay-per-view live streaming will cost a supporter £10 per game, per device.
Broadcasting via TicketCo Media Services secure and integrated live broadcasting and ticketing platform means streaming keys cannot be shared. This allows clubs to successfully monetise matches and establish a new revenue stream with longevity.
Keziah said: “Buying a streaming pass means everyone in your house can watch the game live on TV. This represents great value for a family-of-four who might not be able to attend the game live.
“Our physical attendances this season have been strong. You cannot beat the experience of watching live sport, streaming is being viewed by fans as a secondary platform to watch the game which is important.”
The Wildcats’ live stream has been subject to plenty of praise from supporters on social media.
One fan said: “The whole streaming package is top draw. Wildcats’ stream is very slick and features brilliant graphics and analysis from the commentary team.”
Another added: “I’ve really enjoyed watching the Wildcats’ stream. It’s solid and top quality.”
Providing supporters with a reliable, trustworthy and quality production does not happen overnight.
The Wildcats installed a new internet line and provided fans with a step-by-step guide concerning how to watch hockey digitally. Keziah believes this was an important step in establishing fans’ trust.
“Before the pandemic, we installed a new internet line so connectivity issues are not a problem for us,” said Keziah. “We communicated to fans so they knew how to use the platform and how the stream can be connected to their TV.
“Everyone quickly learnt how to watch hockey digitally which is great for us.”
TicketCo Media Services developed a Welcome Pack for organisations interested in live streaming to help them understand how to setup a successful broadcast.
You can read our guide here.
So, what does it take to broadcast a National League ice hockey match live?
The Wildcats use four cameras – one mounted on a tripod and manually operated, the other three are GoPros.
The club also has a commentator and two people working on the stream to ensure everything runs smoothly.
“We can stream unrestricted, which is great,” said Keziah. “Other clubs are now understanding the value of live streaming and together we’re making British ice hockey more accessible.
“I would recommend streaming to any club, the extra revenue it can generate and the wider benefits such as increased accessibility are important too.”