Upscale engagement by embracing sports’ hybrid future

by | May 18, 2021

A fresh, sustainable and secure revenue stream was established by forward-thinking sports clubs during the pandemic. Live streaming has taken matches to global audiences and strengthened ticketing revenue.

With summer sports preparing to welcome crowds back this week and pre-season only weeks away for football, rugby and ice hockey clubs, the opportunity to upscale fan engagement via live streaming is prevalent. It is clear – hybrid delivery is the preferred option. But there are a few key considerations for clubs if they are to maximise new hybrid fixture business models.

Championing live streaming

National League football clubs have embraced live streaming to successfully retain supporters’ engagement during COVID019 restrictions while games were played behind closed doors.

Before the pandemic, Altrincham Football Club had never live streamed a fixture. The successful online broadcast of the club’s National League North Play-Off campaign last spring helped establish fans’ confidence in live streaming, its quality and reliability.

Co-Chairman Bill Waterson said: “The beauty of TicketCo is that 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 for when fans are allowed back in.”

A robust host

Clubs that choose to live stream games will require a robust platform as a minimum.

A robust platform means your stream is less likely to cut-out during your event due to exceptional bandwidth capabilities. It will also put you in full control – what your viewers watch is totally in your hands. A trustworthy live stream is nothing without a bullet proof user interface and secure ticket office, though. Test your system via dummy runs.

Bees Ice Hockey Club invested heavily in a new high-speed fibre broadband line to ensure viewers experienced a smooth streaming experience. The results were outstanding.

Stuart Robinson, Director of Bees Ice Hockey Club, said: “Test your event. And once you have done enough testing, test again. It is crucial ticket buyers have faith in what they are investing in so make sure the service you are providing is of high quality.”

TicketCo’s live stream engine is hosted by Amazon’s AWS Elemental and Cloud Front services. It means your stream is hosted on the same infrastructure that runs Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and the BBC.

Back-up systems

Ensuring your ticket buyers enjoy a smooth live streaming experience is essential to protect your club’s reputation and ensure repeat custom.

Back-up systems should be installed to correct everything that could possibly go wrong. Be strict with yourself and follow the same processes for minimising disruption for the physical customer. RFU Championship club Bedford Blues followed these processes.

Fans posted on social media at the conclusion of their game at home to Jersey:

As an addition, consider broadcasting pre-season matches or academy fixtures for free. By experiencing the full live stream journey from ticket buying to watching the game, fans are more likely to buy into your product knowing it is trustworthy.

Key equipment

Six months before the pandemic started, Blues partnered with TicketCo Media Services to make supporters’ ticket buying experience easier via a mobile friendly sales platform.

A year later, the club utilised our fully integrated live streaming and ticketing platforms to live stream games globally. A four-camera setup made for the ultimate streaming experience, with thousands of supporters tuning in each week.

“We didn’t want a single camera on the half-way line,” explained Gareth Alred, Chief Operating Officer at the club. “Fans’ feedback has been great, we’ve been able to develop our production to include graphics, multiple angles and a seamless viewing experience. Streaming has provided us with an additional engagement tool. We’ll be doing a lot of analysis to understand how many digital viewers aren’t those that would attend games physically. We’re certainly considering a hybrid future.”

The big picture

The success stories of the live streaming means clubs are adopting hybrid event business models so physical and digital fans can be accommodated. It will mean people can choose to attend matches or watch them online at a smaller charge.
Streaming games on a global scale opens sport up to new audiences and invites fans that might not be able to attend games for health, financial or travel reasons to watch.

Aaron Nell, General Manager of Swindon Wildcats, said: “We have complete confidence in our live streaming model and are excited to be working with TicketCo to deliver HD quality pictures into the homes of Wildcats’ loyal fanbase. We are continually looking to improve our streaming service and the Spring Cup has helped us further strengthen and develop our stream to make fans feel as close to the action as possible.”

Supporting the return of crowds

TicketCo Media Services is proud to have supported sports clubs through the COVID-19 pandemic while fixtures were held behind closed doors. We are now working with clubs to prepare for a hybrid future.

Joe Edwards, Senior Global Key Account Manager at TicketCo Media Services, said: “We are positive about the future of sport in the UK and its ability to reach bigger audiences via hybrid matchdays. The opportunity is vast for clubs to grow commercially with no financial risk attached.”

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Written by Shaun Reynolds

Communications advisor and expert storyteller with Fortitude Communications. A former news reporter and sports editor of five years across several UK regional titles. Experienced in photography and social media management with a passion for the outdoors.

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