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Enabling an immersive mobile sports experience

Mobile World Congress

Henriette Sæther 9. March 2017

Last week I attended the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, one of the world’s largest trade shows and explorations into the challenges and opportunities in the mobile and digital transformation of society. Video is playing a fundamental role in this enormous change, enabling broadcasters, content owners and operators alike to inspire and deliver empowering innovation to end users.

 Today, it’s about delivering the best possible viewing experience to every device. In an era during which video connectivity is enabling content to move seamlessly between multiple locations and devices, we must address what audiences really want. And this is especially relevant with regards to sport.

 Video consumption on handheld devices is skyrocketing. For many in the younger generations, especially outside Europe and the USA, the handheld device is the first and only screen. At Sixty, we believe that the future of television is anywhere, on any device, and so it no longer makes sense to create TV experiences for the big screen and then try to ‘applify’ this same experience for the small screen. The experience of watching on a small screen is fundamentally different, and so the video service should be too.

 At Sixty, we started looking at the technologies out there to see if we could better meet the evolving audience requirements. Our mission was not to create any new app, or to make operators’ lives harder by changing the production workflow – we simply wanted to create better consumer experiences without forming more barriers for the operator. We don’t believe the audience wants their home screen full of TV apps, such as a football app, a cricket app, an Olympics app and a kids’ app. The audience just wants to watch TV, and they want it to be engaging and interesting.

 In the MWC session: ‘Appetite for Disruption – The New Networks & The Future of TV’, one of the panellists stated: “People would like to watch great content, on the device they have access to, and it’s not so much about the big screen anymore.” We all agree; the future of entertainment is going to be found on the internet.

 Don’t get me wrong when talking about TV apps; many are brilliant. However, broadcasters can fulfil a lot of their ambitions by using apps that augment the television experience and we feel this is something that can be achieved by using products such as Ease Live.

 At Sixty, we have looked carefully at what we are really trying to achieve, and what functionality is particularly important in meeting those aims. Within sports or news we have invented something we call a live centre. What we want to do is to enable two way communication, social interaction, engagement and involvement, and make the user experience something new and better.  At the same time, we want to make sure it is created within the broadcaster’s and content owner’s existing TV app, rather than create another new app. So we set ourselves the goal of enabling broadcasters to create compelling experiences in their existing apps by providing access to the statistics, highlights and other video data that the broadcaster already has available in their arsenal. And, crucially, we make this hybrid platform available on any screen.

 Sports fans increasingly want access to more intuitive and engaging methods of watching their favourite teams and heroes – and they want this on their own terms. Think about all the components used in a typical broadcast and consider the amount of footage that remains unused, ranging from multiple shots of golfers and F1 drivers at their various stages of the course, or the multitude of camera angles used for sports such as football, cricket and basketball.

 In raw finance terms, sports broadcasters pay millions, and spend even more on creating a lot of content that is never seen by the consumer, as the producer in the studio decides which of the many angles shot are actually aired. Why not offer that control back to the viewer, enabling them to access the highlights, features, camera angles or graphics they want at any given time? By delivering more choice, broadcasters can deliver far greater value to their viewers and make their service much more sticky.

 As our CEO, Kjetil Horneland, outlined at the end of last year: “I want to be able to interact with all the graphical content as it plays out on my screen because it’s really about what I as viewer find interesting – not what the producer thinks I and every other viewer will find interesting.”

 There are a plethora of opportunities to enhance the way we watch sport, not least through immersive technologies such as Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR). Mobile video has helped to release the viewer from the confines of the living room TV, and now new innovative technologies are enabling operators to break the shackles of the television control room and allow consumers to get closer to the action on the field of play, through highly personalized, unique viewing experiences.  

 During Mobile World Congress, I joined Adrienne McCallister, Director of Global Partnerships, Google VR/AR and Matt Stagg, Head of Mobile Video and Content, EE, to discuss the future of the ‘Immersed Viewer – New Broadcast, VR, AR and 360 Tech’. Both companies have played instrumental roles in advancing these technologies. We debated the role of these new technologies and how they might engage and enhance the viewing experience of the future. In the end, however, it was the potential of Ease Live (and its ability to target the masses) that won widespread approval among the panel.

Ultimately, for me, what becomes truly interesting is when all of these different technologies are interwoven, enabling a completely new TV format; merging the broadcast experience with the interactivity of future innovations, and do it so simply that it’s enjoyed at mass-consumer scale.