Sport and Digital Media at WISE

I had the pleasure of joining an illustrious speaker line up at WISE, The Working in Sports Conference, in Lausanne, Switzerland.

For a presentation and panel session on sports and digital media, I was joined by Alex Huot, Social Media Manager for the International Olympic Committee, Jerome Brunet-Moret from RTS Sports and Alex Stone, Deputy-Head FIFA Digital Department. The panel was ably chaired by the energetic Geoff Wilson, a FIFA Consultant and Sports Northern Ireland and Tourism N.I Board member.

It was fascinating to hear the experiences of two such major Federations and the pre-eminent Swiss TV Sports Broadcaster (with an incredible rights portfolio), all sharing insights and experiences of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the London and Sochi Olympic Games.

All the while Geoff ably steered the presentations and even found time to Periscope proceedings live (more of which later).

As you might expect, both Alex’s told great stories of how they and their teams create content that captivates fans and drives audience reach and engagement. Their presentations made me realise I don’t use nearly enough amusing video or animal anecdotes involving Wolves in my talks!

But whilst content, it’s authenticity and capacity to make fans smile was key, so too was creating propositions on ‘owned’ platforms, and not just investing in third party social channels.

FIFA’s Global Stadium (a fan social hub on was a case in point and a real highlight. Alex described how the Global Fan Stadium’s virtual audience of over 1 billion would need over 13,000 full Maracana’s to accommodate everyone!

Away from the global view, Jerome at RTS was able to demonstrate how the broadcaster bought a uniquely local view to FIFA World Cup coverage.

In Switzerland, RTS amplified the Swiss vs France FIFA WC group match with a fan vs fan studio show down. This created a TV experience integrating social media to capture the ebb and flow of the match, telling a unique story as a result.

Gaming, e-Sports and Augmented Reality (A.R)

As it turned out on the day, I was asked to present first. Giving the ’supplier’ viewpoint felt a little like being the warm up act before the main event!

I had the opportunity to talk about emerging trends and innovations in sports and technology that I think will have a major impact in the coming years.

First of these topics was Gaming and e-sports. This largely unknown phenomenon is fast becoming big business, and in my opinion rights owners and rights holders need to understand both the threat and the opportunity that gaming presents. After all at the hugely insightful BBC 5 live documentary on the subject signalled, there are as many ‘gamers’ on the planet sports fans.

Secondly I mentioned Augmented Reality (A.R), which thanks to the ambition of our clients including BBC Sport and Univision, we have had the opportunity to enhance the viewing experience for fan audiences, adding both insight and creativity for T.V viewers.

A.R, both in the studio and for outside broadcast, is already becoming more mainstream and will continue to push the boundaries of sports broadcasting on all platforms and devices.

Millennials want to create, share and play. Let them

Thirdly, and tying these two themes together, I talked about the opportunities in both AR and Gaming and how the millennial generation (the prized audience of sports sponsors and broadcasters worldwide) expect to participate and be involved, not just watch sports events.

More than any other generation, they want to create content and share content, and not simply sit back and watch. Augmented Reality will bring audiences close to the action but also surface content related to the action in a more usable way.

Today ‘second screen’ is all the rage. But AR enables a combined single screen or single view experience AND there are infinite possibilities for participating in and ‘gamifying’ that experience.

The technology has been available for some time (despite the 15 minutes of Google Glass fame) but is yet to become mainstream.

Firstly the price point of the technology needs to be right, but more importantly the wearables need to be cool. Apple created the worlds most profitable business by building beautiful, fashionable things. And at the moment, the technology is smart but the products aren’t beautiful.

Sports rights and technology

Finally I talked about the ‘uneasy bedfellows’ of sports rights and technology. The pace of technology evolution is as fast as ever, and sports rights, content protection and piracy prevention is trying to keep up.

I was helped by the timing of the ‘fight of the century’ between Mayweather vs Pacquio which more than the result, heralded the emergence of Periscope as a truly frightening and thrilling platform for sports rights owners and rights holders in equal measure.

To paraphrase a well-known U.K tabloid newspaper, it certainly was Periscope ‘wot won it’. Twitter and the mainstream media thought so too.

Fans, put off by high Pay-Per-View charges, and united together by such a uniquely social sports experience, turned to twitter and Periscope in the 10’s of thousands according to media reports.

I don’t necessarily think Periscope is a game-changer, but it is certainly a disrupter and is another platform further fragmenting sports content distribution.

All the more so because it delivers content ‘live’ which accounts for all but 1 or 2% of the global value of commercial sports rights. Periscope and Meerkat are words sure to feature in many a sports rights contract from now on.