Tailor made: sport and the second screen

Miles Weaver HeadshotIn the wake of the World Cup, Piksel’s Miles Weaver assesses second screen activity around the event.

“Sport is about moments,” a smart man at the PGA European Tour once told me. “That’s why people are so attracted to watching it.” This remains one of the most incisive things I’ve ever heard on any given subject, perfectly distilling the essence of a behaviour that has been observed by billions of people around the world throughout history. Conversely, second screen, as an emergent behaviour, is something that is most commonly used as a time-filler. Unless the programme is designed in format to drive user attention to the second screen, the times when they will engage in it are most likely to be at the start or end of the show, during an ad break, or when there is a dip in attention. Yet sport and second screen have proven to be a surprisingly natural fit for one another, even as second screen is still finding its footing. With the most digitally conscious sporting event in history (so far) just having been completed in Brazil, let’s look at why that is.

Second Screen & The World Cup

The 2014 World Cup, while mired by political fights, concerns about infrastructure and the never ending internecine fights within FIFA, has proved to be an incredible digital success. At the time of writing, Twitter and Facebook have only released a few of their typically eye popping press releases about how much social chatter they garnered over the course of the tournament, with Twitter showing that 12.2 million Tweets were sent during the first match alone. Facebook debuted a pair of new features aimed at scratching their users’ World Cup itch. The first, a page called Facebook Ref, allows users to get real time match updates straight in their newsfeed. The second is a global trending map that shows the social chatter down to exactly who is saying what about the event at any one time anywhere in the world.

At the same time, the app market has had a deluge of expanded feature sets and applications designed to give users the opportunity to get deeper into the World Cup experience on their second screen devices.

–   FIFA has launched its own application, allowing users to watch live games, vote on Man of the Match recipients in real time, stay connected with news and engage in social chatter through FIFA’s official channels.

–   Viggle, the social check-in service for TV and music, has launched Vigoooal, in partnership with Clorox. The app throws trivia questions at users during a match with prizes for correct answers. Global and regional leaderboards encourage taking part throughout the tournament.

–    Fox Sports have released MatchTrax, which offers real time match commentary, field views, stats and a Match DNA Timeline, that allows users to track every major development in the match along a timeline, including goals and yellow and red cards.

Armchair quarterbacking – what does this mean?

With football being the most popular sport on the planet by a considerable margin, the World Cup offers us some unique insights into how sport in general and the second screen can work together. Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of the quote that I opened this article with:

“Sport is about moments.”

But what are these moments? To capitalise on behaviour, we need to understand how they are constructed and how they differ from scenario to scenario.

Sport has taken up such a pivotal role in the fabric of society because it is fundamentally a social and communal experience. Sharing moments with a group is far more special than sharing them alone, but the moments themselves are constructed from the story that plays into their creation. Watching someone win a gold medal (for example) is always interesting, but watching someone win their first gold medal after fleeing their war torn motherland and overcoming mountains of adversity to just get to the event – that makes a moment. Social and story go hand in hand to create many of the unique experiences that make sport so memorable.

How then, does the second screen fit into this? The number one thing that second screen must not do is distract from the moments that viewers are waiting to see. That is paramount. But helping to create those moments is where the second screen can really stand out. Imagine tuning into a match during the World Cup, and you aren’t familiar with the teams playing. Here are some ways the second screen can be used to engage the viewer:

–    In surfacing the line-ups, team and individual stats on the second screen device, they can quickly get a feel for the competitors on the pitch.

–    Showcase the latest news or particularly interesting stories that have occurred related to each team to further expand the narrative.

–    Match highlights so far can also give a snapshot of what’s brought the game to this point.

–    By giving social prompts, users watching on their own can also feel like they’re watching with others, and give them a sense of that community and commentary that makes sport so special to engage with.

In these types of context, the user is going to be far more involved than if they were just tuning in and seeing a pair of teams.

It’s easy to see why the second screen can be such a powerful companion when watching sport. It allows users to take part in the stories and social conversations that make watching competitive sport so unique as a viewing experience – more than any other medium – and shows the potential second screen has in enhancing the viewing experience in a positive way. Down the line, I foresee the second screen moving into the increasingly technologically advanced stadiums themselves, where spectators at the live match can amplify their experience, in the same way as the viewers at home.

The second screen, when done right, can be a powerful tool in enhancing viewer engagement with content. Nowhere is this clearer than in the world of sport, as the 2014 World Cup has proven. When proper care and consideration is given, the second screen stops being a clunky attention grabber and instead becomes a useful tool to enhance the primary experience. A powerful transition that can help enhance stories, create conversation and help us uncover the moments that sports fans live for.

Miles Weaver is the Product Manager of Piksel’s second screen application, 2Si. He writes on technology, entertainment and culture at Connect with him on Twitter with @mrmilesweaver or @piksel

He will be taking part in a webinar on the second screen on July 22 at 15:00 UK time. Click here to register.

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