by Tobias Fröhlich
"See Corona as an opportunity" - Many of you probably can't hear this sentence anymore. And I can understand you. If the corona virus were indeed a chance, it would be called a corona chance - not a corona crisis. But we must come to terms with the new normal.
The best and most controversially discussed example: German professional football. In the last two weeks, the clubs of the first and second Bundesliga continued their leagues with games behind closed doors. There has been much discussion about the necessity of continuing, but one thing is certain: it will continue. One decisive factor is however missing: the fans.
During the past two weekends we were able to observe how serious their absence weighs. The game broadcast was reduced to what it actually is: football. No singing, no whistling concerts, no pictures of crowds of people holding each other in their arms after a winning goal in the 90th minute.
And this state of affairs will by no means remain confined to the current season. We're talking about restrictions that will last until the end of the year, maybe even well into next year. Until a vaccine is found, produced and distributed on a large scale.
Sky has responded
The pay-TV channel Sky has already reacted to this: The Munich-based company offers its customers who use the Sky Q or Sky+ receiver fan chants and audience backdrop as a sound option. A top match on Saturday evening was also commented by one fan from each team. And via augmented reality, statistics, graphics and online voting were increasingly integrated.
This is exactly the right approach. But it is only the tip of the iceberg, because it´s still done by the broadcaster with nearly no influence by the fans. Let's be honest: The corona crisis is currently revealing many gaps that have existed for a long time anyway. People, and especially the younger target groups, are consuming differently nowadays. They want to participate, become a broadcaster themselves and be heard. For many football fans in particular, it is important to make a statement and leave their mark on what is happening. Be it the holding up of the scarf during the club anthem, a choreography when the players run in or the protest against the very unpopular Monday games.
All that is now gone. And I share the concern of the fans that they will lose their voice. That's why we have to compensate for this loss with the digital possibilities available to us. We can offer the fans a new platform, give them back their entertainment and preserve parts of their fan culture. In short, we can create a digital fan experience. Examples:
1. Every game a home game
Each game could be a home game for every fan, with each of them having a fan commentary and a personalised home game backdrop with appropriate fan chants. These are arranged by the fans themselves, just like in a stadium. They alone decide when and what is played. During the course of the match, all the fans of a team could then participate live on TV and decide which fan chant they would like to hear next. They could react to certain game situations with emojis, flags or gifs and exchange information about what is happening. The whole thing would be a similar concept to the popular live streams on Instagram, YouTube or Twitch. It's not without reason that such models are especially popular with young viewers, as they convey a feeling of togetherness, of watching and exchanging together. Once again: This is not the "real deal" you get in the stadium, but the fans can at least get involved digitally and help shape the whole thing.
2. Together with club legends on the "digital grandstand”
Netflix has demonstrated how to watch movies and series together despite the quarantine with its Party Mode. This model could also be transferred to the Bundesliga experience on TV and even be expanded. What if I could watch the games of my favorite team together with a legendary player or coach? In concrete terms, this would mean that I could follow his facial expressions, reactions and comments live via the picture-in-picture option. Sport 1 has already demonstrated this in the past with its "Fantalk" format. This would be just the next logical step. It would create entirely new marketing options for the clubs. They will need these above all when next season's matches are also held without an audience and they are missing out on a lot of money.
3. The digital premium package
... that would at least go a little beyond the boundaries of the digital. With such a package, for example, one could cooperate with delivery services to deliver stadium sausage and beer directly to the fans' living rooms. In cooperation with the clubs, the broadcasters could create and play exclusive content for premium users. For example, a match analysis with the coach. The cooperation with the clubs is the real trick for the broadcasters. Because the clubs can provide them with exclusive access to their fans, season ticket and box owners and compensate them for lost income.
There are no limits to the wealth of ideas in the digital fan experience. But you should always include the fans. As in any other good product development, "Customer Centricity" is the nucleus. But in order to do this, the fans must come out of their sometimes counterproductive antipathy and ask themselves whether they want to give up football for 12 to 18 months or whether they want to help shape it instead. The digital has come to stay: Corona is a green playground where everyone can get involved.
The opportunity lies in the digital
These are only three possibilities for a digital fan experience in football. The decisive factor with all three ideas is that they merely present a possibility, so every viewer is free to choose whether or not to use them.
From a purely sports-journalistic point of view, Sky provides a very good product with its football offering. But fans don't always want that. Sometimes they just want to let go, get emotional and let their passion for football run wild. Of course, this is best done live in the stadium. But if this opportunity is lost, we have to offer them a digital alternative that makes up for it as much as possible.
The corona virus is a catalyst with which we can overcome the digital deficits faster and thus create a completely new user experience on the TV set at home.
The pictures are released for editorial purposes within the scope of reporting, provided the source is named. Picture credits on the picture.
Tobias Fröhlich, Managing Partner, TeraVolt GmbH
Picture credits: TeraVolt
TeraVolt GmbH is an owner-managed agency for enhanced TV, based in Hamburg, Germany. Founded in 2006, TeraVolt specializes in the development of pioneering digital TV experiences. The agency provides its customers with tailor-made solutions, from market-specific consultation to the creation and technical implementation of innovative products. Its product portfolio includes services and applications in the areas of Managed Platforms, Enhanced TV, Monetization and OTT. With a headquarter based in Hamburg’s beloved Schanzenviertel, TeraVolt consists of a highly experienced management team and 45 strategy, product and technology experts. https://www.teravolt.tv/en/