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How interactive fan engagement will transform the next generation of streaming service

Tom McDonnell, CEO of Monterosa - 18th November 2021


We now have so many different ways of using our time, and of the countless options available, entertainment is more interactive than it’s ever been.


TikTok’s journey from karaoke-esque app to global obsession tells a story of convergence between social media, gaming and streaming.

Snapchat’s rise is partially linked to its groundbreaking Stories format, now copied by almost everyone.


Justin.tv’s morphing into eSports-centric Twitch proves how seemingly niche ideas can, over time, be transformed into community-building interactive powerhouses.


Outside entertainment and sport, we’re witnessing the gamification of…almost everything. Apple Health, Fitbit, Peleton, Strava – all incentivising physical activity with elements borrowed from games. Airlines have long since enticed loyalty with progressive benefits – statuses, rewards, points. And, of course, supermarkets.


Back to the world of media consumption of today – audiences notoriously have shortened attention spans. Yet the same people will binge watch Squid Game when captivated. Coincidentally, a show based on a progressive game.


Within some sports, an acute drop-off of younger fans is motivating ‘traditional’ broadcast and streaming companies to reconsider the nature of their core streaming products.


The question many are asking is:

What might the next-generation streaming service look like?

I can’t predict with absolute certainty, but with a passion for interactivity and fan engagement, I’ve chosen four interconnected ingredients that will, I believe, form part of next-generation streaming services alongside other core capabilities.



  • Participation

  • Community & Togetherness

  • Gamification & Rewards

  • Real-time Data Visualisation

All of these ingredients are behaviours, needs or concepts that transcend any particular technology, screen or UI. I’m deliberately not focussing on one mode of consumption – because while the live streaming or broadcast experience may be core, fans are fans round the clock and sometimes the stories matter as much as the action itself.


Participation

In a digital sense, participation can take many interactive forms. Through years of experimentation, we’ve found that a simple set of principles can ensure good take-up.


For example, to motivate interactivity you need to make the outcome meaningful and visible. And as another example, voting on MVP/Player of the Match is a guaranteed way to generate regular attention, if you close the loop and make a big deal of the result.


For EA Sports and Premier League we provide a rich interactive journey that lets fans enjoy clips and player stats before making their decision. As a result, many of them stick around for many minutes of engaged decision-making, and some share the results on social media afterwards. This approach has been so successful that we rolled it out for La Liga and Bundesliga too.


Putting sponsor rights to one side for a moment, why couldn’t the official Player of the Match, Goal of the Month, Player of the Month, and all of the other awards, live within the streaming experience itself?


We’ve made it possible to inject these experiences into existing environments – by deploying pre-packed Experiences from Monterosa / Interaction Cloud it’s possible to replicate these interactive formats quickly and across languages.


There are other formats beyond voting. Again, the secret sauce is quite simple – make it count.


In the example below, German broadcasters use the Interaction Cloud to power video-led interactive Q&A (we call this format “Talking Points”). The audience provide their opinions, along with some demographic information, so that the results can be sliced and diced in the live TV show later that week. This has the effect of driving people to the streaming app at times where they wouldn’t otherwise be watching content – increasing loyalty. And because the results are shown in the TV show itself, the audience feel like they’re contributing in a meaningful way.



Elsewhere in the world: Fan Controlled Football League invites American football fans to vote on plays using fan tokens – monetising the right to have a say. This is a whole sport in itself, a hybrid of American football, eSports and gameshows.


Community & Togetherness


Community spirit can be built in so many ways. There’s the Conversational: Twitter, Reddit, Discord, YouTube comments, WhatsApp groups. Even old-school forums continue to thrive!



Free text chat and comments are notoriously risky – but in a controlled chat there are ways to limit public comments to trusted influencers or fans. The impact can be a sense of community without heavy moderation.




Beyond chat and comments, the pandemic has driven more experiments with “Watch Parties”. Not a new concept, but suddenly more relevant than before, they allow groups of friends, family or fans to stream themselves while watching. While big names including Disney and Amazon have their versions, the jury is still out on whether this will become mainstream – not least because we don’t all have cameras attached to our big-screen TVs yet.


There are simpler and more accessible ways to create a sense of togetherness.

Some examples below:



Our Score Predictor shows the user what percentage of other fans predicted results.


And Rater illustrates how my feeling about a goal or other key moment compares with the rest of the live audience, reinforcing the fact that I’m not alone.


The examples here are what we refer to as “LiveTime” mode – a range of interactive Elements that compliment live streaming video. Do watch this space – we have a ton of new togetherness features coming out soon and a major launch with a famous OTT service in Europe coming up.


Gamification & Rewards


Gamification is back as a buzzword. Misunderstood as a magic bullet that drives loyalty, the reality is that by adding points, progress and leaderboards you don’t automatically entice anyone at all.


But when game mechanics are thoughtfully introduced, and when users get real value or satisfaction – these techniques can become fundamental to the success of entire businesses. Just ask Facebook Meta.


Given this, it’s surprising that streaming platforms haven’t yet adopted game concepts. Sure, Netflix is getting into gaming itself, but wouldn’t it be nice to be recognised for the avid Star Wars fan that I am? Or the fact that I’ve watched every Liverpool game this season?


With Nickelodeon and the NFL recently we powered two strands of gamified participation. One, called “Code Collector” built buzz leading up to the now famous kids Wildcard game coverage.




The other encouraged live participation with the broadcast, making participation a game and rewarding kids with special badges the more they interacted in the second screen experience.



Free to Play is a big topic. We provide prediction games of all shapes and sizes – which can live inside an app to drive loyalty and conversion. When someone makes a prediction, they of course have a greater vested interest in the result if there’s a prize hanging on it. And even if it’s just for kicks, kudos value is strong in sport, as we know.

For example this Champion’s League predictor for Sky Italia, and these World Cup predictors for EA Sports:






Vodafone in the Middle East uses the Monterosa platform to activate key sporting events, and gamification of that campaign yielded them tens of thousands of people installing their app and redeeming points for free credit.



Another format we created is a card trading fantasy mechanic – helping World Rugby 7s create deeper engagement with lesser known athletes. Fans could “steal” cards from each other in Head to Head competitive play.


Real-time Data Visualisation


Sports and complimentary data is nothing new, but what is new(ish), is the depth of synchronised and hi fidelity visualisation available, as a result of optical tracking technology and computer vision advances.


With relatively low human intervention it’s now possible to plot coordinates of action on the field, court or course.


Why does that matter if I can see it on-screen? Well you can’t see everything and you can’t always select the level of insight or detail – yet. But as complimentary layers become more common, fans will be able to optionally add personalised layers of visualisation that’s interactive and helpful – for the everyday fan and people placing bets.


We proudly co-created IMG Arena’s award-winning Golf Event Centre – where sportsbooks can embed a visual way to plot every shot in every PGA/European Tour game. 3D course maps give millions of golf fans a way to follow what they want, not just what’s available in the stream. It’s the ultimate personalised experience and the product has defined in-play betting in golf.



Simpler ideas are also ripening. Simple non-obstructive layers or panels like the concept below:



In the official UFC Event Centre, also made by Monterosa, we created a heat map to visualise contact, helping fans make informed in-play betting judgement calls.



Conclusions


It seems inevitable that more interactive streaming products will play a big part in how we consume sport and entertainment in the future.


Sure, we’ll still enjoy a lean-back experience but, with personalisation, our mode of engagement will become a choice. We will overcome the clunky remote, and will tailor product strategies to the audience we want to engage.


Netflix might not be the company to fast follow – in this case I’d place my money on smaller players consolidating interactive, curated content as a way to differentiate.

And, of course, Monterosa is here to help – our Interaction Cloud features a new SDK that makes building interactivity into apps even easier.

This article first appeared on Tom McDonnell's Medium page HERE

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