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Quick-fire questions with WSC Sports CEO Daniel Shichman

Ahead of his speaking spot at this year's virtual SportsPro Live, the co-founder of the Israeli automated video specialist gives his thoughts on the trends and pressing issues shaping the sports industry.

14 September 2020 SportsPro

How important are short-form video clips becoming in marketing strategies for sports properties?

Short-form videos, specifically highlights, are playing an ever-increasingly significant role for sports teams, leagues and broadcasters alike. Over the past few years we’ve seen highlights and other short form video clips used successfully across social media and other digital media platforms to help connect and engage with fans, bring in new audiences and grow brands, as well as to help provide new monetisation opportunities from sponsorships. 

We see that some sports properties are starting to understand the mechanics and processes of user acquisition and are using short-form videos as part of their strategy and operations in improving their user acquisition funnel which is a very interesting and critical domain.

What are some of the best practices in short form video you’ve seen sports properties using?

There are many creative examples of how sports organisations use short-form videos as part of a unique fan experience. One use-case that I really liked is for the PGA and their new Tourcast experience, where every fan can follow every shot, see a three-dimensional shot trail of each shot, and then, a video of that shot and all of that is accompanied with stats. So in fact it’s a real complete fan experience that tells the story in an amazing way using visual, video and data.

I think that in general, video highlights are such a key component in storytelling and that’s why we are seeing many products and fan-facing experiences that are integrating video – whether it’s a live interactive broadcast of a game, a complementary digital product that helps to provide additional data and fan engagement, or using real-time video for user acquisition and tune-in to increase call-to-action.

How is demand changing for video content?

Consumers want videos delivered faster than ever before (as close to real time as possible), on more devices, with the best possible quality, but these are all obvious desires and will come as technology improves. 

One of the more interesting demands however is the desire for more customisation and personalisation. Forget ‘video on demand’, people want ‘video on command’. They don’t just want to be shown highlights, they also want to be able to choose specific highlights and choose how they consume it. 

These days, it doesn’t work anymore to create just one piece of content and push that same piece of content to every platform because every platform has a different audience. For example, audiences on YouTube want to watch something a bit longer, those on Instagram want something very short and snackable. 

As we see more platforms emerging and more places fans are consuming highlights – as fans, we expect to get different type of content and format in each platform – therefore we’ve seen an increase in the demand for ‘non-traditional’ aspect ratio video, as well as different formats such as stories, fan-voting experiences etc.

What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on the industry?

Putting it bluntly, it played a massive role and obviously together with travel, live entertainment, that includes sports, were two industries that were impacted heavily and in my opinion we are still in the middle of finding out what the full impact will be.

Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty on how sports will be played, in what ways fans can attend and how international competitions that require a lot of travelling will operate. Living in such uncertainty affects the entire sports food chain – starting from leagues, federations and teams that find it hard to plan and operate and therefore make any substantial financial decisions, through broadcast and media partners that need to take a risk on competitions and whether they will be played and in what shape or form and all the way to the rest of the ecosystem that also includes sponsors and technology providers.

Having said that, we did see that there were a lot of opportunities and openness to innovation and new products and business models by the sports industry. The leagues, teams and broadcasters have lost a lot of money and therefore are now moving much faster than before in trying new things – which is exciting and might help transform the sports industry and media rights usage in some areas.

What avenues are left for broadcasters and rights holders to explore when it comes to video content?

Video content is the most consumed content online and users just expect to consume more of it on every platform they are using. The key is to make sure that the right video is used for the right business aim and platform. 

If, for example, an organisation wants to improve its user acquisition for its OTT service, then personalised short-form videos that are sent to the right user, at the right time in the relevant platform is key for conversion. If we are talking about better fan experience and engagement – then making sure short videos are a key part of the experience in a form of alerts, complementary content, catch-up highlights and engagement tools. 

In fact, up until now, video was mostly used as a media asset to help fans catch up on the action, but wasn’t really used as a business driver, and I think that now sports leagues and broadcasters are starting to integrate video in various ways to help them achieve their business goals and drive call-to-action, conversion and monetisation in various ways.

As a nine-year-old company what advice would you give to new startups in the sports business?

I am not sure the sports business is different from other industries in running a startup and trying to grow it into a substantial company. The main thing is to provide value that really moves the needle – before running and writing code, spend a lot of time with your potential clients and really understand the pain and the value they can get from your offering as you really help them solve a problem or provide a significant upside.

In addition to that, surround yourself with a great team, the best you can think of. Don’t ever think that someone is overqualified because you are a small company or you have a smaller team – before you notice you can get to that size and you want to make sure you have people that know how to scale the company and the challenges it brings.

Daniel Shichman is speaking on 16th September as part of the 'The next generation: How to use AI to drive sports engagement' virtual panel session. Find out more and register for the event here.

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