Podcast: A pro’s advice to those starting their own live streams
On this week’s Digital Sport insider podcast, Dan McLaren and I sat down with Matt McKiernan of StreamAMG and David Scriven from Queens Park Rangers to chat about our monthly topic at DS this January – OTT and live streaming.
Overlooking the Loftus Road pitch, we chatted about the English Football League’s iFollow programme, where clubs can now stream all of their games which aren’t already down to be shown by a broadcast partner to their fans overseas as well as plenty of the current issues surrounding live-streaming and QPR’s decision to go it alone when it comes to live-streaming their games, opting out of the iFollow platform in favour of producing their own streams.
As live-streaming grows in popularity, and as fans of clubs in the EFL in the UK will be able to watch more of their club’s midweek games which aren’t picked up by broadcasters, the potential for stadiums to empty and fans to stay away if they don’t fancy a trip to the stadium on a wet and windy night, preferring to watch the games on a stream. And what effect will it have on attendances if local pubs simply buy up a stream and show all of the games? As with any new technology, there are always problems which crop up and which can be ironed out later.
But of all the issues touched upon, perhaps one of the most interesting is one of the least talked-about.
When starting a live stream as a football club – or any brand, publisher or rights holder – one of the issues to think about is audience expectation versus the reality of what you’re presenting. Are fans tuning into games expecting the polished production of Sky Sports, with experienced and recognisable commentators and expert analysis? And are they being presented with a man with an iPhone camera instead?
One of the challenges with live-streaming is that the technology is available to everyone. It’s easy to do and all you need is a phone. But that poses a challenge because the basic level of video that you get from such a broadcast is well below what it can be if there’s money and effort spent on equipment and production.
As Matt McKiernan points out in the podcast, one of the pieces of advice that he’d give to anyone looking to start their own live-stream is to start small. If you start off with a stream which is of fairly low quality then the fanbase you accrue won’t expect it to be higher the whole time. And then you can grow it from there if you need to.
On the other hand, if you only manage to attract a handful of viewers to your first stream, which has been the product of a lot of effort, money and labour, then you’ll have to keep that level the same the whole way through, despite not getting as much in return as you’d hoped.
There are plenty of issues when it comes to the live broadcast of football games on streaming platforms. From the existential issues of viewer numbers and stadium attendances to fan culture and Britain’s strong away fan tradition, there are massive issues to consider. But since technology has made live-streaming a viable option for literally anyone with a smartphone, there are bread and butter issues, too. And thinking about how much effort you put into the presentation of the stream is incredibly important at the start, because you can always scale it up if you attract more fans than you think. If you get less than you’d hoped, though, you can’t scale it down.
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