iTV Can Win Points with Sports Fans
Targeting engaged viewers? Sports fans are your bull's-eye. So given this home field advantage, why aren’t we seeing more true two-way interactivity when it comes to sporting events? Let’s take the 2011 US Open tennis tournament as an example.
Multiple Channels is Interactive Lite
DirecTV with ESPN and the Tennis Channel are providing early-round match coverage to subscribers free of charge. Viewers can watch six live matches on the US Open Mix Channel (701) and select any to watch in full-screen mode. They can “interact” via the red button to see scores, schedules and draw info.
Given the technical limitations on two-way interactivity with satellite providers, I understand why stepping up to truly interactive experiences, such as polls, is challenging. But what a great opportunity for a dual screen campaign. Get your fans engaged via polls, trivia contests and social media conversations, key components of interactive television marketing strategy.
Note that AT&T recently announced that it will be rolling out a similar multi-screen viewing experience for tennis fans.
Let’s Go to the Second Screen
ESPN does take advantage of second screens for distribution. Per the network, “All of ESPN2’s telecasts are also available online through ESPNnetworks.com, and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app.” The WatchESPN app [Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks or Verizon FiOS TV] can be a little difficult to set up, but I’ve found it easy to use once it's running, and terrific for fans who aren't satisfied with single-screen coverage. In addition, ESPN Mobile TV will carry 65 hours of live coverage.
The court is covered in terms of ways to watch. In terms of interactivity, viewers can get a more robust second screen experience with the US Open’s On the Go app (iPhone, Android, mobile site) that provides viewers with:
- LIVE Scores and completed match results
- Latest News updates throughout the tournament
- Around Me for those attending the matches to find the nearest live matches, concessions, or the next train home
- USOpen.org Radio live streaming play-by-play Open coverage
- On Demand Video around the grounds, insider player profiles
- Tweets from the US Open official Twitter coverage
- Visiting the Open featuring maps of the grounds and other great spectator info
The US Open will also update fans via text message on match start times, final scores, etc. for the players a fan checks off on the Open site.
Who Finally Scores?
US Open got some game on with its Bracket Challenge on the Open website. Fans accumulate points by selecting the winners of each match in a bracket format. Grand Prize winners get a trip for two to the 2012 US Open. It’s a page right out of my earlier blog on incorporating gaming elements into interactive campaigns.
And ESPN is blogging and tweeting about the Open, but it's up to fans to search that interactivity out on ESPN.com or via Twitter.
All in all, it looks like it won’t be until 2012 or beyond that the US Open and fans get to hit across the net at each other with iTV campaigns synced to live matches. As a two-week event with enthusiastic fans, the Open is full of opportunity for additional interactive television elements.
Meanwhile, I’ll be watching the US Open and updating my bracket. I’ll update this blog if I encounter additional interactive elements. Feel free to post comments with your iTV Open experiences.
Will Keller, President, Interactive TV Commerce, is the go-to expert for t-commerce sales strategy and execution. For more iTV insights, subscribe to Inside the Screen or follow him @iTVcommerce.