Good evening, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
I'm experimenting with something different with this newsletter. Before we get into the story, let me disclose something important right up front.
This newsletter is Sponsored By StreamLayer. While StreamLayer did not write this newsletter, nor did they have editorial influence over this newsletter, I was paid to write about this particular company.
This is not something I anticipate doing often, but I felt like it was worth an experiment, especially because StreamLayer is operating in a world I'd be interested in writing about anyway. If you have any additional questions, feel free to drop me a line at Matt@ExtraPointsMB.com
When I sit down to watch college football at home, I almost always have a second screen open. Ideally, I use my laptop. While my main TV is showing the actual game, I'll have my laptop open to a live stats page, Twitter, the Extra Points Discord channel, and maybe a constantly updating scoreboard. Football lends itself nicely to constant breaks in the action, after all, and it's nice to be able to quickly cut away to share a meme, check the box score, and talk with my friends.
Now, I realize that I'm not the perfect example of a typical consumer. I've been working in digital media for almost a decade and I have ADHD, so I have the attention span of a goldfish even under the best of circumstances. But in turns out, I'm not the only consumer who likes to have a second screen, or maybe more, when watching live sports. According to one study, "88 percent of Americans "use a second digital device while watching TV."
It turns out, lots of people want access to additional information while they're watching something, not just Twitter-addicted sports bloggers.
Broadcasters and sports teams have done a better job of helping consumers pay attention to one of their screens. They realize, after all, that "screen" may not mean "television", and they've made it easier to watch a sporting event on a laptop, cell phone, or other device.
But there's a lot of room left to improve the second screen experience. And that's where StreamLayer thinks they have a solution.
Essentially, StreamLayer is attempting to make it easier for consumers to get everything they want out of the multi-screen experience, without actually having to rig up a second screen or risk missing an important moment in the actual broadcast.
For one, StreamLayer has built-in social functionality, allowing users to Live Chat with other friends, or even set up a video "Watch Party", or a video call with up to eight friends, all in the same app the consumer is using to watch the broadcast. On a cell phone, the screen would look something like this:
Last month, StreamLayer reached an agreement with Inter Miami of MLS, so fans could utilize the product on Inter Miami broadcasts for free, just by downloading the Inter Miami app. The club also released a short video, showing what it looks like in practice. If everything works, a fan could chat with a friend, see which squad has earned more corner kicks, and check Twitter, all without moving away from the live broadcast.
The company told me that they envision the product always being free for individual consumers.
The market, rather, would be for media rights holders, like an ESPN or FOX, who may want to license the technology to add functionality to their streaming experience. But in the near future, SteamLayer also sees a market for their platform to help facilitate other deals, deals that could provide additional revenue streams for college athletic departments.
StreamLayer, could, for example, add functionality to allow a user to buy an Ohio State jersey right after a big touchdown, without leaving the app. Fanatics (or another retailer) might give StreamLayer a cut, and the athletic department then earns extra money from the sale. Theoretically, a school could even work to integrate an athletic department donation, or future ticket sale, into either this platform, or a similar one.
If anything, a product like a StreamLayer shows how there might be another completely new frontier for any sports team, college, or rightsholder, to further monetize, or at least engage, their deepest fans.
College programs have treated football broadcasts as extended commercials for their university for about as long as we've had televised college football. Those broadcasts have been an excellent way to convey a certain message to a certain kind of consumer, but consumer attitudes are changing. A much younger consumer, for example, may be used to a viewing experience from Twitch, or from their video games, or other platforms, that typically provide much more information.
Some schools are getting a little more creative, creating shoulder programming around streaming broadcasts, or increasing access to on-demand videos. But as best as I am aware, schools haven't really tried to muscle in on the broadcast itself.
If broadcasters and schools want to reach different viewers, making a play towards that second screen could be a good idea.
At the end of the day, StreamLayer realizes that every new bell and whistle meant to increase audience engagement only matters if the quality of the actual broadcast holds up. You won't care about being able to video chat with friends if that chat ability comes with a 20 second lag, after all. Every publisher and broadcaster also knows that it can be very difficult to move audiences from one platform to another, since inertia is a powerful force. If you're used to going on Twitter all the time, well, switching to a different platform to talk about Wednesday Night Sun Belt football probably isn't going to happen overnight.
But if the product really does make consumer's lives easier, folks will shift. Being able to actually watch a football game without having to alt-tab three times to check the auto-updating box score would be a nice feature. Having an overlay that makes it easier to order a pizza, buy a pennant or place a bet really would improve the experience for a lot of fans. And if those integrations help direct some more of that money back to athletic departments, especially after a year when everybody is looking to find a few more quarters under the couch cushions, then this could be a development that benefits just about everybody.
There are apparently lots and lots of consumers trying to MacGyver the best second-screen experience possible for watching a live sporting event.
Whoever figures out how to create the best in class experience in that department is going to benefit, and their partners will benefit.
Questions about sponsoring future Extra Points newsletters can be sent to sales@ExtraPointsMB.com. For newsletter feedback, story ideas, angry missives, hot tips and more, I'm at Matt@extrapointsmb.com, or @MattBrownEP on Twitter and Instagram.