On Monday night ESPN again treated college football fans to the Megacast, the ability for everyone to watch the College Football Championship game from a host of angles and with a variety of both serious and casual commentary, all playing across the various cable and digital channels of “The Worldwide Leader.” As expected, you can read a great review of all by Richard Deitsch, it gave almost any fan what they were looking for, while also providing the casual fan with the straight scoop in a traditional broadcast, albeit one with hundreds of potential camera angles.
The Megacast also offered fans to flip back and get contrasting viewpoints and different angles within seconds of a live event; second screen viewing and picture in picture also offered up a chance to see what else was going on on the other channels, and there was a nice twitter bounce with the hashtag provided to track fan comments as the game went on, not to mention all the banter back and forth on Twitter, and a smattering of Snapchat and Instagram stories being followed as well. In the end, another huge undertaking by ESPN, with lots and lots of content, with the ability to personalize what you wanted your viewing experience to be. All good.
Now if you are trying to sell traditional broadcast to a massive audience, you may have a mega-problem down the line. The viewer customization option which continues to grow for the consumer, is going to make it harder to aggregate numbers for brands the way measurement is still being done, and the splintering of an audience to various niche broadcast streams from one outlet is also going to cause some hand wringing for those who have doled out massive dollars for broadcast rights and are looking for traditional ROI. Those days are going, and in the world of the cord cutters and cord shavers, traditional is morphing from the norm to the exception. Not yet, maybe not that soon, but at some point. The good news for those selling? The vast majority of consumers still followed the traditional and tuned in to the main broadcast. The rest was more for niche and novelty, at least for now?
So in the end what was missing from the Megacast, and what can be coming? Here’s an idea, one that we actually saw a piece of in the college space a few years ago with a Barry Switzer themed platform called “Coaches Cabana.” At that time Switzer, and a host of other ex coaches, would be on a digital platform, some literally in a cabana, watching a game from a remote location while fans, both in stadium and watching on TV, got insiders commentary as the game was going on. There were sponsors…local beer, chicken wings etc…and it played out as a second screen experience for dedicated fans of a particular team who wanted more than just watching a national broadcast. They wanted their guys live giving their spin with their guests. The problem was the platform had no live rights, so you literally had to watch the game on one device, or follow along in the stadium, and then use another device as a companion to get the coach comments. Great and fun insights but a bit clunky, and as with many first-time ideas, it never got to the national prominence as hoped.
However today you have more and more efficient ways to stream live, as we have seen with so many new massive partnerships with platforms like Twitter. Put the game on a social platform and see who tunes in. The NFL had the first great buzz and many followed, but the experience was not much different than what we saw on a TV broadcast. Yes it helped the unplugged watch, but after a while it wasn’t that much different. Now take the “Cabana” concept, steal a piece from the Megacast and loop it in with Twitter or Facebook or another platform where you can use live video and data and you have a truly unique customized viewing experience.
I don’t know what Aaron Rogers is calling or what play LeBron is about to run because the announcers in a traditional broadcast are focused on the game, but now there is an expert and a great known personality, in real time, telling me what is going on and what I am about to see. He or she is focused solely on extra, intimate information that enhances the broadcast without losing quality. Lop on to that a social feed like Twitter pulling in comments and creating a conversation tied to live video and expert analysis, and you have the next gen viewing experience. An experience which will also be sponsorable with live commercials, product placement and also some drop in calls to action to immediately (and maybe even geotarget) get a consumer to purchase, like a pizza order as you watch. There will also be ways to work in more content, and even potentially organic sponsorship, during natural breaks.
Will it come? For sure? When? Don’t blink. Anyone who thought live streaming or the Megacast was a gimmick just to grab a small audience and get some buzz should not be fooled. It may not make money yet, but rightsholders are evolving and looking at what fans want, and what they want is unique and custom content. We keep getting glimpses, pretty soon we will be able to see the whole picture, and it will keep changing for the better.