If you’d asked someone at this time last year about the prospect of the Premier League (and all sports, globally) being played behind closed doors, you may well have been laughed out of the conversation. However, fast forward to 2020, and we are living that impossibility.
There’s a reason that playing behind closed doors is used as a punishment for misconduct, particularly in football. Simply put: it is not the same without the fans. Home advantage disappears (as the Bundesliga has proved with devastating effect) and players don’t know where to go when they celebrate. Watching at home, hearing every single shout from the players on the pitch is fascinating yet disturbingly eerie at the same time. It’s an entirely different viewing experience.
This unique period of time represents something of a new era for broadcasters. The BBC will break new ground and broadcast their first-ever Premier League game, Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace (coincidentally, the reverse fixture was the first-ever Premier League game broadcast live on Amazon Prime Video, remember that for your quizzes!). Both BT Sport and Sky Sports, which are subscription-based services, have announced their intention to make some of their games free-to-air – for normal Premier League games, this is very unusual. Every single game will be broadcast on television in the UK.
This is a dream come true for many fans, but broadcasters know that the world will be watching. The unprecedented situation which we find ourselves in gives broadcasters a unique opportunity to innovate the live experience. For example: fake crowd noises generated for the viewers at home is becoming the norm (not just in England – FOX Sports have been doing the same with their NRL coverage in Australia, for example), thanks to video game companies such as EA. An increase in social media activity from clubs and broadcasters alike is not just expected but guaranteed. In a new era of watching sports, it’s clear to see that now is the time to experiment when it comes to interacting with audiences on a new, modern level.
The idea of interactivity for broadcasters is one which many should be exploring, not just for this season but for future ones too. Everybody knows about how viewing patterns are changing, with private spaces becoming more and more popular for fans to become engrossed, whether that be on their laptops, phones, tablets or televisions. With pubs and sports bars either closed or offering severely restricted capacity, a large group of fans will be experiencing this individuality for the first time. It’s likely that, once fanless games become ‘the norm’, many will prefer to stay at home and watch. But how can they do that and keep up the social side of watching the footy with your mates?
When Martin Tyler came back to our screens yesterday evening with the words “and it’s live!”, his famous catchphrase took on a whole new meaning. As we go live with broadcasters around the world, new levels of engagement and gamification are on the horizon for so many sports – football, rugby, esports and racing to name a few.
These broadcasters have scratched the surface with some recent innovations – crowd noises, zoom viewing and free-to-air games to name a few. What they’re doing is great, but what we’ve been doing at Sport Buff is the next generation of sports broadcasting. We’re made up of a team of sports fans who, quite frankly, have been itching for this enhanced engagement for as long as we can remember. So we made it happen! This isn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to this new era of sports viewing – no, we’ve been engineering our product for quite some time behind the scenes, making sure that every detail is perfect for anyone and everyone who wants to experience a new era of sports viewing.
We’ve got so many exciting announcements coming through, so make sure to follow us on our socials to stay in the loop. We can’t wait for you to meet Sport Buff. Watching sport will never be the same again…