09/21/20: Yahoo discussed its new platforms for the NFL season

Medias First Morning Read
Monday September 21, 2020
Verizon Media is opening the doors to new ways to experience the NFL, courtesy of two new Yahoo features, entitled Watch Together and Yahoo Sports PlayAR. The first is described as a “co-viewing experience designed to innovate live events by providing fans the ability to co-watch, interact and immerse themselves in entertainment events ranging from sports to music” while the latter offer “the ability to see graphical replays of key plays across all games in near real-time by layering the NFL’s Next Gen Stats proprietary tracking data on-screen with enhanced games stats for players who are part of the play.” Cynopsis Sports caught up with Geoff Reiss, GM of Yahoo Sports, to talk about the new platform’s approach to the season and the new initiatives.

Reiss on lessons learned since last season: Last season millions of new and next gen fans relied on Yahoo Sports for the best football experience on their phones. Together with Verizon, emerging technology and the first-ever 5G equipped NFL stadiums, Yahoo Sports provided an unparalleled platform to drive the changing market dynamics and define the future of sports. Yahoo Sports saw unprecedented engagement with our content. Each streamer watched an average of 50 minutes and we saw a 74 percent increase YoY in unique viewers.
We’ve always listened to our audience and to serve them we have launched features including player prop bets on our mobile apps available via the players tab and player card; push notifications whenever someone on a fan’s team has a player in the red zone so they can watch their fantasy players; improved Fantasy Chat features; improved draft tools enabling commissioners to undo draft picks, change settings and reset drafts within minutes; and more. However, with COVID-19 consumers are seeking out more unique video experiences while brands like ours are also exploring new ways to deliver experiences from a distance. In our view, evolving the technology is essential to meet that demand which is why we felt it was the perfect time for these features.

On the Watch Together feature: Technology has created an opportunity to connect fans to their passions, and Yahoo Sports has consistently innovated by creating experiences for fandom that diversify revenue, audience growth and engagement. During these times of uncertainty, we strived to create a new feature to innovate how fans experience live entertainment by providing them with the ability to co-watch, interact and immerse themselves in top cultural events and we knew fans don’t have the ability to watch games like they’re used to. We knew the demand existed and we knew that with our expertise we could give users best-in-class viewing experiences, which led us to launch Watch Together.
Watch Together is a co-viewing experience that is unique to the sports space. Fans now have the ability to watch anywhere with up to three friends through a synchronized livestream, creating an interactive virtual experience that lets viewers feel like they are at home watching the game together.

On AR: Yahoo Sports will enhance the NFL fan experience with a new and innovative augmented reality feature called “Yahoo Sports PlayAR,” that will immerse fans in the game-day viewing experience by providing the ability to see graphical replays of key game plays in near real time from the angles they choose, while layering on-screen NFL’s Next Gen Stats proprietary tracking data with enhanced games stats for players who are part of the play. Fans can experience “Yahoo Sports PlayAR” for live NFL match-ups.
The PlayAR feature is using the Verizon Media Immersive, the largest online XR platform for advertising and content. We’re creating unique, accessible experiences that deliver premium XR across some of the world’s most popular news and entertainment brands. Consumers want to be able to push boundaries and bridge their digital and physical worlds with the latest technology and innovations. They look for brands who will surprise and delight them, provide utility and create an engaging experience. Verizon Media Immersive’s format helps brands do just that, and drive deeper consumer connections.

On takeaways after week one: We could not have asked for a better start to the season with “Watch Together” after week one. Fans gave us such a positive reception and it was great to see users invite their friends on social channels. We’re really proud to bring our fans a new way to connect in socially distant times with the games they love.

PROGRAMMING

The NFL saw viewership for Thursday Night Football generate 7.2 million viewers from TV and digital audiences. That is up 3% over last year’s Week 2 Thursday Night Football matchup and ranked as the most-watched telecast of the day on Thursday. Digital streaming across all platforms delivered an average minute audience of 522K, landing as the highest digital average minute audience ever for an NFL Network exclusive game.

Speaking of football, the Big Ten released its schedule as the league looks to get the season started. The conference will play an eight-game conference-only schedule, followed by the first-ever Champions Week. During that Dec. 19 Champions Week, each school from each division will match up with the school that finished with the same standing in the opposite conference, such that the first-place teams in each division will play in the conference championship, the second-place teams will play each other, and so on. Oct. 24 kicks of the season, with FOX picking up the Nebraska/Ohio State matchup.

UFC and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi released details for Return to UFC Fight Island, the follow up to the series of UFC events and set to take place on Yas Island. UFC will produce five events for Return to UFC Fight Island, including two Pay Per Views and three Fight Nights beginning Sept. 26 with UFC 253: ADESANYA vs. COSTA.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the press on Saturday that he “would not be surprised” if the start date for the 2020-21 season “slips into later December, [or] could slip into January,” per ESPN. “Nobody can tell me whether or not the border between Canada and the United States will be open by a certain date; nobody can tell me what the state of COVID-19 is going to be; nobody can tell us whether our arenas will have either socially distanced or fully occupied buildings. And we’re going to have to do the same thing we did for return to play: explore all the options, be flexible and agile enough to implement when the appropriate time comes,” he said, although he anticipated playing a full 82 games in the 2020-21 season.

Also speculating was FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who suggested Friday that the FIFA Women’s World Cup could run every two years instead of every four. “We don’t want to copy what the men are doing. We want something specific for women and for the women’s game,” Infantino said, commenting that out-of-the-box thinking is crucial for the continued growth of women’s soccer. “We need to get those creative juices flowing.”

The NFL weekend saw history made as VSiN, The Sports Betting Network, hosted the first sports betting show broadcast live from an NFL stadium, taking place at Mile High Stadium. Through VSiN’s partnership with BetMGM, local sports betting expert James Salinas set up shop at The BetMGM Lounge at Mile High to broadcast two national sports betting programs: THE Pregame Show and Betting Across America presented by BetMGM. During each road game this season, the VSiN team of experts will broadcast from the stadium to deliver credible, actionable sports betting information and insights to sports fans and betting enthusiasts in Colorado and around the country.

SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

The NBA and ESPN released two spots for the 2020 NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV on ABC featuring multi-platinum artist Big Sean and his new hit single “Don Life” as the soundtrack for both. The NBA’s :30 spot concludes its “Whole New Game” campaign for the NBA Restart. ESPN’s :30 anthem serves as the next installment under ESPN’s “Rise Together” post-season creative platform that was unveiled at the beginning of the NBA Playoffs.

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

The return of professional sports in August boosted ESPN Podcast listenership, according to the company, as ESPN notched its best month ever and grew 29% over August 2019. In addition, the combined podcast network of ESPN / ABC / FiveThirtyEight / National Geographic posted an increase of 44% year-over-year. “It is clear that when current events are on the mind of listeners – be it sports or politics – fans turn to our network of podcasts for the best in analysis, storytelling and discussion,” said Tom Ricks, ESPN Audio’s vice president, digital marketing and strategy. “As baseball heads towards the playoffs, the NFL starts up and the election comes closer, we are focused on delivering our best for fans in a time like no other.”

The Las Vegas Raiders unlocked a partnership with BetMGM ahead of its debut in the city tonight. The deal sees BetMGM leverage assets to provide educational information about the BetMGM app to Raiders fans. “We are pleased to add BetMGM to the MGM Resorts partnership portfolio,” said Raiders president Marc Badain. “The addition of BetMGM will open new levels of engagement for Raiders fans and guests of Allegiant Stadium.”

ESPORTS

Halo Championship Series is powering up its Pro Series. The Halo 5 Pro Series, will span North America, Latin America, EMEA, and Australia/New Zealand with online play spanning Sept. 26-Dec. 12. The slate will host open and professional tournaments weekly with four Season Championships. Meanwhile, HCS will continue operating its MCC Pro Series.

The Global Esports Federation entered a strategic partnership with the Arab Esports Federation. The partnership will focus on boosting the growth of esports in the Arab region and Africa. “The Arab region presents truly dynamic development opportunities for esports to thrive. We are optimistic about the future of esports,” said HRH Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, President, Arab Esports Federation. “Esports in this region has been on the rise. This latest collaboration between the Arab Esports Federation and the Global Esports Federation allows us to create an inclusive expansion strategy that serves our communities and delivers holistic growth opportunities for esports to continue to develop; as well as giving our youth access to unparalleled global opportunities.”

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On this Day
1982: NFL players begin a 57-day strike

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