During the Stanley Cup playoffs, one game in triple overtime might be enough to keep fans interested.
But for other times, MSG Networks and other media companies are turning to tech companies like LiveLike to boost in-game engagement with interactive features designed to keep viewers tuned and attentive.
LiveLike has worked with MSG Networks all season, adding elements to Knicks and Rangers games.
Now that the Rangers are in the playoffs, they’re stepping up their game.
The improvements come at a time when sports rights are increasing, cable cuts are shrinking traditional television audiences and the need to attract young viewers is intensifying.
“We basically provide our partners – broadcasters, teams, media companies with audience engagement tools. We basically tell them that with LiveLike, you can engage your community, make games a more interactive, engaging and fun experience” , Miheer Walavalkar, co-founder and CEO of LiveLike, said Broadcast + Cable.
It is important to note that with LiveLike, fan interaction takes place on team or network owned media properties, as opposed to social media platforms.
Some interactions take place on the big screen, others on phones that fans, especially younger ones, use all the time, including when watching matches on TV.
In addition to MSG, LiveLike has worked with WarnerMedia during March Madness and the NBA season, the Golden State Warriors, NASCAR and with a number of European broadcasters.
“Our partners are looking at lower churn, they’re seeing longer engagement times, they’re seeing more repeat use and repeat behavior,” Walavalkar said. “Every client we work with renews longer and longer.”
Some of LiveLike’s engineers are fan polls or trivia contests. During the playoffs on MSG Network, LiveLike built a leaderboard so participating fans could see how well they were doing compared to other viewers.
Fans can also use emojis to let other fans know how they feel without typing a full message in apps like Twitter or What’s App.
Walavalkar says rewarding loyalty is becoming an increasingly important part of engaging and retaining fans and viewers. “We say you should reward the most loyal fans,” he said. “We give our partners tools to track their engagement and to encourage that engagement, to give people points, badges and rewards.”
During the Knicks and Rangers regular season, LiveLike recorded a 96.5% engagement rate from fans exposed to features choosing to use them. In the first two months the features were live, engagement increased by 30%, with 21% of fans coming back for more.
In addition to keeping viewers tuned in, the features generate revenue as they can be sponsored by brands. “It’s the Holy Grail. Commitment to selling monetization,” Walavalkar said.
The other hot area of sports TV is gaming. While LiveLike doesn’t have its own sports book, it can help teams and networks direct fans to apps where they can place bets.
LiveLike works with Sportradar, which provides official data for several sports leagues and now has a betting product that incorporates LIfeLike technology.
“While these features seem popular, you have to be careful not to let the on-screen gimmicks overwhelm and irritate fans,” Walavalkar said. While at this stage, there are few ready-made solutions, LiveLike offers its customers some good practices from an editorial point of view.
“We found a lot of pre-game engagement where people come in and make their predictions. During the game, they find out if they are right or wrong. The same thing happens at halftime. So you don’t ‘disturb’ during the game,” he said. “That said, you will find that most chatter within a community occurs during these peak times. “I can’t believe we missed that shot” or “I can’t believe we’re going to overtime.” If you make it fun and engaging, you can do it through play. If you make it more factual and test knowledge, it’s best to do it before the game and at halftime and leave people alone for the game.
LiveLike is backed by venture capital, with money coming from CAA, Greycroft Partners and others. The late David Stern, the former commissioner of the NBA, was an early investor.
The company generates revenue primarily through the licensing of its tools, but also through a consulting business that helps customers set up and use their tools.
Increasingly, LiveLike technology is being integrated into digital providers Deltatre and Sportradar, making it easier for networks to add interactivity to their programming workflows.
“The actual implementation takes a few weeks at most. That’s the beauty of what we’ve built. It’s not supposed to be difficult once you decide to do it,” Walavalkar said. ■