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DFL on the New Bundesliga Season, Broadcast Innovations, and the Evolution of Fan Engagement

07/09/2021

DFL on the new Bundesliga season, broadcast innovations and the evolution of fan engagement By Heather McLean, Editor

Thursday, September 2, 2021 - 16:48

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A group of testers watched the Bundesliga Supercup 2021 as an augmented reality (AR) projection, as part of a DFL pilot project to learn more about the media usage habits of the future

When the Bundesliga kicked off the 2021-22 season on 13 August, the German Football League (Deutsche Fu ball Liga DFL), along with its host broadcast subsidiary Sportcast, sprang into action to bring all the excitement from the pitch to both German and global audiences. At the same time, it was also planning a flurry of trials and showcases for new innovations developed inhouse, which were hosted at the SuperCup match that took place on 17 August.

Andreas Heyden, the DFL's executive vice president for digital innovations, spoke to SVG Europe about the federation's evolving innovation strategy, and the many new developments that have come to the fore in the last month.

Pushing creativity

Heyden comments on why the DFL is pushing its creativity for the clubs, for fans and for broadcasters: It's a 120 year old game where the rules never changed for football, so we have to be able to tell stories differently. We always try out new cameras, like the rail cam, to create new points of view. We were the first to integrate the spider cam as a regular league product. We were the first to do 3D, and the first to shut it off again. We were the first with 4K UHD. I would say the only ones beating us on quality would be [FIFA for] the World Cup; that would be our benchmark because they spent way more money than us. But when you talk about leagues, I think we're hard to beat on quality, and innovation driven by digital.

We're coming from licenses for broadcasters for passive fans, now to sports content solutions with creating the live product and on demand and in-match product, for active fans who want to participate with the content

We believe that personalisation and localisation are major drivers of innovation, continues Heyden. Also, artificial intelligence (AI). We're now offering a Star Cam, where data from the match follows the player. We now offer automated highlight clips via WSC Sports, the Israeli start up, where minutes after the match day or the game or the conference, you can get [for instance] a cut of all actions of all Japanese players sent out automatically with on-air graphics to the Japanese broadcasters. We have a football archive [DFL Media Hub, a 175,000-plus-hour inventory of video recordings] where nearly every frame is tagged, so if you want to see Lewandowski [Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich] sat in the rain, you could find that video scene for it because with AI and machine learning and our partnership with AWS, we are able to create this depth of content.

DFL now controls a full glass to glass strategy, from the camera lens to the viewers' screen, and the production and value chain inbetween. We understood we have to act like a media company to service media companies best, notes Heyden.

The DFL also produced Supercup 2021 in 9:16 format for the first time, for viewers using mobile devices

Full transformation

The full understanding of what that concept meant, and the resulting transformation into an end to end media services business, began from the 2015/16 Bundesliga season with 21st Century Fox deal for North and Latin American territories, plus most of Asia.

I think the first decision [in this process] was the in-housing of competence, notes Heyden. Not being reliant on a Mediapro because everything that Laiga does that is innovation on broadcast, is done by Mediapro and not LaLiga, or Premier League with IMG. When we say, we need this competence inhouse because we want to do something different, I don't want to go out and shop for vendors. I have my daughter company [Sportcast]. I go to them and say, I want to put a vertical camera into the stadium . And they say, okay, we can do it in three weeks . Done.

He continues: In 2015, the whole transformation started. The first was we decided to produce our own TV signal, to own every camera in the stadium, and to have full control of what's happening in the stadium. Our business model starts with the recording of the game, and that's when Sportcast, our daughter company, was founded. They have produced over 10,000 football games, they produced for the FIFA World Cup games, for UEFA, and for other sports, so they are, I would say, the most experienced football production company.

In 2013, DFL Digital Sports was founded, the company that I'm also responsible for, where we produce our own international TV programme, where we produce our own web and apps and digital services, our own inhouse creative agency. And in 2016 Sportec Solutions was founded as a JV with Deltatre, where we founded a subsidiary which solely has the purpose of creating the data layer for our own purposes, but also for the media product.

Over this journey of the last 10 years, the takers, the licensees, have also changed. We're coming from licenses for broadcasters for passive fans, now to sports content solutions with creating the live product and on demand and in-match product, for active fans who want to participate with the content.

DFL launched an innovative Interactive Feed so fans can watch more, how they want

SuperCup 2021 extravaganza

Advancing that content solution requirement are a series of innovations launched by the DFL in August this year, ready for the new season for the benefit of both fans and broadcasters. The DFL launched a plethora of innovations at the SuperCup on 17 August, marking the culmination of a year of development at this match which provided a live test bed and showcase.

Heyden says
LINK: https://www.svgeurope.org/blog/headlines/deutsche-fusball-liga-on-the-...
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