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Federation Summit Spotlights OTT Strategy From UEFA, Olympic Channel, and Red Bee Media

25/02/2020

Federation Summit Spotlights OTT Strategy From UEFA, Olympic Channel, and Red Bee Media It's all about meeting the needs of passionate, demanding fans By Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director

Monday, February 24, 2020 - 1:02 pm

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Olympic Channel, UEFA, and Red Bee Media took to the stage at the International Federation Summit in Lausanne, produced by MEI in association with SVG Europe, to discuss the current and future state of federation-based OTT services. International federations are in a unique position when it comes to OTT, often having participants and fans who are passionate, engaged, and demanding. So, how do they keep them happy?

From left: SVG's Ken Kerschbaumer discussed OTT with Red Bee Media's Steve Russell, Olympic Channel's Luis Fuentes, and UEFA's Craig Hepburn.

Craig Hepburn, head of digital and marketing, UEFA, discussed UEFA TV, which launched only eight months ago. It's a free-to-access platform created to keep up with the changing way fans connect to content: on phones and on demand.

We wanted a platform to deliver that directly in a digital way to fans, he said. There's the youth leagues and the younger audiences and the younger competitions that we have. As much as UEFA is known for those big competitions, we have a whole range of other youth, women, freestyle, and really it is to be the home of those platforms and those competitions.

Hepburn, who has worked for such companies as Microsoft and Nokia, said that step one in building out a platform is to not try to build it on your own.

Unless you're a tech company, why would you build your own OTT platform? I think there are so many good tech products out there, he explained. If you're in the sports business and you're not a tech company, focus on what you know.

Building out an OTT service is a complicated process, and Steve Russell, head of OTT and media management, Red Bee Media, advises beginning with MVP: minimum viable product.

The idea is, you don't over-engineer everything, you don't try to think through every nuance of every bit of function you could ever want, he said. When you focus on getting something to market, make it simple as possible.

The reason? It's not until you get initial feedback from users (and you will get it) that you can reshape it to meet their needs.

You start to read the data so you start to understand how it works, he explained. You iterate, you listen to the fans, you see what people are saying on social forums, and you add functions over time. It's a very different way of managing a product, he added. That's my pitch: get to market, get simple, listen, learn, iterate, evolve.

Along with adding technology comes addition of personnel and figuring out how the product will be overseen, who will oversee it, and how the rest of the organization will get engaged.

You need to set up team structures, said Hepburn. The first thing for me was to set up product managers and actually put in place ownership across the web, the apps, CRM, and even the OTT service. Give accountability to key teams and bring in some key experts or find and identify the right talent in-house. Give them the autonomy, giving them the support to execute that project because that's the key execution and a lot of it is how you get that done. It's challenging, but, if you set the team up properly, it's achievable.

Luis Fuentes, director of special projects, Olympic Channel, discussed one of the biggest challenges facing a federation: how to localize an OTT service. Many jumping into OTT are looking at it as a means to reach fans around the world, and that requires things like not only local content but also translation and subtitling in local languages.

We're up to 12 languages because we recently added Hindi, he noted. Translation and subtitling can be super-challenging from a day-to-day perspective. It sounds very interesting, and it is very interesting. But the risk of getting it wrong is high, and it's costly. Just to give you an example, we have news in our platform. Some things need to go up there very quickly, and you can not spend a lot of time translating them. These things go to translators all over the world, and they come back in less that two hours, an hour and a half.

The need for speed increases the potential for translations to be done by someone who is not an expert in a sport, and that can be an issue.

The risk of getting a message across that is not exactly the message you want to get across is high, Fuentes added. On top of that, you're talking about sports and content for sport fans. They normally have their own words and terms that they use in specific ways. If you talk about sailing, for example, and you get something wrong in the translation because the guy who's translating into Korean is not an expert in sailing, then you may have the sailing community going up in arms, saying, How comes you guys, you're the Olympic Channel, you got this stuff wrong which is a very basic one.'

He recommended working a lot with translation companies to pass on your expertise and try to get their views on how to tackle a number of things. Even Spanish can be a challenge as there is Spanish for Spain and Spanish for Latin America.

Every time you translate something into Latin American Spanish, you get the Spanish consumers saying, We don't understand this very well,' he added. Arabic is also a super-complicated one because you have, as far as I know, a standard Arabic, which is difficult to write properly, and it's difficult to find the proper writers that not only need to be good writers in Arabic but experts in a lot of its disciplines.

Russell noted that Red Bee Media offers subtitling as well as audio descr
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