During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a triple-overtime game might be enough to hold fans' interest.
But for other moments, MSG Networks and other media companies are turning to tech companies like LiveLike to boost engagement during games with interactive features designed to keep viewers tuned in and paying attention.
LiveLike has been working with MSG Networks all season, adding elements to Knicks and Rangers games.
Now with the Rangers in the playoffs, they’re boosting their efforts.
The enhancements come at a time when sports rights are rising, cord-cutting is cutting into traditional TV viewership and the need to hook younger viewers is intensifying.
"We essentially provide our partners–broadcasters, teams, media companies with audience engagement tools. We basically are telling them with LiveLike you can engage your community, make games a more interactive, engaging and fun experience," Miheer Walavalkar, co-founder and CEO of LiveLike, told Broadcasting+Cable.
Importantly, with LiveLike, the fan interaction is taking place on media properties owned by the team or network, as opposed to on social media platforms.
Some interactions take place on the big screen, others take place on those phones that fans, especially young ones, are using at all times, including when they’re watching games on TV.
“Our partners are seeking reductions in churn, they’re seeing higher engagement times, they’re seeing more repeat usage and repeat behavior,” Walavalkar said. “Every single client that we are working with is renewing for more and for longer.”
Some of what LiveLike engineers are polls or trivia contests for fans. During the playoffs on MSG Network, LiveLike has constructed a leaderboard so that participating fans can see how well they’re doing relative to other viewers.
Fans can also use emojis to let other fans know how they’re feeling without tapping a full message into applications like Twitter or What’s App.
Walavalkar says rewarding loyalty is becoming an increasingly important part for engaging and retaining fans and viewers. “We’re saying you should reward the most loyal fans,” he said. “We give our partners tools to track their engagement and to incentivize that engagement, to give people points and badges and rewards.”
During the regular season for the Knicks and Rangers, LiveLike saw an engagement rate of 96.5% of fans exposed to the features choosing to use them. During the first two months the features were available, engagement grew 30%, with 21% of fans coming back for more.
In addition to keeping viewers tuned in, the features generate revenue because they can be sponsored by brands. “That’s the holy grail. Engagement for the sale of monetization,” Walavalkar said.
The other hot area in sports TV is gambling. While LiveLike does not have its own sports book, it can help teams and networks steer fans towards apps where they can make wagers.
LiveLike works with Sportradar, which provides official data for several sports leagues and now has a betting product incorporating LIfeLike tech.
"While these features appear popular, one must be careful not to let on-screen gimmicks overwhelm and irritate fans," Walavalkar said. While at this point, there are few cut-and-dried solutions, LiveLike offers clients certain best practices from an editorial standpoint.
“We have found a lot of engagement pregame where people come in and make their predictions. During the game they find out whether they were right or wrong. The same thing happens at half time. So you’re not ‘bothering’ during the game,” he said. “Having said that, you will find most of the chatter within a community comes during those peak moments. “I can’t believe we missed that shot’ or ‘I can’t believe we’re going into overtime.’ If you’re making it fun and engaging, you can make it through the game. If you’re making it more factual and testing knowledge, it’s better to do it pregame and at halftime and leave people alone during the game.”
LiveLike is backed by venture capital money, with money coming from CAA, Greycroft Partners and others. The late David Stern, the former NBA commissioner, was an early investor.
The company generates revenue mostly through licensing its tools, but also through an advisory business that helps clients set up and use their tools.
Increasingly, LiveLike technology is being built 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 built. It's not meant to be difficult once you decide you want to do this,” Walavalkar said. ■
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below.
Thank you for signing up to Broadcasting & Cable. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.