Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or were simply engrossed with the presidential election), you’ve probably heard that NFL ratings are down for the 2016 season. Through the season’s first 10 weeks, check out the drop in viewership for the NFL’s primetime games in 2016 compared to 2015, according to Michael Mulvihill, the executive […]
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or were simply engrossed with the presidential election), you’ve probably heard that NFL ratings are down for the 2016 season. Through the season’s first 10 weeks, check out the drop in viewership for the NFL’s primetime games in 2016 compared to 2015, according to Michael Mulvihill, the executive vice president of research, league operations and strategy at Fox Sports.
Primetime national matchups
Sunday Night Football (NBC): -15%
Monday Night Football (ESPN): -17%
Thursday Night Football (CBS, NBC): -16%
Thursday Night Football (NFL Network): -25%
Daytime, regional broadcasts
Even now that the election has wrapped up, the ratings haven’t exactly rebounded to where they were a year ago. In Week 11, the ratings on NBC’s SNF were up slightly from Week 11 in 2015 (up 4%), but then cratered in Week 12 compared to the previous year (down 27%). For ESPN’s MNF, the viewership for Week 11 was down 17% before bumping up 29% in Week 12. On Thanksgiving, viewership for the daytime games on FOX and CBS were up 8% and 9%, respectively, while the primetime game on NBC was down 25%.
First off, make no mistake, the NFL is still unquestionably the most powerful programming on television and far and away the most profitable sports league in the country. Secondly, the election clearly had an effect on the ratings decline. However, any decrease in viewership — or the mere thought that fan interest has reached its peak and is trending downward — is bad news for the NFL, the media companies that pay billions of dollars annually to televise it, and for the sponsors that pay millions annually to advertise on it.
There have been plenty of hypotheses for root of the NFL’s ratings decline, but let’s look specifically at this episode of ESPN’s Outside the Lines and the reasoning given by Mulvihill. Fox’s EVP states that the issue for the NFL and its TV partners isn’t that fewer fans are watching, but rather that fans aren’t tuning in to the broadcast for as long as they have previously.
“The reach of the NFL is the same as last year,” he said. “The number of people interested in the league is the same. The issue is that they’re spending less time with us week in and week out. They’re watching fewer minutes per game and when you multiply those statistics together, it’s a ratings drop. It’s an issue of time spent, not people turning away from the league entirely. We have to find out why people who are fans are spending less time.”
Mulvihill’s point is that the NFL doesn’t have a viewership issue – it has an engagement issue. The NFL needs to give people a reason to watch a majority/ entirety of the broadcast, not just a portion of it. The league/ networks need to give fans a reason to actually watch the game, rather than scanning for updates on Twitter, checking the stats of their fantasy team and watching the scoring plays on NFL RedZone.
The NFL needs an engagement tool like FanBeat! When fans have the ability to predict the action in real time and compete for prizes, they automatically become more engaged because they have a stake in the action. More than just picking players from random teams and hoping they pile up yards and score touchdowns, users can predict whether a team will pick up the first down on a key third-and-7, whether a key touchdown catch will stand after the play is challenged or how many total points two teams will combine for in the first half.
Just like traditional fantasy football, fans now have a stake in the action. However, the difference is that because FanBeat is in real time, the users have to watch the live broadcast in order to answer questions and compete for prizes. They can’t just pick their teams a few days beforehand and then pay casual attention on Sundays while checking Twitter and refreshing the live box score.
We’ve already seen that FanBeat increases engagement through our partnership with the Golf Channel and launch for the Ryder Cup. Of the viewers that tried FanBeat during the Ryder Cup, 56 percent said they enjoyed the Ryder Cup more because of FanBeat. In fact, 51 percent said they watched more Ryder Cup coverage because of FanBeat and a staggering 31 percent 5+ hours more coverage over the weekend!
We know that FanBeat can have the same effect for NFL viewers that it had for Ryder Cup viewers. As Mulvihill states, the NFL doesn’t have a fan viewership problem, but a fan engagement problem. FanBeat is the perfect fan engagement solution.
It was certainly fun to be a part of the final season at Turner Field this year, launching for the Atlanta Braves in the MLB Ballpark app. We got fantastic responses from users about how much baseball is suited for a real-time, live action game like FanBeat, keeping fans engaged between innings and rewarding knowledgeable […]
It was certainly fun to be a part of the final season at Turner Field this year, launching for the Atlanta Braves in the MLB Ballpark app. We got fantastic responses from users about how much baseball is suited for a real-time, live action game like FanBeat, keeping fans engaged between innings and rewarding knowledgeable fans through trivia as well as predict-the-action questions.
In addition to competing for great game prizes night in and night out, like tickets, autographed balls, and team merchandise, there’s another reason Braves FanBeat players came back game after game. Fans racked up season point totals to be entered into a drawing at the end of the year to be selected for some really memorable season prizes, including autographed jerseys, a trip to Braves FanFest at SunTrust Park to meet their favorite players, a trip to spring training in Orlando, and – oh yeah – $5,000 from the Georgia Lottery.
So, without further ado, exactly one month after the final game at Turner Field, it’s time to officially announce the winners from our season prize drawing.
Autographed jersey winners (at least 50,000 points) – Ihomer, Hjhuber, Suzy, Rkstanfi, Brian Snitker, Dgfarr, Misty, & Lherrington
FanFest Meet & Greet winners (at least 65,000 pts) – Sway, 5gobraves5, Wiggins49 & Jayhawks
Spring Training Trip 2017 winner (at least 75,000 points) – Tmc1411
$5,000 from the Georgia Lottery (at least 85,000 points) – Traylor23
Again, thank you to all the Braves fans who played FanBeat this year. We’re already excited about opening 2017 at SunTrust Park.
FanBeat Ryder Cup team. From left: Andrew Vogel, Brandon Farley, Mike Richards and Tony Sullivan From September 30 to October 2, we made a bit of history at FanBeat by launching the first ever predictive play game for live-action golf — made available to Ryder Cup viewers in partnership with Golf Channel. Viewers answered a mix of […]
FanBeat Ryder Cup team. From left: Andrew Vogel, Brandon Farley, Mike Richards and Tony Sullivan
From September 30 to October 2, we made a bit of history at FanBeat by launching the first ever predictive play game for live-action golf — made available to Ryder Cup viewers in partnership with Golf Channel. Viewers answered a mix of 180 predict-the-action and trivia questions over 5 discrete FanBeat games that aligned with the 5 Ryder Cup sessions. We had thousands of viewers try the game and the response was phenomenal as over half of our players returned to play multiple games.
The competition was fierce as players jockeyed to move up the session and event prize boards trying to win golf club sets, official Ryder Cup uniforms, and lots of other gear offered by Golf Channel. The overall FanBeat victory hung in the balance as Mickelson and Garcia approached the par 4 18th late in the day on Sunday. NEW QUESTION: “Mickelson & Garcia have made 17 birdies today! All square going to the 18th hole. Will birdie be in play on the final hole?” 875 points for either Mickelson or Garcia. 685 points if neither makes birdie. 1585 if both make birdie. The answer graph revealed the top choice for 42% of players as “Mickelson birdies” (unsurprisingly, we saw a bit of U.S. bias in answers throughout the weekend). The dramatic play on the course was mirrored with dramatic play in the FanBeat game as both players made big birdie putts on the 18th hole and the FanBeat prize board flipped. DandyCanuck won the weekend with 71,928 total FanBeat points, claiming a new set of clubs and a travel bag. Congratulations to DandyCanuck!
It was quite a weekend for the FanBeat and Golf Channel teams as we worked diligently to follow the action on TV and create compelling question and other game content over 15 hours of FanBeat game play. Golf presents lots of unique challenges versus other sports where we’ve had more experience like baseball and basketball. And the Ryder Cup presents its own unique challenges for predictive-play gaming with the varying match play formats, the concession of holes, and the uncertainty of when a match would end (fewer than 30% actually go to 18 holes). But our team rose to the occasion with an interesting assortment of long-horizon questions, next-shot type questions, and dozens of challenging and entertaining trivia questions. We were also able to drive lots of “clicks” to highlighted promotions including “Join Arnie’s Army“, in memory of Golf Channel founder Arnold Palmer
We appreciate the great response from all of you who played for Ryder Cup and completed our post-event survey. We loved that 90% of respondents said they’d play again without any changes to the product with the 10% responding that they’d play again with some improvements. We have lots of improvements and new features on the way and look forward to running FanBeat for many more golf tournaments in the future!
While handing out flyers and educating Braves fans about Braves FanBeat at Turner Field last month, I had a chance to meet two of our most prolific users in person, Hugh T and Traylor 23. I even got the chance to learn their real names! Hugh Tomlin is in his 40s and lives in Montgomery, […]
While handing out flyers and educating Braves fans about Braves FanBeat at Turner Field last month, I had a chance to meet two of our most prolific users in person, Hugh T and Traylor 23. I even got the chance to learn their real names! Hugh Tomlin is in his 40s and lives in Montgomery, Ala., while Matt Traylor is in his 30s and lives in Kennesaw.
After meeting them in person, I later followed up and got their feedback on their experience playing FanBeat. Listed below are highlights from the interview.
What their experience playing Braves FanBeat was like the first time they played the game:
Hugh T: It was a way to keep your interest in the ballgame. Between innings, I needed something to do until the next inning. It makes it more interesting and fun – like you’re part of the game.
It was funny. The young lady I was with told me to pay more attention to the game. I told her, “I am paying attention to the ballgame.” By the next home game, she was playing too.
Traylor 23: I loved it and was instantly hooked. The very first time I played, I only played the last half of the game and still ended up almost finishing among the T-shirt eligible winners.
Why they play Braves FanBeat during every Braves home game:
Hugh T: I’ve won every game prize except for the autographed baseball (the second-place prize), so I’d like to win at least one baseball before the season’s out. My personal goal is to get at least 200,000 points for the season.
Traylor 23: At first, it was the shot to win one of the grand prizes. Since I’ve eclipsed all of those eligibility thresholds, it’s (to keep winning) those great nightly prizes.
How Braves FanBeat is different from playing fantasy baseball:
Traylor 23: Playing fantasy baseball, you can set your lineup at the beginning of the day and then adjust when you have to. When you’re playing fantasy baseball, once your lineups are set, there’s not much you can do but root for your players to do well.
In Braves FanBeat, you have to actively have knowledge about the game of baseball, the team we’re playing, situations that may arise and random trivia about events that happened last night. FanBeat is a more active and participation-involved game.
On their favorite question that FanBeat asks:
Hugh T: I like the countdown trivia questions because you have to know your team.
Traylor23: I really liked the “what instrument does John Smoltz play” trivia question.
(In case you were wondering, “Smoltzie” plays the accordion – both of his parents are music teachers).
It was great to hear positive feedback from two of our players who have played game-in and game-out this season. The consensus from both Hugh and Matt is that FanBeat enhances engagement for fans watching the Braves because it creates a game within a game. It’s great to have that validation!
On another note, we also learned that fans really like the trivia because it rewards hard-core fans who know the franchise’s history and have been following the team closely all season. Even if fans don’t know the answer to a trivia question, they appreciate the opportunity to learn new facts and tidbits about the team. Braves FanBeat is tailor-made for all fans, both die-hard followers as well as more casual types.
In baseball, the All-Star break marks the season’s unofficial “halfway” point, when teams evaluate what they’ve done during the first three-plus months and set goals and expectations for the season’s second half. With the Midsummer Classic this week, we thought we’d take the same approach at FanBeat. The Braves are FanBeat’s first official MLB partner, […]
In baseball, the All-Star break marks the season’s unofficial “halfway” point, when teams evaluate what they’ve done during the first three-plus months and set goals and expectations for the season’s second half.
With the Midsummer Classic this week, we thought we’d take the same approach at FanBeat.
The Braves are FanBeat’s first official MLB partner, so it’s certainly an historic season for us and it’s been exciting to watch the number of users grow throughout the season as more Braves fans learn about FanBeat and play the app. Here are three takeaways for the first half of the year.
One of the metrics of which we’re most excited and proud is how many users play the entire game. Every Braves FanBeat game has 28 questions and this season on average every user answers 17 questions. Moreover, in the last 7 games, 63 percent – almost 2/3 of all users that try the game — end up playing the whole way through and answering at least 2/3 of the questions. In an era when all sorts of programming and apps compete for our attention, FanBeat is incredibly excited about the high level of engagement we’re seeing from users.
FanBeat can enhance engagement for any sport, but it seems tailor-made for baseball because of the sport’s cadence and tempo. Between every inning, fans know to check their phones, go into the app, and answer one predict-the-action question and one trivia question. The timing for breaks in the action is predictable and the middle of innings – once dead times for fans – has now become a game within the game that fans anticipate and look forward to.
PRIZES ARE A GREAT MOTIVATOR
As great as bragging rights are, the stakes are always a little higher when free stuff’s on the line. The game prizes include club pavilion tickets, an autographed baseball, $10 Georgia Lottery scratchers and Braves T-shirts, while the season prizes include $5,000, a weekend at the Braves’ spring training site in 2017, meet-and-greet with a Braves player, and an autographed Braves jersey.
If you haven’t seen the FanBeat promotional video that aired on Braves Vision in June, you can view it here. The star of the video is Hugh T, who’s been one of our most avid players so far this season. When asked in the interview what he’s won this year, Hugh replied, “What haven’t I won?” Hugh rattled off the list of swag he’s won and then added, “I’ve won everything but an autographed baseball. That’s driving me to continue to play.”
Sure, having expansive knowledge of the team’s history makes for entertaining dinner table – or in this case bleacher seat – conversation. But it’s even better when you can leverage that franchise insight into Braves tickets, T-shirts … and hopefully an autographed ball.
FANBEAT MAKES EVERY GAME COMPETITIVE
As a former sports writer who is supposed to be objective, I always used to say that I didn’t root for specific teams, but I always rooted for a good game. Now that’s not really true any more – I have been a diehard Braves fan since I was 6.
However, the point in some ways still holds. I know that the closer a game is, the more fans will stay tuned in to the game. If a game becomes lopsided – one way or the other – casual fans tend to stop paying attention. In a scoreless pitcher’s duel, fans are hanging on every pitch. When the game’s a 9-1 rout, though, not so much.
What we’ve learned is that with FanBeat, fans stay engaged in the game regardless of the score because they’ve got their own stake in the action. Even if the Braves fall behind 6-1 in the fourth inning, fans who are in the hunt for T-shirts, scratchers, an autographed ball or that spring training weekend will continue to watch the game and root on their team.
The numbers from this year have borne that out. Our retention statistics from games where the run differential is five or more are no different from games that were decided by one run or two runs. That’s another benefit to every FanBeat partner – increased fan commitment and engagement to the team.
Thanks Atlanta Tech Edge for a great feature on FanBeat and the Atlanta Braves! Greg Mize with the Braves is a real innovator in the business and clearly committed to his mobile-first strategy. Braves fans are loving FanBeat and we’re excited to launch the app with more MLB teams in the future!
Thanks Atlanta Tech Edge for a great feature on FanBeat and the Atlanta Braves! Greg Mize with the Braves is a real innovator in the business and clearly committed to his mobile-first strategy. Braves fans are loving FanBeat and we’re excited to launch the app with more MLB teams in the future!
We are very proud to be live with the Atlanta Braves, widely recognized as one of the most innovative teams in Major League Baseball. We are seeing great engagement numbers so far – game after game, over 60% of fans that try FanBeat are enjoying it enough to play the entire game (28 questions over 7 innings). […]
We are very proud to be live with the Atlanta Braves, widely recognized as one of the most innovative teams in Major League Baseball. We are seeing great engagement numbers so far – game after game, over 60% of fans that try FanBeat are enjoying it enough to play the entire game (28 questions over 7 innings).
Here’s a really cool promo the Braves ran on BravesVision last week starring HughT, our top performer for the season. Hugh is a real FanBeat pro! We had a nice spike in FanBeat players and MLB.com Ballpark app downloads that night. Let us know what you think. And next time you watch a Braves game, be sure to download the MLB.com Ballpark app and play along on FanBeat.
My colleague Brandon Farley first used the phrase “predictive gaming 2.0” as we were preparing for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference last year and brainstorming ways to communicate how FanBeat is different from past efforts to let fans compete to predict game play during live sporting events. The phrase conveys the key message that […]
My colleague Brandon Farley first used the phrase “predictive gaming 2.0” as we were preparing for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference last year and brainstorming ways to communicate how FanBeat is different from past efforts to let fans compete to predict game play during live sporting events. The phrase conveys the key message that while FanBeat is not first, we’ve created a next-generation product that breaks with the past and promises to be a “game-changer” in fan gaming.
Google was not the world’s first search engine. Who remembers AltaVista, Infoseek and Lycos? And Facebook launched after both Friendster and MySpace. We’ve never laid claim to inventing predictive fan gaming, recognizing that other companies have gone before us – with mixed results. So what makes FanBeat different and supports this claim as a next-generation product?
Team-Centric. FanBeat is partnering with teams, leagues and media companies to launch and promote the game. This helps to insure that the FanBeat game complements – not competes – with the live game the fan is enjoying in-venue or via a broadcast.
Flexibility and Variety. FanBeat has a live game producer pushing questions, answers and other game content. The flexibility of the FanBeat platform allows us to work with our partners to tailor the question types, question content, use of imagery, scoring system, prizes and promotions to create an engaging, entertaining and educational game for fans. The engagement metrics for our tests and pilots with college basketball, the NFL and MLB back it up: fans simply love playing FanBeat!
Mobile First. Most past attempts at predictive gaming have been browser-based, the lowest common denominator for running across PCs, laptops and mobile devices. This was not a bad decision at the time, but FanBeat has embraced a mobile-first philosophy and focused on native apps for iOS and Android that integrate seamlessly with our partner mobile apps. This approach has allowed us to deliver a game that is highly responsive and visually pleasing, satisfying a generation of sports fans who enjoy games like Doodle Jump, QuizUp and Color Switch.
Predictive gaming is a term that’s been around a while, however we learned early on that fans really enjoy answering trivia along with predict-the-action questions, so you’re more likely to hear us talk about “live-action gaming” or “real-time gaming” in describing FanBeat. However you categorize it, our focus is on continuing to enhance the platform and the game play to make it more engaging for fans and more valuable to our partners.
Interested in FanBeat for your team? We’d love to hear from you.
I thought I had the most fun job in the world when I worked as a sports writer right out of college. Then I changed careers and became the world’s very first senior game producer for live-action fan gaming – and my new job has turned into one of the most enjoyable, interactive and engaging […]
I thought I had the most fun job in the world when I worked as a sports writer right out of college.
Then I changed careers and became the world’s very first senior game producer for live-action fan gaming – and my new job has turned into one of the most enjoyable, interactive and engaging ways to make a living I could dream of.
These days, when someone asks me what I do, I usually can’t give them a one-sentence answer like “Oh, I’m an accountant” or “I work for a law firm downtown.” The paragraph-long elevator speech I usually give goes something like, “I work for a startup called FanBeat. We’re a predictive gaming sports app that allows fans to predict the action in real-time while they’re watching an event. Users in our free app get points for correct answers and compete for prizes, while the app is funded through sponsor messages integrated into the app.”
Then the even cooler part.
“My job as the game producer is to watch the game, send real-time questions during breaks that are relevant to the action, then send the answers to questions throughout the course of the game as the play happens on the field.”
The responses that I usually get afterward range from intrigue and wonder to amazement. “Man, that sounds like such a cool job!” I think the only more enthusiastic response I could get is if I told them I was an astronaut.
Much like a sports writer, the job description of a game producer is incredibly fun. The day-to-day responsibilities include processing the story lines before an event, observing the game is it happens, thinking about what’s going to happen next during the event and then summarizing what happened during the game once it’s over.
However, as any sports writer will tell you, while it’s an incredibly fun job, any writer or producer has to pay close attention and watch the game with a more critical perspective. When I’m running a game for FanBeat, I’m constantly taking notes on play-by-play, keeping track of stats, and processing in my head engaging questions to ask during the next break. The mindset that I have as a producer is different than if I’m casually watching a game with friends while drinking beer and eating peanuts.
Again, much like a sports writer, there’s a lot of preparation involved before the game. If a player is really clicking at the plate and riding a 12-game hitting streak, a sports writer usually mentions that tidbit in his game preview or game story. Likewise, one of the first questions I might ask is, “Mallex Smith is riding a 12-game hitting streak. Will he get a hit tonight and extend his streak?”
I also make sure to try and use statistics as background for questions. If Julio Teheran has been dealing on the mound his last couple starts, I’ll make sure to state, “Teheran has a 2.76 ERA in his last 5 games. How many runs will he give up in his first 6 innings?” Conversely, if a pitcher has been scuffling, I’ll reframe the question and say, “Aaron Blair gave up 5 runs in his last appearance and needs to get off to a good start. How many pitches will he throw in the 1st inning?”
I also always like to have trivia questions that are pertinent to the history of the teams. I mix up the trivia so that some of it’s recent and some of it goes back a ways. If the Braves are playing the Cubs, I might ask, “When was the last year the Braves & Cubs met in the playoffs? (hint: the answer’s 2003). Or “which Braves great started his career with the Cubs?” (that one’s Greg Maddux).
On a broader level, trivia questions serve to both entertain and educate users. As a game producer, I always try to mix in humor on a few easier questions. For instance, “In high school, MLB Hall of Famer Tom Glavine was also a standout ______ player” and the answer choices include “A) Squash B) Hockey C) Curling D) Trombone.”
Trivia’s also used as a fan education tool, both in terms of the franchise’s history and the current season. I always like to throw in trivia from the previous night’s game, like who homered, which pitcher got the win, or who got the go-ahead RBI? FanBeat wants to reward the players that are closely following the team night-in and night-out as well as educate the more casual fans. Our feedback has shown that over the course of season, those casual fans become more engaged and dedicated once given the opportunity to learn about their team’s players and history.
Similar to being a sports writer, for a sports fan it’s hard to beat the job description of a game producer. Just like the skillset of a journalist, a game producer must do thorough preparation beforehand, pay close attention to detail during an event, write concisely as well as be able to work under pressure and on deadline. The job is incredibly fun and enjoyable, but at the same time managing a game in real-time can be stressful and challenging.
Don’t get me wrong, though – it sure beats working.
We are in a transformational phase of what it means to be a sports fan. The on-demand, real-time content world in which we now live is changing the fan experience from passive to active with a tide shift from team loyalty to player affection regardless of their employer. The explosive growth of fantasy sports in […]
We are in a transformational phase of what it means to be a sports fan. The on-demand, real-time content world in which we now live is changing the fan experience from passive to active with a tide shift from team loyalty to player affection regardless of their employer. The explosive growth of fantasy sports in the US contributes to this dynamic where individual player performance often trumps the historical emotional fan roller coaster of a team’s run through the regular season and playoffs.
Most would argue that it has never been a better time to be a sports fan. Immediate access to global highlights at most any level of competition; multiple 24×7 sports channels with sport or professional league/college conference focus; analytics at your fingertips to determine the best fantasy draft strategy; and individual athletes leveraging social media to solidify brands that drive viral consumer behavior (see Rickie Fowler flat bills, OBJ receiver gloves, or Bryce Harper arm sleeves).
That said, part of me misses the days of sports fan yore. When I could chuckle as my dad yelled at the radio when rooting on his beloved Idaho Vandals; or the blind faith and loyalty for my Denver Broncos whether it was the Orange Crush defense or the Mile High Salute; or hearing folks talk about the Georgia Bulldogs or Alabama Crimson Tide as the collective “we” when they never attended the schools. An athlete’s tweets, or Snapchats, or Dude Perfect trick shots were never a factor in my opinion of their body of work, since they were members of either “my team” or someone else’s.
It is this somewhat old school mentality that served as the genesis of FanBeat. We see the demands of the sports fan, especially the younger generation, driving a user behavior that requires mobile content in real-time, and the desire to invest in that content. To provide predictive play and team trivia questions during breaks in the action of a live sporting event keeps fans engaged and hopefully begins to swing the loyalty pendulum back to the team, rather than solely to the players’ game stats. Before FanBeat, I could no more get my son to sit down with me to watch the final round of a major. But ask him to predict how many birdies Jordan Spieth might have for a chance to win an Under Armour golf shirt? Now he will pull up a chair.