Delivering a Digital World Cup
Head of Product, BBC Sport
Watch England live in UHD via BBC iPlayer and try our new-look Connected TV app
The World Cup is up and running and our online teams are in tournament mode as England enter the fray this evening with their opener against Tunisia live and exclusive across the BBC.
Major events like this on BBC Sport are always hugely popular with our audiences, and this year we’re offering more ways to follow the action than ever before.
We want to give people the best-possible World Cup experience and our online efforts focus on two main areas – enhancing our own BBC Sport digital service, including the website and apps, and engaging audiences via social media to raise awareness of our coverage and drive them to our digital and broadcast platforms.
We have some brilliant new features on our own service (alongside all the fan favourites we know people love) and some exciting tie-ins with social platforms, so I wanted to give an overview of all the key things here.
On the BBC
Our live HD coverage is the main event and all 33 matches live on BBC TV are available to watch online through BBC Sport and BBC iPlayer, while people can also listen to Five Live Radio commentary from all games. We recently announced two exciting trials, giving people the chance to watch in Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range and even from the stands in Russia, through our new VR app, live for the first time.
Regular users will know that on match days our live pages kick in, featuring all the build-up, breaking news, live-text commentary and the best comments from fans across social media. These pages are at the centre of our coverage again, especially on mobile devices. We have made some big changes under-the-hood, including getting in-game goal clips published more quickly and rebuilding the live text stream to enhance its performance through better speed and reliability.
We have also refreshed our connected TV app to give greater prominence to live content, this makes it easy for viewers to watch the games live with alternative match commentary from Radio 5 Live and access alternative camera angles of the action, like the tactical camera view.
We have broadened the range of live video we can offer through a trial that makes it possible for our correspondents like Phil McNulty and David Ornstein to stream live directly from Russia into these live pages from their mobile phones for the first time. We hope it’ll help bring fans closer to the action on-the-ground, which is exactly what our live pages are designed to do.
And of course, we’ve got those who can’t watch live covered too. We have video highlights for every game and goal scored at the World Cup available at the final whistle through our BBC Sport products, with a daily catch-up offering also available across BBC iPlayer.
Get closer to the World Cup with Team Selector and Player Rater
Personalisation has been a big focus for us over the last few years and, through the BBC Sport mobile app, people can set a wide range of alerts (including line-ups, kick-off, goals, half-time and full-time scores) for their favourite team… or for all 32 teams if they really want to. We also have image and video alerts for those not watching live, so they can see the key moments as soon as they happen right on their lock screen. And our focus on performance across mobile devices has seen us upgrade the ‘My Sport’ area of the app to make it load much faster.
We have three interactive features that have proven to be really popular, especially with younger audiences. The Team Selector lets people take control of the hot seat and show the likes of Southgate and Deschamps how it should be done. And our new Player Rater lets fans become pundits as they give their own ratings of player performance. The scale of the audience participating with these features is large enough that we can represent the nation’s view on the selections and ratings, providing great content and talking points across our online and broadcast services. While audiences can also take part in quizzes against the clock thanks to ‘Quizimodo’, our new in-house quiz engine.
We’ll also have exclusive audio content available through smart speakers for the first time too provided by Radio 5 Live, so listen out for this if you are chatting to Alexa or using your Apple HomePod device - just ask your speaker to ‘Take me to the World Cup’, or ask for the “Take me to the World Cup BBC podcast”.
Not only are these innovations going to be in action over the next month or so, but they enhance our day-to-day offer as we work to build on our position as the UK’s leading digital sport service and strengthen our engagement with younger audiences beyond the tournament.
Across social media
Social media has a key role to play in marketing our service and building engagement
BBC Sport’s social accounts provide a wide range of content for the World Cup, bringing the audience closer to the action, the personalities and the pundits. We also work with all the major platforms to make the most of their unique features, giving their users some exclusive content while helping drive people back to the BBC’s live matches and comprehensive online coverage.
Twitter will be where our in-match updates and breaking news are posted throughout the tournament, with the best video moments also available to watch on our accounts. And we will deliver broadcast clips into approximately 15-20 editions of Snapchat’s daily World Cup Stories to reach out to the younger teenagers who use that service.
On Facebook we’ll continue to deliver a mix of news stories, images and video to our followers, including a World Cup catch-up video at the end of each day. And our rapidly growing Match of the Day Instagram account (@bbcmotd) will feature World Cup archive and 2018 action direct to our followers. We’ll also produce daily Instagram Stories featuring BBC pundits and presenters, including former England Women’s star, Alex Scott, alongside the best highlights from the day. And finally, our YouTube channel will show video highlights – putting our coverage to the front of Google for those users searching for the latest action.
Needless to say, we’re all really excited by England’s game tonight and are looking forward to delivering world-class coverage online as the tournament builds over the coming weeks. We hope audiences love it, and that even more people are encouraged to enjoy it across our digital and broadcast services because of our social media content.