Insights from Hashtag Sports 2019

Clara Nafria
Jul 12 · 6 min read
Shootr attended Hashtag Sports 2019 in NYC

Hashtag Sports has become a must-attend event in the sports business calendar as the industry’s largest annual gathering dedicated to sports content, culture, and innovation. Shootr attended this event designed to help answer the difficult questions surrounding new technologies, trends and business models that are transforming sports.

The conference kicked off with David Stern, former Commissioner of the NBA (1984–2014) and active sports tech investor, and Daniel Shichman, Co-Founder and CEO of WSC Sports on stage.

They discussed how sports content is becoming more engaging, more social and more personalized.

Stern emphasized on Gen Z’s growth and how young generations don’t want to watch content — ‘ it doesn’t float their boat to watch the NBA finals by themselves,’ he said. He pointed out several features that viewers can now choose from while watching content: the broadcaster, who I wanna chat with, the camera view position, and the possibility of placing a bet or two.

Next Gen TV will provide an exciting challenge because viewers are no longer interested or capable of sitting around for two hours. Next Gen TV viewers want a completely different TV experience, one that is more interactive. For instance, the NBA is integrating services like Sportscaster that allow you to choose from different broadcasters and providers, giving viewers the flexibility to listen to in-game analysis and play-by-play commentary in many languages. This is a natural move caused by the recent internationalization of the NBA, resulting in increased exposure to fans in Europe and Asia.

Gaming was also part of the conversation. Commissioner Stern commented on Twitch: “It’s so widespread that there will be a second generation of improved production and TV”. Twitch is a key player in the industry because fans are more intense and passionate when they are able to play the sport and participate first hand.

Standardization for brand partnership — unified measurement

On this same conversation, Twitter and NBA explored how content creators not only create but also partner with brands to drive attention and awareness. To do that they must look into data and understand why people are there in the first place.

Engagement was one of the key topics at the conference. In the end, when sports work with brands what they sell is engagement. But what is engagement exactly? It has several meanings and all are correct and relevant to making strategic decisions. Engagement means “time users spend watching content” but for others it can also mean that the audience is passionate about a sport.

The challenge for most players is having a clear definition of engagement. The industry needs to evolve to the total engagement metrics since putting them all together is currently troublesome.

At the end of the day, the goal is to keep the viewer inside the platform and every decision made must come from the data coming out of the event.

Ratings on TV declining — How do you reach that new audience?

Through social gaming, predictive gaming, betting, among others. The idea is to reach more fans and making them consume TV in a completely different way.

Univision and NBA regarding the future of Sports Streaming and its multi platform approach to Engaging Fans.

Every social media platform is a tool that sports teams and rights owners can use to engage with fans. The trick is being able to understand each platform’s strengths and speaking to its users in a customized way.

Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, EVP, digital media, NBA, explained how online can complement linear. During last month’s NBA Finals, the league took a cross-platform approach, using online platforms to tell in-depth stories about its players.

Longer content is favored by the YouTube algorithm. During the finals, 60% of its watch time was driven by YouTube, where it uploaded longer, more cinematic content, using effects like slo-mo to create strong visuals and keeping the narrative tight.

The NBA’s Instagram strategy is in constant evolution. A few months ago, they believed Instagram was a place for short form content and that viewers had to be hooked in the first few seconds or they would keep scrolling. A new feature, IGTV, has changed that. Now the NBA populates videos to its main feed, and, after a minute, they go to IGTV. During the finals, of the 900 million video views on Instagram, 100 million were on IGTV.

When creating online video let fans be in control. Sometimes, online viewers want a lean-back experience with everything chosen for them, but, more often, they enjoy interactivity. Live polling, gambling, interactive graphics let viewers call up information when they want it.

The NBA has been working with a company called Second Spectrum to create different watching modes for different types of fans. That allows new fans, hardcore fans, kids, and gamblers to each enjoy an appropriate experience when tuning in, and the software will intuit which experience they should see.

To know what works on each platform, content owners need to have a good relationship with the people at each one and take their lessons to heart, advised Michael Calderon, SVP, programming and digital media, Big Ten Network. To provide material that will get surfaced one must learn about the algorithms each uses to surface content. Programming longer-form content builds watch time. It’s also key to know viewer practices. Around 70% of Twitter videos are watched with the sound off, therefore, pay extra attention to the visual presentation. And never repurpose TV content on social platforms and expect it to work. Content needs to be tailored for each platform if it’s going to find an audience.

Said Calderon, “We’ve got a variety of ways that we’re generating revenue through video content on social.”

Univision has a different approach, like Juan Convers. SVP of Digital Content confirmed, their focus is short form and keeping the user watching the content, not taking their eyes off, they don’t want the user going to other places, they want one integrated experience, and pointed out the challenge of putting it all in one place and platform.

‘It’s not taking what’s on TV to social, it’s bringing something new. Users want another tone, another voice. They want to interact’. Interactions are the most important KPI at Univision.

How is Telemundo doing this? They’re integrating on-screen graphics, betting apps/services, basic information and other social tools- like Shootr- that are focused on keeping the user engaged, increasing the time spent on the platforms.

For ESPN, New Platforms Lead to New Audiences

ESPN’s team shared insights on online opportunities. Their online strategy is “more is more.” Reaching more people on more social platforms grows the base overall. Appealing to new viewers creates lifelong fans. Every platform needs its own tailored approach, but a success on one helps build the overall ESPN brand.

“This company has always been founded on the notion [that] we are reaching audiences wherever they are and wherever they’re interacting with sports,” said Connor Schell, EVP, content, ESPN.

ESPN launched their new service ESPN+ in order to have a complementary sports service in the over-the-top environment, thinking about how they’re presenting programming, content and storytelling across platforms to reach and engage new audiences.

For ESPN, this approach means being everywhere the brand can be, Laura Gentile, SV of marketing noted that the company has a massive linear audience and is now focused on driving its digital and social platforms as well.

For Mina Kimes, senior writer, podcast host, and commentator, ESPN, it’s the social connections that make a multi platform approach really fun. Fans want to be reached in both ESPN’s platform and on social networks. Each platform has different strengths. Different media are able to deliver the story in different ways. By thinking about how you present this in different places, media can improve the whole thing.

ESPN+ gives the media giant a way to surface additional properties it has the rights to and allows a more experimental approach to live.

“I think it’s really valuable to actually see my audience face-to-face,” Kimes joked. “The thing about social media is, we actually know them more than we ever did before. Maybe a little bit too much.”


At Shootr, we thrive to revolutionize the way your audience interacts with content.

Clara Nafria

Written by

Shootr’s Marketing & Communications Manager



At Shootr, we thrive to revolutionize the way your audience interacts with content.

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