Using social media and second screen technology to enhance storytelling is a given for cable networks these days. But it takes plenty of planning and pre-production to make that happen—particularly in the live sports realm, where outcomes can vary moment to moment. Here are some of the ways in which channels are currently increasing engagement using social and second screen apps to entertain viewers, as told by sports production and marketing execs at last week’s SVG Summit in NYC.

WWE relies heavily on its second screen app to engage audiences, even going as far as letting fans control the storylines. “It’s a part of our show. We don’t consider it second screen anymore,” said Rob Bernstein, WWE, vp/editorial director, digital and print. “It’s adjunct programming.” And they staff it as such. For every “Monday Night Raw” show, there are 10 people who are just responsible for managing the second screen, including writers, a producer, a camera guy, a talent wrangler and full tech support, he said. And after the show, the network evaluates what the fans thought of the programming by analyzing the social chatter. Each Tuesday morning a full report goes out explaining exactly what the fans thought about it. Then, “we take that content and it becomes a big part of the writing process,” he said.
WWE sees its highest engagement during its live shows, Bernstein confirmed. Its strategy is to provide video clips via social media, but additionally, “we want them to be able to bend the story,” he said. That’s done through polling during the show, which gives viewers a level of control. The net also brings fans into the programming and gets them to participate, thereby creating more live video content on the second screen.
Similarly, HBO Sports incorporates video, visuals and stats into its live sporting events such as boxing matches, according to Jason Cohen, director of live events. That entails pushing stats from the truck straight to Twitter, taking Instagram photos and incorporating those into visuals in the linear broadcast, and cutting video clips using Snappy TV. The goal of every network is to drive eyeballs to linear TV, he reminded the audience, so “that same philosophy has to take place with the second screen as well, especially if 90% of your audience is looking at it,” Cohen said, in reference to a recent study revealing that 90% of audiences have a phone in their lap while watching TV.
HBO pushes the content out via social channels as much as possible before the fights but it also has a social media person on the ground tweeting stats as they come in. And the social media person is right behind the talent, Cohen said, so he or she can tweet quotes from them as they happen. Additionally, cameras are set up in the locker room, the staffer snaps and publishes Instagram photos and Snappy TV is used to create a viral effect.

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