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INTERVIEW: Elias Andersen (Hear Me Cheer), bringing the noise in arenas

As many leagues prepare to resume without fans in arenas, Hear Me Cheer makes sports during lockdown more engaging by allowing fans to cheer for their teams on live broadcast from their living rooms.

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As many leagues prepare to resume without fans in arenas and stadiums, the tool Hear Me Cheer makes sports during lockdown more engaging by allowing fans to cheer for their teams on live broadcast from their living rooms.

 

We got the opportunity to talk with Elias Andersen, Founder and CEO of Champtrax Technologies, the company which created Hear Me Cheer.

Hello Elias, thank you for joining us today. You’re the CEO of Champtrax Technologies and you’ve recently developed a new product amidst the COVID-19 crisis. It is called “Hear Me Cheer” and it is designed to bring the noise in arenas as most leagues will likely resume without any audience. Could you please introduce us more precisely to Hear Me Cheer and tell us more about how you came up with the idea? 

Hear Me Cheer is a product that allows fans to go to our website and interact with other fans as the game is going on. During a game, you have crowdnoise of the broadcast that you don’t really notice until it is not there. Watching the few sports league that have been on without fans, you realize that it’s quite boring without fans. We’re trying to get that back into sports by creating one audio stream from all the thousands of different households that are watching the game at any time.

CPBL has very special fans in the attendance

CPBL has very special fans in the attendance

Hear Me Cheer is an interactive platform. How do fans interact with each other?

They can hear each other through the broadcast or the computer depending on the set up that each team or league has. They can go to the website dedicated to the sports league that they want to watch and click on the right game. From there they can see what other fans are cheering about and cheer along with them.

NFL Fans were able to follow the NFL draft and cheer on HMC

NFL Fans were able to follow the NFL draft and cheer on HMC

That’s very interesting. One, because I believe that watching a game in an empty stadium is not as exciting as regular condition. Two, because we have seen that when games started playing in empty arenas, fans still wanted to support their teams by being vocal. I don’t know if you follow soccer but during the last UEFA Champions League games, fans would gather outside stadiums to cheer for their team during games.

PSG fans supporting their team outside the stadium in the last game before the UCL was put on hold

PSG fans supporting their team outside the stadium in the last game before the UCL was put on hold

How does it work? Is it free for fans? 

Yes Hear Me Cheer is free for fans and will be forever. We’re trying to engage the fans. We want to get sports to a new normal.

“This will allow fans to feel a sense of community for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis started.”

Obviously this is not going to get it to where it was in January but this will really help. This will allow fans to feel a sense of community for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis started. There is a lot of people who have been posting about negativity and we are trying to bring some positivity and bring a sense of community back to sport.

Reviving a sense of community is a great way to bring positivity among fans in the sports world these days. What about players? Can the players in the arena hear the cheers as well?

CBPL players in an empty stadium

CBPL players in an empty stadium filled with mannequins

The players can hear the fans cheer as well. It just depends on the set up. Each league has a different deal in place. It depends team by team and league by league. Some will want the sound of the fans in the arena, some don’t. But we have the possibility of doing that.

Hear Me Cheer works on a BtoB model. You talked about adjusting deals according to leagues’ teams’s preferences. Does it rely on partnerships with leagues, with teams or only with broadcasters? 

We try to really partner with leagues so that we can get in and have access to the different teams right away. We prioritise having one client, customising the experience for the league and then having that go out to the different teams of the league. It is a simpler way of setting up the market than going to each team individually. I mean, we are working with teams and broadcasters but we are mostly trying to work with leagues. 

Have you signed any deals yet? Have you been able to test the solution? In which country is the service available at the moment? With how many fans connected?

We have been testing with Eleven Sports which has been broadcasting the CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League) held in Taiwan, one of the only professional sports that is on right now. We have been testing with them for a little bit and we are expanding making sure that we can have 1,000 people on and soon we will try to have 10,000 people on. There are always little bugs that you find in your software when you expand so we want to minimise that and create a product that can scale.

The CPBL on Eleven Sports

The CPBL on Eleven Sports

Do you already have any idea about future development of Hear Me Cheer? Is your priority to export the product to new leagues or to add more features to it?

We are working on some fan engagement tools. One is having some sort of trivia questions and questions like “Who is going to score the next goal?” and whoever gets the answer right receives some Hear Me Cheer points. We are working on platforms like that to engage the fans. We have not finished any of that yet. We are adding features as we go but we understand that most of the leagues want the audio solution to first. So we focus on that mostly.

Hear Me Cheer is a truly a well suited solution for the current coronavirus crisis. How will it fit into the sports events landscape once fans are able to go back to arenas?

Hear Me Cheer is an experience platform so we plan on existing long after the crisis. In fact we think this is just the best opportunity for us to go to market because there is a real need for a solution like that. But in order to stay in the market, we have ideas like a platform that will allow you to cheer with a community and potentially cheer on the away broadcast. If you think about an away broadcast, often times you have home crowd cheers because that’s what is in the stadium. If you can bring the visitor fans to this cheering site they would be able to be heard on the broadcast.

That is a very interesting horizon. Fan experience for the away fans is always a complicated topic. A lot of sports have this sense of unfairness between the home fans who can support their team live and the away fans who cannot. Thank you very much for answering our questions Elias. Where can people find out more about you and Hear Me Cheer?

You can come to our website. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. If you send me a message I will get back to you. We have been experiencing a high number of messages so give me a few days but I’ll get back to you.

We thank very much Elias for his time and wish to Hear Me Cheer all the best for the future. Do you want to read others Q&A with fan experience experts ? Discover all our interviews (in english). 

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Watch the game from the POV of your favorite athlete

ActionStreamer is a wearable data streaming platform delivering breakthrough solutions across sports, entertainment, telecommunications, industrial, and defense. From custom wearables to real-time data movement, omnichannel content delivery and multi-stream media viewer, the company provides leagues and sports events with a fully customisable immersive viewing experience.

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ActionStreamer - Russell Wilson PPOV Smart Helmet @ Vikings

ActionStreamer brings sports fans closer to the action. The American company equips players with helmets that have cameras mounted on them. Greg Roberts, Head of Strategic Partnerships & Development at ActionStreamer, shared with us the company’s ambitions.

ActionStreamer gives fans a new perspective on the action and insights on the game

Thanks to advances in video stream processing, every fan can follow sporting events from the angle that suits them. For example, during car races, every fan can follow their favorite driver. During tennis competitions you can choose to follow the match that interests you the most. At a soccer match you can watch the action from the angle that best shows how the striker won over the goalkeeper.

ActionStreamer takes customisation and immersion to the next level. The American company allows fans to follow the action from a player’s point of view. With cameras mounted on players’ helmets and caps, viewers are right in the middle of the action. American soccer fans were able to test the device at the 2019 Pro Bowl, in the XFL, during Russell Wilson’s warm-ups or during the first season of Fan Controlled Football.

ActionStreamer’s solution does not just provide athletes with helmet cams. Their technology also captures data about biometric, speed and geo in real-time. This data is easily displayable live on broadcast.

From headsets to video streams management, ActionStreamer thought about everything

Giving fans a first-person viewing experience is a very ambitious idea. To make it a reality, the founding team of ActionStreamer faced two challenges: convincing players and making it easy to process all the video streams coming from the helmet cams.

ActionStreamer’s product development team works closely with helmet suppliers and players. The company integrates cameras in helmets that players already use. The goal is for players to not even notice they have different equipment.

Cowboys Riddell SpeedFlex_AT&T PPOV Solution email file size

Dallas Cowboys Riddell SpeedFlex helmet with camera

Once the footage is captured, the biggest challenge lies ahead: managing all the video streams. ActionStreamer worked with Verizon and T-Mobile to provide a solution that makes it fast and easy for broadcasters to process and redistribute video streams. Greg Roberts believes that the advent of 5G in stadiums will significantly enhance the viewer experience in the coming years. Video streams will be able to be processed and distributed faster. As a result, broadcasters will be able to offer more viewing angles. As a result, the experience will be more immersive for viewers.

“Think of our platform as a pipeline to omnichannel media and data insights offerings, including real-time HD video, audio, and subject data (biometric, speed, geo, etc.) that can be synchronized across an entire media footprint (broadcast, mobile, streaming, etc.). All of these data categories are captured from our custom-designed streaming wearables, and distributed to media endpoints through our proprietary data streaming and delivery methods. And now, through work with Verizon and T-Mobile, the data streaming platform runs on 5G”

The pathway to a more innovative viewing experience

ActionStreamer has deployed its device in several contexts. We’ve talked about helmet cams in the NFL and FCFL. For the 2020 World Series, players had cameras on their helmets and caps.

ActionStreamer’s device also lends itself to more original POVs. In the NFL, the Ref Cam offers some very interesting footage from the referee’s perspective.

ActionStreamer

Ref Cam in the NFL

In the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets have experimented with a Hat Cam in pre-game. The dancers and pre-game hosts performed with ActionStreamer hats. The New York club broadcast this stream under the name “TeamHypeCam”. This initiative highlights the folklore of a basketball game and promotes the incredible experience basketball fans have at Barclays Center.

The system of inserting cameras and processing video streams leaves room for a lot of creativity. One could imagine the club’s mascot spending game days wearing an ActionStreamer cap. Clubs could also highlight the fan experience on match days by broadcasting a typical fan’s evening at the stadium in first person. The possibilities are endless!

ActionStreamer satisfies fans’ desire to be closer to the action. Advances in video streaming speed allow us to enjoy the action from the perspective of the live players. Many uses of this technology come to mind to enhance the fan experience. Like WaitTime, ActionStreamer’s impact extends beyond sports. The technology for processing on-board camera feeds is also used by the Air Force.

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In english

Fan Controlled Football League (FCFL): The most exciting fan experience of 2021

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Fan Controlled Football League FCFL

The Fan Controlled Football gives fans the opportunity to take control of a football league from A to Z. First they decided on the rules of the competition and then they took over their teams. With an engaging fan experience and an ultra immersive broadcast, the FCFL concludes a more than successful first season. Will this type of entertainment league format become a standard in the sports industry?

fcfl-celebrate

Zappers celebrate a touchdown

Fan Controlled Football responds to a growing demand for more fun, more immersive and easy-to-follow competitions

The FCFL embraces the changes in the entertainment industry

Over the past 40 years, technology has had a strong impact on the way new generations entertain themselves. A strong participative culture has emerged from social media. The democratization of gaming has created a need for interactivity in entertainment. Our ability to access thousands of pieces of information at any given moment has led to the development of entertainment products that adapt their pace and duration to the different moments in which they are consumed.

“Fast paced. Hard hitting. No replay. Running clock. All action.”

FCFL website

Thus, alongside traditional big leagues, whose rules were often established more than a century ago, “entertainment leagues” are gaining in popularity. In general, their success is based on the same pattern.

  1. Start with a traditional sport.
  2. Shorten the length of a game to appeal to casual fans.
  3. Change the rules to make the game faster and easier to follow.
  4. Make games more immersive even if it means infringing on the sports aspect of the game.

These are changes that would be difficult for the public to accept if they were made by a traditional league like the Premier League, the NFL or the NBA. New competitions, on the other hand, can put entertainment first without any problem. Rugby X, the XFL, the International Swimming League and even, to some extent, Formula E have been doing this. The Fan Controlled Football League takes this concept to the extreme.

fcfl-action

A football competition where fans decided to speed up the action

The FCFL is composed of 4 teams: the Glacier Boyz, the Wild Aces, the Beasts and the Zappers. The competition is played every Sunday in a high tech studio with rules that were chosen by the fans. Football is a rather slow sport. In the NFL the average game lasts more than three hours. The action often stops. NFL teams have large squads within which 3 squads of 11 players take turns on a 100 yard field. The FCFL is played 7vs7 on a 50-yard field with no special squads and no kicking. These new rules speed up the game. Matches are played in less than an hour (two 20-minute halves) without replay, without stopping the clock. No need to book your whole afternoon to follow a game anymore.

“New rules and a new format maximize excitement, substantially reduce penalties, and BRING BACK THE FUN!”

FCFL website

Like the XFL, the FCFL has reinvented touchdown conversions. The new system is just like the game: fast-paced and impressive. No more kicking. Fans can choose to have their team attempt a 5-yard conversion for 1 point or a 10-yard conversion for 2 points. The conversions have a wide receiver and a defensive back in 1vs1 confrontation while the quarterback has 3 seconds to throw the ball to his teammate.

A competition in tune with Generation Z

At a time when Generation Z is turning more and more to gaming, the FCFL uses many of the codes of this industry. First of all, it is a form of interactive entertainment. The fan experience of a FCFL game is a hybrid between an NFL game, fantasy football and a game of “The Yard” on Madden. Visually, the league is reminiscent of the gaming industry. In addition, the competition is broadcast on Twitch, which is very popular among gaming enthusiasts.

The pace of the game and the short format of the games also correspond to the consumption modes of Gen Z who would prefer to watch the highlights of an NFL game rather than dedicating their Sunday night to watching a full game. The weekly draft system is in line with this younger generation’s tendency to be fans of athletes rather than teams.

Fans build the league and manage their team from the ground up

In 2015, the founders of the FCFL had conducted an experiment by buying a team, the Salt Lake City Screaming Eagles, and delegating all decisions to the fans: the team name, the logo, the jersey design, the coach, recruiting the players. Following the success of this pilot, they decided to take it to the next level by creating a fan controlled league.

The DNA of the Fan Controlled Football League is the involvement of the fans in 100% of the decisions. From the rules of the game to calling plays during games and picking the coaches’ outfit, the fans are in control everything.

“(…) [T]he idea behind Fan Controlled Football lives with every fan who has ever yelled at a TV screen, thrown a remote control across the room or cheered wildly when their favorite team finally did the thing they wanted them to do. ”

FCFL website

Even before the first game, the fans were already involved in the creation of the league

The fans are decision makers in the creation of the league. The game’s rulebook perfectly illustrate this. Under each rule you can find the different options offered to the fans and the option they chose. Among other things, the fans could decide on the rules for overtime, the penalty system or the definition of a catch.

“Unlike traditional leagues, our focus is on optimizing everything on the field and through the entire fan experience. If something sucks, we’ll work with the fans.”

– FCFL website

When they sign up on the FCF app, fans choose a team. Throughout the season they are asked to make choices for their team. Every Wednesday, fans decide which new players will make their team’s roster during the draft.

Halfway between sports and video games, Fan Controlled Football allows fans to guide the action on the field

Every fan registered on FCF makes decisions for their team even on game days. Fans decide on team composition, but more importantly, they decide on plays. Like in the video game Madden, fans see a selection of possible plays for the next down and have the opportunity to vote for the one they think is best. The offensive team has 10 seconds to start the game after their fans have decided which strategy they should adopt.

fcfl-calling-plays

Fans can call plays live during the game

Fans are even part of the competition

As a fan, you’re asked to make these decisions all week, and it’s not without consequences. Every good decision you make earns you FanIQ. Calling the right play in a game or drafting top players will increase your FanIQ. The more FanIQ you have, the more your votes count. Also, by collecting experience badges your votes will have more power in certain situations.

Throughout the week, fans have the opportunity to earn Team Power for their team. These are bonuses that can help players on the field. For example, fans can earn a 5th down for their team.

glacier-boys-celebrating

A Glacier Boy celebrating

What can traditional competitions take away from Fan Controlled Football?

The beauty of traditional competitions is that over the years generations of athletes compete for the same trophy under the same rules. Fans have built their own traditions with family and friends around these competitions. Enforcing rule changes like those in the FCFL in the World Cup, the MLB or the NBA would not make much sense. However, these competitions can learn from what happens off the field in the FCFL.

Less protocol and more show

The FCFL is an entertainment league. The players’ entrance does not follow a protocol it meant to be spectacular. They enter the field like WWE fighters. It is a show in itself. On top of that, the design of the end zone allows for wild touchdown celebrations. The extremities of the field are deep to give the players room to express their joy. They are also equipped with flashing lights, lasers and smoke machines to emphasise on the players’ joy.

Wild-aces-celebrating

Broadcast innovation

The viewing experience of the FCF games is very immersive. A drone is used to follow the action and offer fans a “Madden View” just like in the EA video game. Players are mic’d up. ActionStreamer provides helmets equipped with cameras to follow the action in the first person POV. The arena is also equipped with 180° VR cameras. Fans are up close and personal with the action. This type of set up can be replicated in any type of sport. The NFL and MLB have already experimented with microphones on players as well as the ActionStreamer helmets equipped with cameras. The XFL is taking it a step further by conducting interviews with players on the sidelines during the game.

fcfl-madden-view

Madden View

Push forward celebrities who contribute to the league’s hype

Each team has celebrity owners who have an affinity for football. For example, the rapper Quavo from Migos is a star co-owner of the Glacier Boyz. He was a quarterback for his high school team and is a big Georgia Bulldogs fan. Former Seahawks and 49ers cornerback, Superbowl winner and multiple All Pro, Richard Sherman is also a co-owner of the Glacier Boyz. Finally, the third interesting profile is the youtuber and tiktoker Deestroying joined them as co-owner of the Glacier Boyz. He is former kicker at UCF, the NCAA excluded him from the competition following his commercial success on Youtube.

These celebrities bring attention to the league and contribute to its success. It is important to involve them in the competition. The variety of profiles among team owners allows to attract a wide audience to the FCFL. Just like Drake plays a big role in the Raptors’ fan base, even without owning a team, celebrities who have a strong affinity with a club can participate in the growth of the community.

“Power to the fans” is the FCF’s motto and the league walks the talk. By handing the fans full control of the competition, the FCFL offers the most engaging experience in the sports industry today. While this league format will likely not become a standard, we can expect to see more and more entertainment leagues emerge alongside the traditional leagues. Traditional leagues can learn from the FCFL’s focus on pre-game shows, immersive broadcasting and communication around industry personalities. 

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