The NFL Draft will be Periscoped

Early amateur uses of live streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat have been underwhelming, but publishers are starting to tap the fly-on-the-wall realism to provide personalized broadcasts.

Take the coming NFL Draft on Thursday, when millions will tune in to see which college football players find new teams in the NFL. Enter Periscope, which sports publisher Scout is using for 15 niche topic-focused broadcasts that will cover the draft from several points of view. One Periscope stream will focus on how the draft will affect fantasy sports rankings, while other channels will focus entirely on moves at specific schools, such as the University of Oregon. The idea is all fans aren’t alike, so provide a lens suited to their biases.

The idea is to let viewers focus on the writers covering the particular events and angles they care about, rather than force them to watch a one stream that tries to cover every move, according to Scout executive producer
Craig Amazeen.

“We’re in the age of in-the-moment reporting, and readers are more than ever tapped into the pulse of what’s happening now,” Amazeen said. “This is a good opportunity to tap our in-the-foxhole reporters in a conversational way that can connect to people in our community.”

The approach is fitting for Scout, whose model is built around tapping into the expertise of its network of its 200 local sports writers. Many of these writers, as the site’s name suggests, are professional talent scouts, who have followed local players for years. Amazeen said that this gives them an edge over the many other sites covering sports. “Some of these guys have known these kids since they were fourteen and have seen them grow as players. Larger organizations don’t have that story.”

Scout isn’t the only sports site that taken notice of Periscope. Time Inc’s 120 Sports, launched in conjunction with the NHL, NBA, and last year, also plans to use Periscope in its NFL draft coverage. Ditto for Fox News, which will stream its live coverage through Periscope from its official Fox Sports Live account. USA Today Sports also used Periscope to stream the Player of the Year award ceremony at the Final Four this year.

“The idea is to bring the audience live to these events,” said 120 Sports social media manager Karlo Sy Su. “We get a lot of access to athletes and celebrities, and we want to extend that to our social media audience so that they feel they have access as well.”

All of the approaches speak to the same idea: The rise of live streaming is giving publishers a new, unexplored avenue to create brand stickiness and engagement with readers. And while the monetization options have yet to materialize, the interest from users has.

Scout, however, says that it plans to differentiate its coverage by putting its writers’ personalities front and center. “The idea is to watch the draft with our guys the same way they will be watching — at their houses with their laptops doing their analyses as things are happening,” Amazeen said. “We want it to be authentic and real.”

Sports leagues have had a fraught relationship with Periscope and Meerkat so far. The NHL last week banned media from using the apps to broadcast coverage of not only games, but pregame warmups and postgame comments as well. The MLB, in contrast, has taken a more measured approach, at least when it comes to fans. While its policies bans players from recording or rebroadcasting games, it says it has no plans to act on fans who use Periscope during games.

“Content owners and copyright are going to guide how this goes,” Scout’s Amazeen said. “At the end of the day you can’t stop tech. You have to figure out how to work with it. That’s what’s going to happen.”

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