18 Oct 2019

iPlayer revamp cuts to the heart of audience and sports rights transformation

by Matt Stone

The BBC has announced an update of the iPlayer, the 4th since its launch 12 years ago. Where the iPlayer had a 40% share of streaming audience 5 years ago, it’s now down to 15% due to the Netflix effect – even before the launch of Disney Plus and Apple TV in the next 6 months. The look and feel will change, while BBC channels and live events will be integrated alongside box sets with a longer shelf life of up to 1 year. Director General Tony Hall described the changes as a ‘new front door for British creativity’ and a ‘broader shop window’ on BBC platforms.


What’s the future for the iPlayer and the BBC in a wider context? The Spotify effect, where Millennials skip from track to track with little connection to the artists, is playing out on the BBC. The audience is attached to shows rather than channels. Our most successful clients recognise this. They work hard to ensure their content matches the audience needs and is present on the platforms they use. Our Performance Analytics dashboards help them monitor audience behaviour changes in real-time.

Without this brand weight, what’s the future for the licence fee going forwards? Without a hefty cash injection either from the licence fee payer or subscribers, the BBC will not be able to maintain its current level of competition in the sports rights market.

What’s the effect of all this on sport? The streaming platforms have been relatively slow in picking up the major football properties such as the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the English Premier League. A combination of long-term deals, the set-up expense and the rights price has put off disruptors.

Changes are coming though. All Boxing Day Premier League fixtures will be streamed live by Amazon in a first for the UK market, but all games being available everywhere – for a price – is clearly the future. It may take a while but we will look back on this fragmented market where the audience needs to go through several different gate-keepers as bizarre.

Where does the venerable Beeb fit into this landscape? Attitudes have changed from ten years ago when sports rights would routinely go to the highest bidder with little apparent thought on the effect on the health of the sport which confined the live rights to a niche partner. Cricket’s experience after the Ashes win in 2005, where the sport in its live form disappeared from terrestrial, is a case in point. A key part of the creation of the new ‘Hundred’ format was getting some live games back on terrestrial (but not many – only 10 men’s and 8 women’s games will be shown, and even these will be simulcast with Sky). But this only works if the terrestrial audience is a huge multiple of the newer platforms. With streaming, it’s not clear this will be the case in the medium term. What is clear is there is little appetite in charging a higher licence fee to pay for live sport. Somehow the BBC must square the circle.

19 Sep 2019


By Matt Stone

The UEFA Champions League Group Stage returned this week – the biggest annual football tournament in the world with elite stars playing each other in the most popular sport.

So how should the industry measure their digital footprint and engagement? What constitutes success? The classic ‘big number’ on the press release? Or something more granular, showing deeper audience trends and developments.

We’ve often heard the comment ‘we’re not into vanity metrics, we want more than the big numbers, give us something deeper,’ only for the big number requirement to hone back into view once Press Release time comes around.

The pressure to find the reductive success metric is ever-present.

UEFA’s press release this week was interesting, both for its big number lead and its method of calculation. It led with the headline:

‘Over 1 billion social media interactions record at UEFA Champions League final’.

An impressive big number, especially as it was up 110% from the year before.

The 1 billion figure took me back to 2014 when I was Head of Digital at FIFA.

With Mediacells’ expertise, we calculated the metrics for the Global Stadium – the social, online and mobile hub for fans to follow the games live and engage with friends, worldwide fans, players, coaches and celebrities.

The 2019 UEFA figure of 1.09 billion is for interactions which includes all engagements (likes, shares and comments) which were tracked across UEFA’s accounts plus crucially the teams, players and ‘various media organisations’ around the world.

Do you see the Big Number as having a promotional role? What are the most useful day-to-day metrics for digital output? Join the debate here:

So what’s the value in this figure then? It’s all publicity with media value, but the teams and players may have different partners to UEFA and governing bodies cannot monetise these external opportunities.

Mediacells works with partners on granular metrics to enable live changes to be made on the fly, adapting to the audience’s content needs as the action takes place. Engagements per post is probably the most useful in a basket of metrics. But when it comes to press release time, the attraction of the Big Number will probably never die.

Where do you stand on the question?

16 Apr 2019

Spurs’ stadium paves the way for global football

By Matt Stone

Can a fan ever be happy to be called a customer? Do they actually care about anything outside the pitch itself? Can the football business ever build something truly authentic for the devoted hardcore?

Tottenham Hotspur have taken a £1bn gamble that the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘Yes.’ On the evidence of this fan they are being proved right.

I’ve been going to White Hart Lane since 1981. We’ve had good teams, great players and years of being distinctly average. 13 different league champions have been crowned since our win in 1961 while 20 different clubs have played in an FA Cup Final since our last appearance including Millwall, Wigan, Cardiff and Portsmouth – twice!

When I started, you could stand behind one goal in the first half, then walk round and watch behind the other in the second. All-seater stadia locked you into one section. In the new Tottenham stadium the experience is almost like the old days, at least below deck. You can walk round three sides of the ground to meet friends on lower or upper levels.

Tottenham have constantly stressed the ‘fan-centric’ nature of the stadium and the attempt to upgrade rather than replace. Fans have appreciated the old ground’s aggregate being in the new floor and the location of the old centre spot has an Insta-friendly blue plaque in the new South Stand concourse. Huge pictures of former heroes and something which truly resonates – a collage of old programmes – cover the walls. The cockerel on the roof is present, albeit a scaled-up version which contains every bump and scratch from the old one – even Paul Gascoigne’s air rifle dent.

There’s an NFL pitch under the grass and larger changing rooms in the East Stand to accommodate even the biggest squads. Will the ‘event’ offering around the game be influenced by U.S. sports culture? There’s little evidence of that so far, although certainly fans are turning up early. At the City game, plastic bags were tied to seats with rubber bands to spell out the club’s motto ‘To Dare is To Do’. Hopefully fans recycled the bags and Ederson found a use for the bands that came pinging his way…

But it’s probably the beer which has created the most buzz. The Bottoms up technology can serve 10,000 pints per minute, which you would have thought would be enough, but there were reported shortages at test events. What’s unquestionably a great move is the use of the uber-local Beavertown brewery, another ‘Welcome Home’ touch.

The new stadium has data flying off it at all angles, like a Moussa Sissoko left-footer. For a start it’s cashless, which speeds things up and creates streams of data trails, while your season tickets are integrated into the app. 325m² screens fill the corners of the ground – the largest in western Europe and visible in the sunlight (unlike their ‘Jumbotron’ predecessors – state-of-the-art in the Amstrad days).

WHL lloris

Hugo Lloris applauds the 17,500 South Stand before the Champions League Quarter-Final against Manchester City

The next stage is to connect the growing fan base worldwide to the matchday experience and encourage fans inside the stadium to do more than upload pics. The free wi-fi works well and should provide the missing link to digital fan engagement. Joining the dots between over 100k members, millions on social media worldwide and even the players themselves is in its infancy. It’s clear the fans want to talk about the new home though – our research shows that stadium content gets nearly twice as many shares and 70% more comments on the Tottenham Facebook page*.

How do you measure fan engagement? Data will play an ever-increasing role, but the immediate sense of pride, belonging and pure childlike joy is so evident on fans’ faces. Three games in and Tottenham look like they’ve pulled off the holy grail – colossal commercial upturn with intense fan satisfaction. As Daniel Taylor noted in the Guardian, other stadia, particularly Old Trafford, look tired in comparison. This fan hopes that the really key part of the design process – keeping the authentic fan experience in mind – will be front and centre in any new sports build.



* Of 1068 facebook posts since the start of 2017 on the Tottenham Hotspur Facebook page, 53 messages contained the word stadium or its emoji. These messages received an average of 472 comments and 625 shares. The average for all posts was 279 comments and 331 shares.


20 Mar 2019
1 Mar 2019

Timely Rolex Faceook post wins at Oscars 2019

What a week. There’s now 3.6bn mobile internet users worldwide, according to eggheads at the annual gathering of mobile digital in Catalonia #MWC. I traded Barcelona for Hollywood this year to cover a data story on the Oscars 2019 which my brilliant Mediacells colleagues have transcended into a stunning visual narrative. Cadillac lit the touchpaper […]

15 Jan 2019

What on Oeuf is going on!

There are lots of predictions at this time of year, particularly in digital circles. Google is predicting that users will spend more time watching online video in 2019 than in front of the television. Is this a surprise to anybody? Mediacells anticipates pioneering media experiences, like Netflix Original’s format-subverting Bandersnatch, will transform traditional viewing habits […]

1 Jan 2019

Will football always be the #1 global sport?

By BRAD REES Is football breakable? That’s the question writer Janan Ganesh eloquently answered in a recent thinkpiece for the Financial Times. On the surface football is in rude health. Mr Ganesh gives the example of how obtainable a European ‘soccer’ game now is in the USA, ‘even Atlanta, down in gridiron country, has become […]

25 Sep 2018

Are you enlightened?

Rockstar Digital Analysts Required You will perform, what we call, Enlightened Analytics, using the science of analysis with the tradition of storytelling to inform clients of how successful they are in connecting to target customers. Your goal is to transform, curate, model, visualise the performance of our Global and European sports clients and support a compelling […]

16 Mar 2018


Social audiences are influenced by authentic posts that make them feel an affinity with the author. Mediacells can reveal that social media folk respond less to celebrity endorsements and more to meaningful recommendations made by trusted commentators who make them feel special.       We analysed the latest adidas influencer campaign and awarded a […]

6 Dec 2017

Artificial Intelligence-defying writing from Esquire

SECTOR: Entertainment CLIENT: Hearst, Esquire WOW: Power of the human word DATE: November 2017   Progressive US magazine Mother Jones recently reported that Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts are predicting we will have ‘full human-level AI’ by 2045. Artists? Surgeons? Writers? There’s an app, well, a robot for all that in less than 30 years. The […]