UEFA.tv: A free OTT platform ready to operate as a premium distribution channel
It was a matter of time that UEFA, Europe’s governing body in regard to national football associations, would finally make it to the universe of over-the-top platforms in order to offer a comprehensive service drawing on their extensive files, new productions and live matches. The surprise was to find out that this powerful platform is offered as a free-of-charge alternative providing exclusive content in Europe.
We delved into the strategies and technologies behind UEFA.tv with Mr. Guy-Laurent Epstein, Director of Marketing of UEFA Events SA.
Why has UEFA decided to create UEFA.tv?
We want to give viewers greater access to live and on-demand video content from a variety of competitions. We felt the time was right for UEFA.tv given it is our aim to continue to innovate and evolve digitally at UEFA, and the OTT service will also enable us to deliver a direct-to-fan experience. Our broad aim with UEFA.tv is to deliver an entertaining, football video platform that provides viewers with access to a wider range of content from across UEFA competitions. We’re also delivering a “free-to-view” product to which UEFA’s existing registered users have automatic access, while also aiming to attract new users to further build our digital fan community and increase fan engagement. Another goal in launching UEFA.tv is to be “fit for the future” – to put in place a robust platform that can act as a distribution channel for potential future premium content opportunities. Ultimately, our ambition for UEFA.tv. is for the product to be recognised as a best-of-breed football “OTT” offering, while in parallel serving as a great vehicle to further promote our competitions to the benefit of all our commercial partners.
What are the highlights of the platform?
The service will initially provide football fans with an entertainment platform which will offer original programming based on 60 years of European football archive. It will also become the home of youth, women’s and futsal UEFA competitions by offering them a wide live coverage in relevant markets. Finally, it will also serve to promote all of UEFA competitions by offering behind the scene content, interviews and a wide range of additional content. On the content side, the platform provides us with a new channel for surfacing content from UEFA’s digital archive of European football history by re-animating classic matches, profiling iconic players, and creating compelling original storytelling. Another key highlight for us will be using the UEFA.tv platform as a means to further promote – and provide wider access to – live and on-demand content from UEFA’s Youth, Women’s and Futsal (YWF) competitions. UEFA.tv enables us to complement the coverage provided by our broadcast partners by streaming YWF matches into markets where we don’t have a distribution partner, therefore effectively ensuring we can offer global coverage and availability of our YWF competitions. In terms of our “flagship” competitions, fans will also be able to access a regular delayed match highlights and magazine show content throughout the club competition and national team football seasons.
Finally, in addition to an entertaining mix of football content, we wanted to ensure that UEFA.tv featured high-quality design and a seamless user experience across web and app. We believe we’ve achieved this with the launch version of the product, and will be aiming to improve and enhance the experience with each release.
Does UEFA.tv work with its own developed technology or does it have an external association to provide the service?
We have chosen Endeavor Streaming as our technical partner for delivery of the UEFA.tv platform.
In the era of premium-content UEFA.tv offers free content. What’s behind this decision?
UEFA.tv will not be competing with TV channels but would rather be complementary by taking advantage of the wide range of content available at UEFA, including archive footage, delayed games, magazine programmes or futsal, women’s and grassroots competitions and hence why it is a free service. Providing a free-to-view offering behind registration fits nicely with our aim of growing the UEFA digital fan community while rewarding our existing registered users with free access in parallel. Going with this model also enables us to further promote our grassroots and women’s football in markets where we may not have a broadcast partner, giving us a platform to generate additional interest and awareness to develop those competitions further commercially.
Do you plan to include premium content in the future?
We have no plans to offer premium content as things stand, but we want to be “future-proofed” in terms of having a strong platform in place.
What maximum resolution does your player offer? 1080p, 720p?
It is 1080p in the player.
Do you want to keep upgrading the resolution in the future? Is the 4K/HDR era now far from OTT services?
We are always keeping a close eye on the latest market trends and developments in production levels, and we would look to introduce additional levels of quality to the product when we feel the time and market conditions are right for UEFA.tv.
Is UEFA.tv working on including accessibility services?
As a general rule, we aim to be compliant with the AA level of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Does UEFA.tv plan to broadcast certain live matches? Is the technology ready?
Yes, the technology is ready and we already showed live matches in certain territories notably during the UEFA Under-21 Championship that was staged in Italy in June.
What about new formats such as VR or 360?
We currently deliver live 360 streams of certain UEFA Champions League for our broadcast partners to access and implement in their coverage. In terms of UEFA.tv – as with 4k streaming – we would look to introduce any 360/VR elements when we feel they are a good fit for the product and the content types on the platform.
All content is produced by UEFA.tv or do you have a partner for this platform?
A combination of both – we’re currently producing content through our in-house editorial and production teams, and also via external production with our partner IMG.
UEFA.tv is already available on smartphones via App. What about smart TVs?
Our go-live plan was to deliver web and iOS and Android apps with “casting” capability in order to reach the widest possible device audience at launch. We are currently evolving the UEFA.tv roadmap and rollout plan, and will certainly be looking at introducing “bigger screen” viewing experiences for the product, potentially including Smart TVs.
At the moment, UEFA.tv includes content of competitions such as the Under21 Championship, the Nations League, Champions League and Europa League. In addition, it includes Bundesliga, women’s football and editors’ pick content. What comes next?
We will be constantly looking at ways to evolve the platform, both in terms of content and coverage, but also in terms of potential partnerships. Inclusion of any additional 3rd party content on UEFA.tv would be defined through individual partnerships with each party including relevant terms to confirm such distribution.
What’s the roadmap for UEFA.tv for the coming years?
As mentioned, we’re looking at the next phase of UEFA.tv rollout, and ultimately we want to be available via the widest applicable range of platforms and devices in order to maximise audience reach and global appeal. Wherever we go next we want to ensure that it makes the most sense for football fans. Stay tuned.