New Delhi: In a bid to become India’s ‘only sports OTT platform’, Dream Sports’ FanCode app has expanded into a larger sports tech company where users can watch match telecasts, listen to a commentator of their choice and access interactive on-screen match data and analysis with just a few taps.
Giving more control over the viewing experience to a fan consuming live sports at home on his/her digital device seems to be a global trend and FanCode is getting onboard by introducing aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced technology in sports broadcasting in India.
“Although we aggregate content, our main aim is to stay laser-focused on the user and customise the experience for her or him. Accelerating penetration and the depth of digital gave us an opportunity to unlock the power of digital in democratising sports and creating a great experience for fans following their favourite sport,” FanCode co-founder Yannick Colaco told ThePrint.
The former head coach of the Indian national cricket team, Ravi Shastri, is the brand ambassador of the platform, which also has sports celebrities, such as anchor Suhail Chandhok, and former cricketers Ajit Agarkar, Murali Kartik and Mohammad Kaif, among others, commentating for it, as well as promoting the platform.
“As the users’ behaviour and trends are evolving, so are the fan engagement platforms in India,” said Kazim Rizvi, founding director of The Dialogue, a policy think tank.
“While traditionally, only television was the source [for sports viewing], apps these days with their innovative models ensure users can view live scores, merchandise, matches, and choose commentators, to name a few, on a single platform. This trend is emerging into the next wave of sporting revolution in India where consumers are front and centre.”
FanCode was established in 2019. At the time, it provided only live streaming and live scores options. It has since garnered over 5 crore users across devices and boasts of more than 2.5 crore app installations, shows data shared by FanCode.
In April 2021, it became India’s only digital platform to sign a deal with Cricket West Indies, the governing body for the sport in the Caribbean countries, for exclusive broadcast rights until 2024. Therefore, the ongoing series with India can only be watched on the FanCode app on different devices in the country and its TV partner, DD sports.
To be sure, sport apps have been around for a while. Among the sports apps introduced in the early 2000s is Onefootball.com, a Berlin-based company focused only on football games. They have a model similar to that of FanCode — of providing fans with “more freedom”. However, their focus is more on live streaming and highlights.
Apps like IPL 2022, ESPN, Cricket Exchange and UFC, borrow statistics and content from news organisations and couple these with some interactive approaches where fans get rewarded for choosing certain features on the portals.
Pick your own commentator
A large chunk of FanCode’s feedback research indicated that users could only “tolerate” a few commentators. Not everyone was good enough to hold a fan’s attention.
“Why does a fan have to listen to or watch explicitly what the broadcast director sitting somewhere in London or Port of Spain decides? In the world of digital, you can elevate the consumer experience by putting them at the centre and giving them the choice of customising their own experience,” said Colaco. “This is especially true for core sports fans and it drives their engagement.”
“This is no secret that people have their own favourites among commentators. So, why should we not give them the chance to choose instead of letting a producer choose for them? We are trying to include fans who fall under different parts of the fandom spectrum, not just tier 1 or tier 2,” he added.
Even younger audiences with access to phones, who desire commentary in simpler language and in their own vernacular, have the option to choose “no filter”, which will enable them to pick a commentator who uses a certain diction palatable to them.
Users are also given access to “data feeds” — earlier mined by broadcasters, who would then choose what to display — to directly open analysis at any given point without navigating away from the live broadcast playing on the screen.
“We use graphical representations for statistics and our technology team has prepared their own overlay on the feed so that whenever one accesses it, they can see statistics of players, highlights, or even social media feeds — all updated in real-time,” added Colaco.
A FanCode user can pay Rs 99 or Rs 159 as subscription fees to attain “tour passes” to access the features, specific to the package they have paid for, for the season.
FanCode’s parent company Dream Sports also owns Dream 11 — an app that enables a user to join contests and create a fantasy team of real players based on an ongoing match. The winners usually take away big prizes.
FanCode has a portal to Dream 11, but doesn’t allow a user to access any of its features while still using FanCode. It has partnered with local and niche leagues like the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), and the J1 Japanese football league, among others, for broadcast and digital rights.
According to data shared by the company, FanCode has partnered with the cricket boards of Afghanistan, Ireland, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh for broadcasting rights, and signed a four-year deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for The Hundred competition.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)
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