Meeting fans where they are

Photo by RODNAE Productions

The sports industry has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, facing a combined barrage of travel restrictions, limitations on gatherings, and health protocols regarding events. Nevertheless, sports clubs and media companies continue to fight for survival and engage with their loyal fans.

One such company is ONE, an Asian global sports media property with a focus on martial arts and gaming. Now broadcasting across 150+ countries with, ONE has been ranked by Nielsen as one of the world’s top ten largest sports media properties in terms of viewership and engagement.

Recently, the company has partnered with Brightcove to deliver interactive and high quality live and on-demand video content for its ONE Super App. SMEhorizon spoke with Hua Fung Teh, Group President at ONE, on the impact the pandemic has had for his company, the collaboration with Brightcove, and the response from employees and fans to the changing nature of sports entertainment.

How has the pandemic impacted your events and operations?

The pandemic has been challenging for all types of businesses and although COVID-19 has limited our ability to hold live events and competitions in various countries due to travel restrictions, the team has adapted creatively to continue to bring sports entertainment to our fans.

For example, we have worked very closely with the Singapore government to host closed-door events and ensure a safe and strict travel bubble for our athletes and officials. We were also the blueprint for Singapore to pilot test the reopening of entertainment events by allowing 250 fans to attend a number of live shows in late 2020.

ONE Esports has pivoted to hosting online tournaments as the esports industry continues to flourish during the pandemic. Our shoulder programming and verticals such as the athlete “Stay at Home” features offered fitness and lifestyle content, during a time when home workouts became popular.

Is the ONE Super App an initiative that preceded the pandemic, or was it developed as a response to it?

Even before the pandemic, we have always aspired for ONE to be the world’s first digital-first and mobile-first global sports media property. The ONE Super App is one of our pre-pandemic initiatives towards fulfilling that aspiration.

Could you tell us about the process designing and developing the app in collaboration with Brightcove?

Basically, we shared our video delivery requirements to Brightcove, and they provided us with a recommendation on the implementation and approach. It was a smooth and quick process, as we had clarity on the exact capabilities that we needed Brightcove to provide for us.

What technical infrastructure supports this app? How large is the IT team that built and maintains it?

Aside from the media services and video CMS (which is provided by Brightcove), our app has its own API backend and back-office tools which are hosted on a combination of public cloud infrastructure and SaaS providers.

We currently have a small in-house engineering team that works on our ONE Super App, in parallel with our other digital projects. We have plans to continue to grow the engineering team over the next 12 months as we ramp up our digital initiatives.

What has the response been from your staff and fans  to the app?

The response from staff has been great. Many of our staff exclusively use our app to watch our live events from home! In addition, it helps the media engage better with the information available on the app.

So far fan response to the ONE Super App has been great. Currently, it has a rating of 4.7 stars on the Apple App Store, and 4.5 stars on Google Play. We also receive great feedback from our fans every week through our in-app feedback mechanism. On top of that, fans get to participate in the various games that are available on the app.

In the long run, do you see your app as replacing more traditional ways of consuming media, or something that runs parallel to it?

At the end of the day, we want to meet our fans where they are. Some fans will prefer to consume our content on our app, and some will prefer to watch in other ways – both traditional and new. Our goal is to provide many ways for our fans to consume our media, to maximize inclusiveness and ensure any fan who wants to watch our content can easily do so.