Coronavirus, lockdowns and associated crowd caps have brought forward the sports streaming industry three or five years, according to Cluch Managing Director Gus Seebeck.
With Cluch powering the NPL.TV platform in 2022, the organisation will be live streaming in excess of 100 football matches from around the country once the Victorian, New South Wales, South Australia and ACT branches of the National Premier Leagues competitions are all up and running.
Speaking ahead of last night’s National Premier Leagues Victoria clash between South Melbourne and Heidelberg United, Seebeck outlined a rise of sports streaming at the semi-professional level has been propelled forward due to the circumstances of recent years.
“A lot of community clubs and organisations have had to deal with tight crowd restrictions has probably seen this space propel forward three-to-five years in terms of how quickly it’s been adopted,” he told Soccerscene.
“Football fans now have a multitude of choice in terms how they get their content and expectations have increased for the quality of that, which I think is quite reasonable.”
Cluch launched in August 2020, in between the first and second wave of COVID-19 and associated lockdowns and was mainly streaming community sports in New South Wales at the time of its launch.
However, that window activity proved crucial in empowering the platform to grow.
“It was really critical in terms of us being able to get some proven data and a little bit of a look at what’s possible with this technology and the opportunities it can provide,” Seebeck said.
The National Premier Leagues has long been on the hit-list for Cluch and Seebeck is excited that the platform is now powering the NPL.TV product.
“We’ve been speaking to Football New South Wales for some time and particularly around the launch of the initial NPL.TV concept,” he said.
“Whilst this is our first year involved, it was really interesting for us to sit back and just watch how it played out and that allowed us to pick up the conversation when we knew the original deal might be ending.
“We’ve worked really hard with the various federations from August through to Christmas to address any issues or things they wanted to improve on, because we understand that this is a huge audience and we really feel that responsibility.
“It’s very easy for this exercise to become a huge drain on resources given the number of matches that will need to be streamed every week, so we had to be clear on our systems and workflows and we also have to worry about the commercial considerations of the federations and clubs as well and make sure that they are worked into the platform.”
The NPL.TV product will work as a stand-alone app, separate from the Cluch app, which was an important consideration for the participating members.
The addition of the Victorian competition, which had previously been streaming games for free on YouTube and Facebook Live, was the product of a consensus that the NPL.TV had more power as a product showcasing several leagues as opposed to just one.
“Each member federation controls their own destiny in that respect and will make their own decisions on what they think is best for them,” Seebeck said.
“What became really apparent from the very start of the conversation was that the aggregated model was the way to go. Bringing everything into one place and ideally being able to bring the commercial opportunities and value opportunities to the entire audience.
“Obviously streaming to YouTube or Facebook is not difficult, so as a platform we had to make sure that working with us does not add any further resource drain.”
Seebeck believes it’s also important for Cluch to ensure that the commercial opportunities made possible through the platform were not just limited to itself or the member federations.
“We felt that it’s important that every single club that has exposure on the platform has the ability to commercialise and advertise. If they don’t see any value in it for them, then they’re not going to push it to their communities and fans and it’s not going to work because it’s not going to be embraced by everybody,” he said.
“It was important from our perspective that we’re able to allocate inventory right up the value chain.”
The NPL.TV platform will be completely free for fans to watch, with no subscription, meaning revenues will be driven by advertising and sponsorship.
Cluch will sell pre-roll advertisements, with member federations and clubs sharing in-stream advertisements, with the terms of that split to be handled by the federations.
The streams themselves will continue to be produced by the Federations, but Seebeck said that Cluch had outstanding existing relationships with the companies currently producing the streams on the ground.
The NPL.TV app is available globally, meaning the streams can be viewed from anywhere in the world with an App Store or an internet connection. The app itself was launched on Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store on Wednesday, ahead of the Thursday night NPL Victoria season opener.
Speaking to Soccerscene prior to kick-off between the South Melbourne and Heidelberg United derby, Seebeck revealed the TV apps would also be available very soon, if not at the time of publication.
“We’re fine-tuning the TV apps, but we think that’s really important,” he said.
“For us, it doesn’t matter if you want to watch your favourite Premier League team or Champions League team or your local NPL club, if you want to watch that on TV, you should be able to do that with a single remote.
“It’s important to us that you can watch these streams on the TV without having to go and get a cable for your laptop et cetera, et cetera, so it’s something we’re fine-tuning and hope it will be available soon.”