Ticats to deliver first North American pro football broadcast on Facebook Live

55 Yard Line
On Friday, Hamilton's Tim Hortons Field wil play host to the first pro football game in North America streamed on Facebook Live.
On Friday, Hamilton's Tim Hortons Field wil play host to the first pro football game in North America streamed on Facebook Live.

Facebook Live videos have become a big part of the sports marketplace already, with MLB, NFL and NCAA teams experimenting with delivering content that way. That content has been mostly behind-the-scenes interviews and looks, though, rather than a typical game broadcast, but the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats are set to change that. The team has announced that they're going to live-stream Friday's preseason game against the Ottawa Redblacks on Facebook Live and make some history in the process:

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced Thursday that working with their digital media partner, Stadium Digital, they will be live streaming on Facebook the Ticats home preseason game tomorrow night against the Ottawa Redblacks. It will mark the first-ever major Canadian professional sporting event, and first professional football game in North America, that will be streamed using Facebook Live.

“We know we have well over a million Tiger-Cats fans around the world that we are determined to reach through various distribution and engagement methods,” said Bob Young, Caretaker of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “We are proud to partner with Stadium Digital to continue to deliver great content to our fans; on this occasion via Facebook, the world’s largest social media network.”

This news comes on the heels of the team`s announcement that streaming of game day content from Tim Hortons Field would return to Ticats.ca for the second consecutive season. Tomorrow`s preseason game will be available on both Ticats.ca and the Ticats Facebook page.

“The Tiger-Cats have been on the leading edge, continuing in finding innovative ways to engage with their fans through digital channels, and this is just further evidence of those great efforts,” said Mark Silver, Founder of Stadium Digital.

This is a natural evolution of what the Tiger-Cats have already done, including streaming video and audio a preseason game last year on Ticats.ca and regularly broadcasting audio feeds of the game during the regular season along with video analysis from their in-stadium team (which on Friday will feature Mike Morreale, new host Leslie Stewart, and guest analysts Paul Osbaldiston, Rob Hitchcock and John Williams). The team's chief commercial officer, Matt Afinec, told 55-Yard Line in November that last year's last-second pre-season stream was highly successful, as was their in-season approach:

"We have a great digital partner called Stadium Digital, they're kind of our partner in producing all this stuff, and a gentleman by the name of Mark Silver, so we actually saw a need because our home preseason game wasn't televised," he said. "In very short order, we pulled this together; we announced it at three o'clock and had people watching our preseason game in like 50 countries. It was crazy. So we said, 'Wait a second, is there a bigger opportunity here?' Obviously TSN owns those broadcast rights for regular-season games, so for regular-season games, we can't actually broadcast the game or stream the game through ticats.ca, but what we actually do, what I said earlier about our live production and how we treat it like ESPN College GameDay, we actually stream that in-house feed on ticats.ca. So, we take that in-stadium environment and put it out there."

"We know, based on web traffic, there are Tiger-Cats' fans and transplanted Hamiltonians in hundreds of different countries around the world, so we think this is something that will continue to build steam and build momentum as we go forward. The product itself is the in-venue environment, and when the game's actually being played, we just stream the audio from our radio partnership with TSN, but when they go to commercial, we stream the in-stadium environment. The one thing we try to do to build some equity around the product and give people something to hang on to; the first place you hear from Coach Austin after any home game is on Ticats.ca through the streaming product, so we try to build the anchor property, the anchor product that right after the game, literally within 10 minutes of him addressing the team, the first media appearance he makes is on Ticats.ca, and that's broadcast in the venue and streamed live on Ticats.ca. "

As mentioned there, this is unlikely to lead to more in-season video streams, as that would compete with TSN's rights. However, for a preseason game that TSN has chosen not to broadcast, this works just fine, and the in-season approach has been working too. The global audience here is another interesting thread, as that's something the CFL's working to develop through moves like last year's stream of postseason games on YouTube in countries without TV deals. We'll see what role Facebook Live plays for the CFL and its teams going forward, but this looks like a smart move from the Ticats, and one that should appeal to both their fans inside and outside of Canada.

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