Thursday, June 13, 2024

World hockey can add to Wallace viral with new media rights strategy

World hockey labelled it as the “best hockey streaming experience ever”. And there’s no doubting that the lifting of the dreaded geo-blocking is a shot in the arm for the sport, meaning that fans can watch matches from anywhere in the world (providing you have purchased an FIH+ pass on its Watch.Hockey channel).

However, it’s the strategy for catching the eyeballs of the non-hockey aficionados which will be the litmus test for the FIH.

Whenever this correspondent has brought up the subject of media rights at various FIH press conferences in recent years, or spoken about it with Indian colleagues, it’s usually been met with a shrug. That’s mainly due to Indian hockey matches being played out on Star Sports and monthly contracts for the consumer being very affordable and the sport being largely visible.

The problem the FIH has had since the launch of Pro League has been the differing broadcasting stipulations in each nation’s region.

With BT Sport, now TNT, there was a brief time when clips of brilliant goals or saves were put out on social media for a British and irish audience. It was down to the broadcaster whether it clipped games or not, while highlights could only be viewed 24 hours after the match.

Luckily, the much-viewed Zach Wallace volley strike was published last season by one social media user. But there has been precious little else from what I can remember, barring some shoot-out theatrical lobs in China once, or India’s goal inside 10 seconds against the Dutch

This was perfectly highlighted last summer when the Netherlands’ Felice Albers finished one hell of a team move goal in the Women’s World Cup final. It should have been perfect social media gold.

@fih_hockey Goal of the season? 🤯 #FIHProLeague #Hockey #HockeyEquals #HockeyInvites #GreatBritain #GBHockey #Goal #FieldHockey #Zach #Wallace #newzealand🇳🇿 #Christchurch ♬ sonido original – FIH

That, thankfully, has changed for the next round of media rights deals, starting from the upcoming Pro League, which departing CEO Thierry Weil made sure of.

Now, there will be live and on-demand matches on Watch.Hockey from wherever you are in the globe, as well as on broadcast partners’ platforms.

There will also be match highlights exclusively on Watch.Hockey (for free if you register), while the FIH told The Hockey Paper that other content such as top goals, saves and standout moments of skill will be clipped on social media.

This is critical – and can’t come soon enough.

In recent weeks, stories have surfaced of YouTubers with sizeable subscribers having their content taken down. One Australian cricket lover saw his channel removed after amassing most of the Baggy Green matches over the decades and publishing great moments. It was only when a rights holder in Bangladesh got shirty that YouTube took it down. 

World Rugby also got in on the act when a YouTuber posted a World Cup package featuring match footage and it was taken down. It was all done in good faith and they are just promoting the game, said the fans.

Meanwhile, the NBA continues to allow fans on platforms such as YouTube to publish and use as much action as possible. “Highlights are marketing,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in 2016.

Hockey needs all the exposure it can get to steal a march.

Yes, Watch.Hockey will sit behind a paywall. But the hope is that the sport’s best players, from Junior World Cups to Olympic qualifiers, the Pro League and beyond will be thrust into the limelight. 

We recently saw a young up-and-coming English player, Evie Grindal, go viral for a sweetly-struck reverse into the net on a training night. ‘Top bins’ shouted Sky Sports.

One hopes that traditional media outlets can now latch on to this changing FIH digital landscape.

You can secure your FIH+ pass directly through the Watch.Hockey app or via the website at watch.hockey. A 25% off subscription deal has been extended until Nov 29.

Total Hockey

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