Nicolas Chapart, FIBA head of digital, faced a challenge.

Patrick Baumann, FIBA secretary general, tasked the digital marketing expert with creating a live stream strategy for the governing body of basketball.

The catch: he had to do it without a budget.

In his presentation “Growing Audiences and Revenue through Social Media Live Streaming” at IEG 2017, Chapart discussed the steps FIBA has taken to create an “extreme, low-cost live streaming offering.”

Below are edited excerpts from the presentation.

What we had

  • Good digital ecosystem
  • Strong social media channels
  • OK video offering but lack of regular content

“I said, okay, I’ll take the challenge. I sat back and looked at what we had achieved until that moment.  We had a good digital ecosystem. We had plenty of web sites that were driving a lot of traffic, we had strong media channels, and we had a good video offering.

On the other hand, we were lacking content. The FIBA Basketball World Cup happens for two weeks every four years. What would do you do after that two week window to keep your fan base entertained? That was the issue we were facing. And we were not allowed to exploit the live rights of our premium events. That was perfectly understandable--we make a huge amount of money from traditional broadcast partners. That’s not going to change anytime soon.

Opportunities

  • Unsold events
  • Fans constantly asking for access

At the same time, we saw opportunities. We had a lot of unsold second-tier events. That was extremely important. Not everyone has a European Championship to sell. We had a lot of youth events that no one wanted. No broadcaster wanted those events, and no one in my commercial department was interested in selling them. At the same time we had all of our fans—moms, dads and friends—asking to see those youth events. That is where stars are maturing, and that was the first opportunity we identified.

Trends

  • Social media platforms pushing for live
  • Communication technologies changing fast

All of the social media platforms have switched to live streams. You’ve heard it before. ‘Social media platforms are trying to become the new broadcasters.’ They’re here to disrupt the market and trying to make life tough for traditional broadcasters. And they were coming to us saying ‘we want live.’ And I was saying, ‘okay, how do I do live?’ That costs a lot of money.’

Two or four years ago it was impossible to get a fast internet connection around the world. We run events in Africa, Asia and other remote places. If I don’t have a fast Internet connection I can’t do live. But now that is changing.

The plan: live stream all free-of-rights assets

  • Downgraded & micro-budget production
  • Open distribution
  • Sustainability after 3rd or 4th year

We came up with a plan that would sit on top of our overall digital strategy: live stream all of our free-of-rights assets.

How did we think we could do that? Producing a basketball game can be extremely expensive because of the number and sophistication of cameras. So we said ‘Let’s do a one camera production.’ There are people who watch a fish swimming in a fish bowl for hours online. That’s the reality. Why wouldn’t they watch a basketball game that’s live streamed with just one camera?

We also wanted to change the distribution model. We didn’t want to speak with broadcasters. We knew they weren’t interested, but we wanted to gain maximum exposure. We decided to open up our distribution. That meant not just live streaming on our social media channels, but distributing the content to the media, international sports federations and other stakeholders.

And finally, we wanted to be sustainable by the end of the third or fourth year. We didn’t know if that was going to happen. We had no clue to the value of this product. But there was no way I could tell management to invest in this forever without having some kind of return on investment.

How FIBA implemented the live stream strategy

  • RFP to find production companies
  • Social media as distribution platforms
  • Build a multi-cast platform

We started the first year with a couple of events located primary in Europe. Right away we had a huge audience. These were events with kids under the age of 17, and suddenly we had 100,000 views by putting them live on the Internet.

I could tell you that it didn’t cost any money, but that is not true. We looked for production companies who would be crazy enough to join us and shoot events all day long. And we decided social media would be the platform to distribute the content. There was no way we wanted to go over-the-top. It costs a lot of money to stream, host and archive your videos. Social media is actually paying for all this. The platforms do not charge any money.

Social media is the place we needed to be. To achieve that, we built a multi-cast platform—a piece of hardware that can take your feed and distribute it to as many destinations as you want. We built it, and it cost almost nothing. These platforms are now very popular in eSports—you have platforms that cost a couple of bucks a month. So don’t build your own—look for a solution online.

We have live streamed games in 46 countries. The majority are in Europe where we run most of our events, but we have also done some in Africa, which I’m extremely proud of.

Results exceed expectations

  • 18 million views
  • 97 days of free basketball
  • 78 percent of views from youth competitions

Last year we streamed more than 1,200 games. That’s 97 consecutive days of free basketball that we offered to our fans. They were very thankful for that. Seventy-eight percent of those views came from our youth events, but we also live streamed press conferences, trainings and other events. There is no silly content. There is always someone who is willing to watch content that you’re posting.

We have youth events that generate close to half a million views. That’s live—imagine the views that are generated afterwards.

On average, fans watch our games for 20 to 22 minutes. That’s not very far off from how people consume TV. We applied the multicasting, but our main channel is still on YouTube, but more and more, we’re going on Facebook. At some events we actually push content to 15 different locations.

We paid $150,000 to broadcast all of the games, including our youth events. It may sound like a big number, but it’s not. I was talking to a digital marketing person at another international sports federation, and he told me about ten videos they did that generated a couple hundred thousand views. I said, ‘how much did it cost?’ He said $150,000. For that amount of money we have generated 18 million views and it keeps on growing.

If we can do it, anyone can do it. There are plenty of companies in the market who are ready to help you evolve in this digital world.