Ahead of the 2nd Annual Immersive Technology in Sports & Entertainment in San Francisco next month (November 13-14) we spoke to Sohrob Farudi, CEO & Co-founder at the Fan Controlled Football League to hear his thoughts on the size of the immersive market in sport, how traditional and eSports are becoming ever closer, new technologies to watch out for and the growing trend and value of fan immersion.
(1) What is the Fan Controlled Football League? Where did the idea come from, how does it work and how is it progressing? The Fan Controlled Football League (FCFL) is the first professional football league where the fans call the shots...everything from hiring the coach to drafting the players and even calling all the plays in real-time. Its a videogame brought to life a real-world version of Madden. Its not my idea or any of my cofounders idea - its every sports fans idea, which is what makes it so powerful. We are just the group lucky enough to be bringing it to life for the first time. We have a multi-year streaming deal with Twitch and the league will be fully integrated into Twitch via Twitch extensions and interactive overlays, which will create an interactive sports and entertainment viewing experience like no other. Things are progressing very well ahead of our kick off in May 2019. We just announced the addition of NFL legend, Joe Montana, as Chief Strategic Advisor and as an investor and we also added former 49ers COO, Andy Dolich, to our executive leadership team as COO.
(2) How are you applying immersive technologies to change sports viewing both now and in the future?
In the short term we will be utilizing drones, helmet cameras, and a number of wearables and sensors to bring fans into the game like never before. A good example of this is how we will be using Twitchs co-streaming feature. Each game three players on offense and three players on defense will be fitted with a live-stream helmet camera and live mic. Fans will have the opportunity to watch the players channel for a unique perspective of the game, which will include a first-person view of the field and an unfiltered, no holds barred commentary of the game whether hes on the field or on the sideline.
(3) Blockchain technology is a key element behind the FCFL, can you talk us through how the technology is applied and how it enables real-time fan involvement?
We went down the blockchain rabbit hole during our search for a technology solution that could provide full transparency in the voting process for fans, players, and coaches. In the FCFL there is nothing more important than having the trust of our fans. The first time our fans dont trust the outcome of a vote will be the last time they vote. Our implementation of blockchain and our very own FAN Token allow us to create an ecosystem where fans, coaches, and players can all trust the voting outcomes In addition the implementation of the FAN Token is a very natural fit as we build out our real-life video game.
(4) The FCFL is positioned beautifully between tradition and eSports, how large do you anticipate the immersive sports market to be by 2025 and what are the key factors in realising this?
I would be shocked if every major sports league in the world did not implement some form of immersive technology by 2025, and I believe the leading applications will be AR and AI, both of which will be used to enhance the viewing experience of fans.
(5) How will immersive technologies influence the evolution of linear-digital broadcast strategies what platforms will you use to broadcast the FCFL?
We have an exclusive two-year partnership with Twitch to stream all of our live games across their platform, and we are currently in conversations with a number of networks for linear broadcast coverage of a game of the week. We chose Twitch over a number of other digital platforms because they are farthest along in providing tools to create interactive video experiences. Their extensions, which are interactive overlays built into the video player, provide endless possibilities to engage fans during a broadcast. (6) Are you excited by the prospect of 5G technology and do you believe this will fast-track uptake of immersive tech? I think 5G technology will be a game changer for immersive tech, specifically applications like the FCFL where having near zero latency broadcasts can have an enormous impact on the viewing experience.
(7) The supreme court legislation on sports betting earlier this year has created a whirlwind of activity in this space. What challenges and opportunities do you anticipate for the FCFL?
I dont think the ruling was unexpected, but it has certainly changed the way we think about our business. First and foremost, we see it as another way to keep fans engaged with the FCFL. Sports betting, along with both daily and season-long fantasy sports, has been a very big driver of viewership in the world of sports. We dont want to bite off more than we can chew for the first season, but we certainly plan to focus on creative ways to implement sports betting into the FCFL ecosystem in a way that benefits our businesses bottom line.
(8) What are you looking forward to most at the Immersive Tech in Sports & Entertainment Summit in SF this November?
Im looking forward to meeting new people and learning about new immersive technology and hopefully finding new technology partners who we can work with to insure the FCFL is always at the forefront of providing the best and most advanced fan experience possible.