How we watch football in a pub

 In Blog Post


In a previous post John Wyver reviewed the 2-IMMERSE project’s achievements at the half way point. From that post you’ll see that we have made progress on the technical platform required for the delivery of multi-screen experiences and that we have thought hard about the nature of the particular multi-screen experiences we are developing. In this post I want to look at some of the rather intriguing findings that have emerged from our background research. We included these insights in our deliverable 4.1 describing the service prototypes.

We are keen to be driven not by what the technology enables but by the needs and wants of service providers and end-users. With that in mind, we have been exploring multi-screen presentations of live football, not least because football is a content type that has proved to be effective at delivering audiences for new TV services.  One arena where we think multi-screen presentation of football might make particular sense is in pubs and bars. So to try to better understand some of the motivations that end-users may have for watching football in pubs we have looked at some of the sociological literature on this topic. Insights explored by academic researchers are proving to be useful in informing the way we have developed design options for multi-screen football in pubs.

We have taken two key points from the sociologists’ observations:

  1. Watching football in pubs is more like watching football in a stadium than it is like watching football at home.
  2. A key part of the experience is interacting with other people who are watching with you.

These points emerge especially in an article by Dafna Lemish, ‘The rules of viewing television in public places’, Journal of Broadcasting  Vol. 26 , Iss. 4,1982 (available only via subscription). Here Lemish identifies four rules of public viewing:

  1. A public viewer of television adjusts to the setting (- Lemish notes, for example, that in public spaces shouting advice to the oblivious coach may be acceptable and in more exuberant bars shouting and chanting, as if the viewers were in the stadium, can also become normalized. Either would appear daft if watching in a quiet pub, where football was not the central reason for the night out, and viewers comfortably and effortlessly adapt their behaviour in response to the setting.)
  2. A public viewer of television adjusts to other viewers (- they make allowances for the presence of others, keeping a civil distance etc).
  3. A public viewer of television adjusts to the television set (- Lemish observes that the behaviour looked like viewers considered the television as an active participant who was in communication with the crowd in the pub; leaving the room in the middle of a segment would, she reflects, have the viewer appearing uneasy as if they were being rude and inconsiderate).
  4. A public viewer of television is open for television-related social interaction (- exactly like it says, viewers accept and will initiate conversations with strangers; further, the television helps stimulate and sustain social interaction).

It is not immediately obvious how these rules and the seemingly simple observations on which they are based should affect our designs. Our hypothesis is that these behaviours are enjoyed by the viewers and that our designs should work with and not against these behaviours. The first thing we did was to imagine the context  and to think about the sort of behaviours that may be normalised here. So from the beginning we had in mind a fairly exuberant setting in which the crowd would not be averse to shouting advice, singing and chanting. We also imagined that they may be very partisan.

We also sought to ensure our designs should support the viewers’ ability to occupy, shoulder-to-shoulder, a shared space, attending to a common focus (the game), with their heads ‘up’, ensuring they are open for conversation and interaction with others. It follows that multi-screen activities that take you away from this mode — perhaps driving you to look down to a personal handheld device — are not appropriate. So in this setting, where the viewer is in a very public space, we have sought to explore how to present the game on multiple large screens.

To enable us explore what is effective (and to find out what is not) we have captured numerous isolated camera feeds from a number of high profile matches including the FA Cup finals from both 2016 and 2017. We have then developed ways to simultaneously present this content across multiple screens in ways that are appealing, sensible and that play to that idea, as above, that ‘watching football in a pub is more like watching football in a stadium than it is like watching football at home’. We expect to post here in the future more about our investigations and the ways in which we were able to capture the isolated feeds from multiple cameras. But for now our best designs for public space viewing of football do not involve small personal devices.

Above I stress that we intend to be driven throughout by the needs and wants of end-users and service providers. From a service provider’s perspective, the home context might be thought likely to be the most valuable one, and in that context multi-screen will almost certainly include, and indeed focus on, the role of the personal screen. We will be talking to our corporate customers in BT Sport later in the year, and we will follow their advice about which market — pubs or homes — should be our focus as we continue to explore the best forms of multi-screen presentation for football. As a match commentator might say, there’s everything still to play for here.

Image copyright wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

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