AFL Media Network sees COVID-related jump in numbers

The cross-media football platform was in the right position to boost on-demand videos to continue to engage fans while the playing season is in hibernation

A push on AI-driven content has given the AFL Media Network a traffic boost of 53 per cent compared with the 2019 off-season with 4.4 million users tuning in to AFL Media in March and an average of more than 1 million per week across the network.

While the official AFL season remains on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions, overall traffic is up as fans look to stay engaged with the game through a range of platforms across the network.

The digital sports network is now being managed remotely, while using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to create video content at scale, boosting its on-demand videos to keep engaged with fans. Head of AFL Media Network, Sarah Wyse, said the cross-platform network has enabled it to be agile and adapt to the COVID-19 restrictions by continuing to provide fan engagement in an ‘always on’ approach. 

“One of the positive things to come out of the shutdown has been how quickly our team adapted to the new ways of working – from creating and shooting content remotely to developing new products for our fans – with just half the team in play,” Wyse said. 

The AFL Media Network said it's evolved from a traditional football news publisher to a cross-media business with a range of content, strategic brand integration and optimised content delivered for partners. It comprises websites, apps and social platforms, built for digital and accessed mostly on mobile. Content encompasses the latest news to tools like Fantasy and Tipping and videos including episodes of footy shows and behind-the-scenes footage.

Wyse told CMO when she started 18 months ago, the network began to evolve its approach to be driven by insights, together with passion and knowledge from its football journalists and creatives. This led to creation of tailored content delivered at the right place at the right time. And the focus has been as much on distribution and channel strategies as the content.

"We provide the perfect accompaniment to the live game, where we think of ourselves as every footy fan’s companion, 24/7,” said Wyse.

“A converged video offering is about entertaining our fans where partnering with relevant media and platforms is becoming the norm. For example, Indigenous footy and culture show, Yokayi Footy, in collaboration with NITV, has created a socially wired 30-minute weekly footy show distributed across various channels and platforms [NITV/ SBS network, AFL Media Network, Fox Footy and Facebook].

"From Indigenous history and social policy to travel, youth culture and celebrating the Indigenous superstars of the game, we have used the AFL as a platform to connect with fans and new audiences who may have not had a lot of exposure to the game before.”  

Wyse said the AFL had always prided itself on flexible working. Yet the rapid, wholesale work-from-home edict, together with the season being put on ice, pushed it further into flexible working arrangements never thought possible.

Going forward, the network will continue to embrace the ‘new normal’ and innovate its content and partnerships during the shutdown period.

“Reimagining traditional AFL experiences and expanding into new shows, content themes and platforms has been an advantage to the new way of working while footy is on hold,” Wyse added.

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