SBJ/June 16-22, 2014/Media

Mystics streaming live games to mobile app

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The Washington Mystics quietly have been testing a mobile app this season, becoming the first professional U.S. sports team to stream live games locally via an interactive mobile app.

Developed by the New Jersey-based company Kiswe Mobile, the Mystics Live app allows viewers to watch the team’s home games live using six camera angles, replays and real-time statistics. Users can watch the main television feed and listen to the TV broadcast booth, as well. 

The WNBA’s Mystics are leading the way on mobile streaming, using an app by Kiswe Mobile.

There’s no extra charge to download or use the app.

The existence of the app could be an important step as leagues, teams and media companies look to roll out local streaming services. Unresolved issues around how much these streaming rights are worth — and who owns them — have stalled efforts to roll out local streaming services in other leagues, like MLB, the NBA and NHL.

It’s easier to test these kinds of services in the WNBA because they don’t have the same restrictions as some of the bigger leagues. By design, the WNBA is far more open in a business sense, allowing teams to implement these kind of services more freely.

The local RSN, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, does not pay a rights fee to carry Mystics games, cutting one potential roadblock for the local mobile streaming service.

No money changed hands in the agreement between Kiswe and the Mystics. Kiswe executives were coy about how its business model around the app would develop.

Mystics executives think the app could be a way to enhance the at-game experience, allowing fans that hook into Verizon Center’s Wi-Fi to follow the TV telecast, call up replays and see real-time statistics.

Kiswe Mobile executives see the app as useful for fans who can’t be at the arena. App users can watch Mystics games only within a 75-mile radius of Washington.

The Mystics are the only WNBA team using this mobile app, but Kiswe executives hope to cut similar deals with other WNBA teams.

“The interplay between TV, mobile and social is the next wave of media,” said Wim Sweldens, a former Bell Labs executive who is president and CEO of Kiswe Mobile. “Mobile networks can be more than just another broadcast. It allows users to personalize and individualize the experience.”

Another of Kiswe’s founders is former AOL executive Jimmy Lynn, who teaches at Georgetown University. Lynn, who is a vice president at Kiswe, used some of his students as focus groups for the app. Lynn and Sweldens were surprised to learn that many of the students preferred the camera angle from behind the basket because that is the angle they’re used to seeing when they play video games.

The app can be downloaded from Apple’s app store for free. It requires at least iOS 7.0. An Android version is expected to be ready in a month. 

“The app creates deeper engagement with fans and appeals to a younger demographic,” Lynn said. “The digital Internet revolution of the 1990s is now the mobile revolution.”

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