The Record - Issue 20: Spring 2021

78 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om F E ATUR E I n a year that has brought live events to a halt, digital platforms have provided some of the few remaining available links between fans and the teams, bands and brands they support. Whether it’s streaming live matches and performances or engaging with the latest releases through online advertising, the way in which people connect with the brands they support has been reshaped by the pandemic. Many people have been introduced to entirely new experiences, as they get to grips with the realities of supporting from a distance. And to maintain engagement with audiences, media companies and their partners have had to accel- erate development of innovations and solutions, which are now set to change the fan experience even after the pandemic eases. “Across the media industry, companies have had the same conversation with us about how they can change the way that they interact with their audiences leveraging digital platforms,” says Jennifer Cooper, global head of media and communications industry strategy and solutions at Microsoft. “Covid-19 has certainly accelerated that change. What’s also interest- ing is that understanding people’s engagement and behaviour has actually become a lot more possible, as organisations now have access to data that would never be capturable if fans were just sitting in the stand.” The dramatic shift towards digital platforms has therefore presented both a challenge and an opportunity to the media industry. Those who may not have previously embraced digital transformation have used the example of more recent entrants to the market as a model for their own strategies, according to Martin Wahl, principal program manager of industry accel- erators for the media & telecommunications sector at Microsoft. “So many companies have looked to the new players, who were born in the cloud,” he says. “It’s not just about user interface, it’s the ability to understand what your users have watched and what they’re likely to watch in the future. How do you better target the content you’re produc- ing to the audiences that want to watch it? To understand that, organisations have to be able to merge all of the data they have access to and analyse it to produce actionable insights.” Microsoft’s Power BI service is one tool which has helped companies to uncover these insights as they attempt to build greater engagement with their platforms. The service can unify all the data With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing physical venues to close, digital platforms have become central to maintaining fan engagement, sparking a period of rapid innovation BY A L E X SM I TH power virtual support The of