Swift Current Broncos fans will be reaching for their mobile phones instead of turning the radio on when they want to listen to a live game broadcast next season.
The Broncos will be using new technology and communication formats to keep fans informed about the team. This will include online streaming of game-day audio broadcasts, which will replace the play-to-play radio broadcasts.
The organization will also be producing podcasts, videos and use social media live posts to increase the amount of coverage of the team.
Broncos Director of Business Operations Nathan MacDonald said this new format of media content production and distribution will be a significant change, but they are excited about the future.
“Lots of new things are coming, and along with that comes some change, taking a different approach to our organization, but at the end of the day it`s all motivated by doing what`s best for the Swift Current Broncos and our community long-term,” he told the Prairie Post. “We`re not looking at this season or next season from a business perspective. We`re looking at 10 years down the road, 15 years down the road. Where we`re going to be and how Swift Current Broncos are going to be the best they can be at that time.”
The decision to move to the new format came after months of discussion and there are several reasons for the change.
“There are financial considerations that I think are a part of it, but it's not the main part,” he said. “The thing that I've been a huge proponent of for some time is getting better content, and I think we're in a position as a team where we really need to connect our fans to the Broncos and to provide interesting and engaging content. When you listen to the kind of content providers that are really succeeding right now, they're pushing the boundary a bit and getting more in-depth and bringing people behind the scenes more than ever before.”
The Broncos felt the production of in-depth content can only be done realistically by someone that is a part of the organization.
“This isn't meant as a criticism of the way that it was done before, but there's always going to be a natural boundary with a sports franchise and outside media, because you can't necessarily tell them everything that you would like to,” he said.
The Broncos will therefore be appointing a broadcast and community relations manager, who will be responsible for producing in-depth content. The duties of this full-time employee will include game-day broadcasts, managing the podcast production platform and contributing content, and coordinating the team’s public and media relations.
“When you have somebody who is part of our team as a full-time Broncos member and is really ingrained in our role, they're able to pull those stories from the activities and present them to fans in a way that gets a lot closer to that boundary than ever before in terms of giving them unique information, but not going over the line and letting out coaches secrets or something like that,” he said. “Whoever that person would be, gets to relay ideas of different staff members, players and coaches, but have developed that trust with them and allows us to make sure that we're not pushing out anything that's inconsistent with our strategy of providing great content.”
The person in this position will also be responsible for community relations, and MacDonald felt it makes sense for the team’s play-by-play personality to represent the Broncos in the community.
“We think that this person, by being the voice of the Broncos and the face of the Broncos, will be able to help engage the community in a really unique way to introduce the activities, to bring players in, to lead the activities and stuff like that we're doing.”
Applications are currently open for this position and the submission deadline is May 27. Applicants will be evaluated based on the criteria for the various duties and responsibilities of the position.
“It's an important role and it's an important connection between our organization and the fans,” he said. “So we're not dismissing anyone or immediately picking anybody for that role. It's something that we want to take a good amount of time and go through the right process and do it the right way.”
The Broncos decision to create a new broadcasting format will mean an end to the previous agreement with Golden West Broadcasting for radio broadcasts of games. MacDonald said the two parties left on good terms.
“We're looking at continuing our relationship with the radio station in terms of advertising and sponsorship, and that's something that we'll support going forward,” he mentioned. “I still think that there'll be a way to have a good partnership with them in terms of that aspect. They're professional and they were appropriate in dealing with us. So I would say that we're in a position where we're able to work with them going forward.”
The Broncos views the new in-house broadcasting and content production format as an opportunity to create a new business model that will have positive financial benefits for the organization.
“There is the sponsorship component, where we think we can have an exponential value for our sponsors by having their message delivered on ice, on our rink boards, on our social media and in our broadcasting to incorporate all of them together,” he said. “I think it helps to create a really strong sponsorship activation program. … Another component of it is if we're running certain messaging and promotions through our own broadcast. We can connect that with our other activities in really unique ways. We can do contests and prizes and trivia and all kinds of unique things that can really bring people in, being able to respond to social media through your broadcast.”
Within the Western Hockey League the Portland Winterhawks is already using a similar in-house media content production and distribution format. MacDonald had an opportunity to speak to the Winterhawks play-by-play broadcaster, who is also their communications manager, when the team played in Swift Current.
“He walked me through the process to help me gain confidence in what that looks like and the sort of simplicity of the setup,” he said. “They've had really positive feedback from their organization.”
The Broncos is confident the new format will attract people who prefer to use their smartphones and other handheld devices, and who are not using television or radio to find sports content. At the same time their goal is to make the format user-friendly and to make the transition as easy as possible for those who might not be so familiar with the latest technology.
“It's really simple to use from a user perspective, but there will need to be some education,” he said. “Once we have the exact platform selected and chosen and developed, we'll be doing programs to teach people how to use it, whether it's in game or whether it's through community events or going to facilities that listen to the radio as a group and showing them how to do it.”
The new format will require user access to the internet or to cellular data, and he acknowledged that lack of access in rural areas is a concern to them. They are looking at solutions to ensure that rural Broncos fans can still have access to content and broadcasts.
“We hope that we're able to strike that balance the right way and that eventually as things progress, we can continue to build up in those rural areas where they're not able to get access,” he said. “Over the next couple of weeks there are a few groups that I'm going to be meeting with that are in that situation to just really understand how they consume content and what exactly they'll be looking for so that we can try to come up with solutions. I don't have every answer at this point in time and part of the process is making sure we get as much information as we can to try to produce this in a way that satisfies as many people as possible with an eye for the long-term future of the Broncos.”