“Shorts”, as the name suggests, are short video clips in smartphone-optimised 9×16 format. Their popularity is growing rapidly, including among Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 fans. “Shorts are a common format that is consumed by all age groups,” explains Bastian Zuber, Interim CEO and COO at the DFL subsidiary DFL Digital Sports GmbH. “We cater to the media consumers’ behaviour by offering the same kind of content presentation in the official Bundesliga app.”
Short videos in full-screen portrait mode have been available in the Bundesliga App (which may be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store) for quite some time in addition to the conventional 16×9 landscape format. Some time ago, the DFL had launched a pilot project to position an innovative content offer, at the time primarily targeting ten- to 14-year-olds. Supplementing the match and summary broadcasts on TV, this offer provides authentic insights into the activities before and after Bundesliga games: it not only includes best goals and saves, skills and tricks but also scenes at and around stadiums and in the dressing rooms, along with training clips, content from the Social Media Matchday Feed such as the arrival of the team bus, and much more – a wide selection of video impressions allowing fans to feel closer to their favourite clubs and the league in general.
The objective is to offer users added value in the form of additional video content they won’t easily find elsewhere.Björn Rosenthal, Head of Product at DFL Digital Sports GmbH
The great success of this project – with users watching 14 videos per visit on average – and the realisation that the Short format appeals to all age groups, prompted the DFL to integrate the Bundesliga Shorts into the official Bundesliga App, rather than offering them separately, to make them available to a wider audience. “The objective,” says Björn Rosenthal, Head of Product at DFL Digital Sports GmbH, “is to offer users added value in the form of additional video content they won’t easily find elsewhere.” If this makes fans visit the app more frequently and spend more time with it, that is the best feedback anyone could wish, he adds.
User numbers prove popularity
In another development step implemented in mid-October 2023, the Shorts, previously available in the video section of the app only, are now featured as a dedicated category in the “home feed”, the starting page of the Bundesliga App. “This once again caused interactions with these videos to increase significantly,” reports Rosenthal. “Our experience so far shows that once users see a video, they invoke about 20 during the same session – an impressive number.” Since the Shorts were placed on the front page of the app, users are spending much more time with the app: While the average dwell time was around 400 seconds in the past, users interested in videos and especially, Shorts now watch for about 640 seconds – more than ten minutes.
Another observation: the Bundesliga App used to be in demand mainly on matchdays, with users focussing on the live ticker and statistics; the interest was primarily on the live matches. Consumers of Shorts, however, represent a new user group that continues to grow week after week. “Since we began offering our Shorts feature on the starting page, the total number of videos watched has skyrocketed,” says Rosenthal.
Personalisation further enhances the user experience
Another objective that has been high on the agenda of DFL Digital Sports is to offer personalisation options for the Bundesliga experience to loyal users, both national and international. Since November 2023 both versions of the app – developed for iOS and Android by separate teams – have been enhanced by an AI-based personalisation feature which arranges content to suit the user’s preferences. When a new user registers their app, they can specify their favourite club; the app also derives preferential content by evaluating user behaviour. Of course, providing any such data to the app is the user’s choice. “For example, based on these preferences, the latest update of the Bundesliga app displays a small table with the favourite club in the middle so the user doesn’t have to spend time scrolling. What is more, the favourite club appears prominently in the goal statistics on the home page. These features give users quick answers,” says Rosenthal.
The same principle is applied to the selection of Shorts: content is ranked by what is most likely to match the user’s interest, rather than chronologically. On the other hand, the app uses a so-called exploration factor to blend in 50 per cent of other content and create a mixed menu that avoids monotony while drawing the user’s attention to alternative topics. “We continue to explore how best to cater to the consumers’ behaviour and preferences,” says Rosenthal, explaining the philosophy behind the app development. “The exploration factor can provide an additional opportunity to increase the relevance of our content.”
The DFL technology partner making all this possible is once again Amazon Web Services. Apart from providing the infrastructure services for the app, the solution Amazon Personalize serves as the recommendation engine. It may have been just a few weeks since the roll-out of the personalisation feature, but its success is already evident, says Rosenthal: “The first numbers we have seen tell us that we are on the right track.”