Second screens have become a cornerstone for many sports viewers and every major player is taking notice. Facebook, the biggest player of them all, is now taking the game very seriously and throwing their ubiquitous app into the fold with its latest feature, Facebook Sports Stadium.
Sports Stadium is Facebook’s latest move to shake up the scene that aggregates live updates and information of a trending sporting event and presents everything in one convenient place. Released to coincide with the NFL’s conference championships, Sports Stadium looks to provide a viable second-screen option within the largest social network’s confines.
I consider myself a sports junkie who shoots for an all-encompassing experience during a live game. Usually this can involve anywhere from two to four screens (I know that sounds ridiculous). I enjoy hearing the live takes of not only the TV announcers and studio pundits, but those of sports journalists, celebrities and friends as well. While this normally takes shape within Twitter for me personally, I was eager to check out Facebook’s shot at such a large undertaking during a very important weekend in sports.
Facebook’s mobile app currently provides the best version of its Sports Stadium offering, by far. The home screen and secondary tabs were easy to follow and looked exceptionally polished for a first release. While going through the page as I watched the game live, I was pleased with the timeliness of the updates and the handy nature of the stats tab.
The crown jewel that the Sports Stadium can boast freely (even after only showcase) is the unrivaled user-generated access that Facebook allows by linking fan check-ins directly to the ‘matchup’ tab. Along with normal press photos available on other sports apps, you can also neatly scroll through public check-in updates that offer a direct, personal view of the action from the game itself.
While my sampling of Sports Stadium on Facebook’s mobile app allowed for a mostly seamless second-screen experience, I found the desktop version to offer far less information in a less-organized format. One glaring difference was the lack of the tabs that added easy organization to the aggregated information in the mobile version. Instead of having every update neatly ordered, updates from both experts and friends were mashed together and housed out of sight below the fold.
Facebook’s direct competitor in this space is, in fact, the ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’ in ESPN. The sports giant has provided their free app for years and covers a wide multitude of sports every single day. Within a specific game screen on the ESPN app, you can access multiple tabs that house features from a live action tracker to relevant video clips and expert comments pulled from Twitter. Another feature that ESPN has closely cultivated and monitored over time is its ‘discussion’ forum. Each game covered within the app has a dedicated chat that allows fans to banter and add insight and passion. While this kind of interaction is more intimate and first-nature on Facebook, it certainly is not exclusive to the network.
The biggest issue was locating the dedicated Sports Stadium page, which I realized (through searching Twitter) could only be found by searching a participating team within the app. While keeping a user within one app can prove to be a boon for Facebook, a homepage button or status pop-up directing that user to the Sports Stadium experience in the first place is vital.
While I went in with tempered expectations, I felt that Facebook’s newest venture performed nicely with only minor hiccups and a lot of room for growth and improvement. As is, the Sports Stadium is more of an informative hub for those away from a TV during the big game than it is a true fan’s go-to second-screen option. I do, however, expect this feature to take large strides coming into some of the busiest sports months and give other competing apps and forums a run for their money.