Home > Media & Business > LiveRugby app – second screen or settling an argument?

LiveRugby app – second screen or settling an argument?

5 February, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

This post and all other business-focused posts are now being held on the Seven League blog.


An iPhone app that has live rugby union data for the 6 Nations and that promises to fulfil my second-screen needs. I had high hopes of you, LiveRugby app, and lovely though the data detail is, you don’t overcome the challenge of entertaining me with data. Or even engaging me. Datatainment delight is still a way off.

Let me go back a step.

I’ve always been more of a rugby follower than a football follower, so I was excited to see that there was a new app, using Opta’s incredible wealth of live data, which would be delivering an experience on the iPhone for the 6 Nations competition.

It’s nice enough. The interface feels all ‘chalk-boardy’ and it’s pretty straightforward to use. I think the interesting stats, the Opta stuff, is too far down the IA. I didn’t download this as a ‘general information about the 6N app’… I downloaded it specifically for in-game data updates so a) make it easier for me to get to them b) set a default auto-refresh that i can change the frequency on, or can turn off – having to hit the refresh button is another user-friction feature.

Oh, and “Don’t have a tv? Never mind watching the game. Use our LIVE commentary!” says the promo copy. Really? You mean I  should read less-than-twitter-length updates? In the Ireland v Wales game that has just finished I counted 71 updates across the course of the match. Bearing in mind it was a fantastic game and so much was happening every 60 seconds, there’s no way you’d want to stick with the app updates. Even if you couldn’t get near to a tv or radio, if you’ve got a smartphone you can still get to the BBC mobile site (there they go, impacting the market again!) for an experience that’s more like the excellent TMS coverage.

I think there’s a fundamental problem with the concept.

Is it trying to be a second-screen app? or a data-resource app?

Use case 1: I’m in the pub and I want to reference back to a match from last weekend and prove an argument about the distribution of rucks, the success of kicks, etc etc. In this case, the app will be great. It still makes the information more difficult to find than I want, but it’s all there.

Use case 2: I’m watching the game / listening to the game and I want to use the app as a second screen to add to my experience of the match. This is where the app stumbles.

There is a problem with the presentation of data. It’s passive. I don’t like passive data. Passive data is difficult to work with. If you can turn it into information, that’s better – but to do that you will need to make some kind of comparison. This app does that – some of the key information, like the fact that Scotland made 68 tackles (all successful) against England’s 153 (of which 14 unsuccessful) is, indeed, presented. But again, it’s done in a rather passive way.

Data – Information – Engagement – Editorial – Entertainment

So you’ve got the data, you’re informing me… but I still have to work hard. You’re a long long way from entertaining me. It’s the editorial layer that’s missing. England were forced to defend by Scotland’s attacking efforts – but a combination of what Gavin Hasings called ‘schoolboy errors’ combined with some resolute English defence meant that Scotland couldn’t convert their opportunities into points. That’s the story here – that’s what the app should be pulling out – that’s what editorial intervention would add.

But if this app is trying to offer passive data, or to inform the pub argument after the event – then it succeeds.

If it’s trying to enhance my in-game experience, then it fails.

There is, of course, the fundamental point that bringing the appreciation of data into live games is difficult. Jonathan Davies on the BBC Sport coverage has a man beside him trying to put together interesting insight into the performance but there’s very little time to do so. Little production time and then little air-time – so his insights have to be very simple and ‘top level’. Of course Davies and the BBC experts could go into great detail, but there just isn’t the time.

Second Screen vs Speed

The same is true for users of second-screen apps. Football and rugby are both fast-moving games and there isn’t time to be digging 4 clicks down into an app and then hitting refresh to get passive information. Sunset and Vine may have done it in cricket, and many US sports have much more time within the flow of the game.

But if the second screen is going to work in football and rugby, then data and editorial will have to work much more actively together to be able to enhance the in-game experience and engage, and even, dare I say it, entertain the audience.

  1. Rob Oubridge
    5 February, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Neither second screen or argument settler for me at the moment – but some promise in both areas.

    I followed the England game on the app and then tried to find some interesting things in the data afterwards – I found it fairly shallow and static. I would say it took me less than 5 minutes to exhaust interest in it. I was expecting more from Opta as their stuff is usually first class and has a good ‘tone’ – there was no ‘voice’ here let alone ‘tone’.
    Compared to their twitter activity this was uninteresting – if Opta could get some of the genuinely entertaining commentary into an app like this I can really see it working, especially for non core, not clued up, fans (like me).

    There were some usability issues (‘user friction as you describe it) like not realising ‘pitch’ would be where the graphical data I could manipulate would be, and utterly failing to be able to get any England stats for some categories.. and that need to refresh all the time. But usability issues can be fixed.

    The more fundamental issue that this app struggles with, and may be the ‘big’ challenge for aspiring datatainers, is the incredibly short and small ‘interest value’ that each statshot gives (especially to a non-core fan like me)… which means that you really need an ocean of data to produce enduring engagement and some way of helping the user find points or areas of interest. Only when that is achieved can we hope to give the user tools to entertain themselves – and until that happens, the editorial need will remain. I agree also that without comparison tools only the aficionado will be interested beyond one look. It is perhaps inevitable then that early datatainment and second screen apps will need a lot of data journalism and bespoke data visualisation – a burden on their producers – as a necessary step on the road to creating savvy users.

    So for me the LiveRugby app needs much more data and many more ways of looking into it + the editorial layer, so I can learn how to enjoy it for longer. I hope they do it though, and credit to them for being pioneers.


  2. 6 February, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Hello everyone,

    I’m the developer of LiveRugby app so I’d like to clarify a couple of points and respond to this review, which I honestly consider very good feedback 🙂

    First of all, let me clarify one point: LiveRugby is *not* developed by Opta. I am a sole developer, and my relationship with Opta is that I’ve bought a *licence* to use their data feeds. In other words, I pay opta to use their data.

    Now, getting into the content of the review…

    1) Real use scenario is a bit in between the two: my idea for the app was that it would help rugby fans clarify how the game is going, or has gone, live or afterwards. Most of these information are available from tv after the game – my selling point is “get it during the game, if you want”. The app is mostly intended for *data* fanatics, not for the general audience.

    2) The refresh button: I will admit it, I don’t like it. That said, get any similar app on the market and no single one of them does a real “LIVE” update of info.

    Take as a benchmark StatsZone, a very similar app (and the one from which my concept was inspired): http://fourfourtwo.com/statszone/. There is a data reload every time you enter the view, but for subsequent refreshes you need to push the button. There is a very good reason to do so, and this emerged from my focus groups and pre-launch tests: there is a significant share of users that will start complaining “your app is eating my data allowance”. Which is possibly not true, but as a developer you want to avoid this kind of things. A possible alternative I’m studying is to have a on/off toggle. What would you think of it?

    3) Getting the info requires a number of clicks: 5. And that can’t be cut much unless you overcomplicate the UI as you will need at least to click on a single game (1 click), and on what kind of stats you want (1 click) = total 2 clicks. This would require all stats together (graphics and text). I would not agree to such a scenario, and would keep the number of clicks at least to 3, eliminating the selection of the competition (2012/2011, which might maybe make sense) and that on the Fixtures/Tables/… menu (which I would still like to have, as when games are not on users are indeed likely to check the league tables, for example).

    4a) Lack of editorial content…: the short answer is that this is not an app for providing curated content about the game, this is an app for mainly getting raw data.
    A bit of a longer comment is that I publish data from Opta as they are, including the commentaries. As a sole developer, I have no resources to provide editorial control over the data, and I’m not sure I would have the skills or, to be honest, the interest in doing so. The idea is that you can use the flow of data coming from the app to comment about the game yourself, not to get a passive comment generated from the author.

    It’s actually encouraging active engagement by letting the user share their analysis and screenshots of the pitch view using the share button. I would argue that’s not really a passive app, if you don’t want it to be.

    4b)…and lack of entertainment: this applies to 4a, too. You get that from TV. The app is not for providing entertainment or editorial control – it’s for augmenting your ability to agree or disagree with that of the usual providers of entertainment and editorial control.

    Given this, I think the app actually succeeds in enhancing my perception of the game. If I see Scotland being unable to get a try scored but keeping possession of the ball, as they did during the game with England, I can take the app, and see it from the stats: 483 metres run and 219 passes made, versus England’s 223 and 58. That tells you more about what you see. Which is, to me, the definition of *enhancement*.

    The critique to the “not being totally LIVE” is the one I agree more with, but I’m still thinking whether the average user would welcome a self-updating view or not.

    Rob, I’m sorry to disappoint but… the app is not intended for non-core fans 🙂
    It’s intended for fans with a big interest in data, and that is pretty explicit from the screenshots.
    That said, I take your point: it would be nice to have a more accurate and prompt commentary. This is not available from Opta data (they are not journalists, as I am not) and might make a great addition for an app managed by a full team, but it’s beyond my and Opta’s resources, I guess.

    Users buy the app mainly for the graphics: let’s be honest, the real USP of this app, apart from its ability of live statistics, is the way it displays the on-pitch info. I say this given users feedback and the previous launch of a similar app for the rugby world cup on android.

    Just one final point: this is a 69p app, developed by a sole developer who pays to get the data. As you can expect, making a profit out of this isn’t easy, and my goal is actually, as Rob suggests, to do something pioneering to gauge the interest of the public. It’s delusional to think that a 69p app, managed by a single person – who during the game needs to make sure that everything is working – has the resources to pay for a team of editors to add content that, presumably, most of the users will not read.

    If you want a benchmark, see how much FourFourTwo, a much bigger company than myself, charges for a single-competition subscription to their StatsZone app which brings you exactly the same kind of live content.

    Sorry if I sound bitter and harsh 🙂 I don’t mean to, and I actually enjoyed the review and Rob’s response as they helped me a lot focusing on strenghts and weaknesses of LiveRugby.

    That said, I have a couple of releases in the pipeline, so there might actually be something for you to expect not later than in v 1.3… 😉

  1. 3 October, 2012 at 1:38 pm

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