Game on! News Limited ignites football on second screens

Sydney, Australia – 27 August, 2013 – Today, Microsoft announced that News Limited has developed ‘SuperFooty Live HQ’, a sophisticated web-based application, running on the Windows Azure cloud, which delivers a compelling second screen experience, for its premium Australian Rules Football (AFL) fan subscribers. The SuperFooty Live HQ application provides rich media content, including video, images and data visualisation, to football fans in real time via web browsers on their smartphones, tablets, desktops and TVs.

News Limited’s AFL application launched in 2011 and had to support over 60,000 concurrent Herald Sun sports fans. Today, up to 80,000 people use the system at any one time. With fierce competition for audience share and no rights to live match footage, it was vital the app provided an exciting and personalised live experience on a wide range of devices with real-time match data as the game unfolds.

“Establishing a new revenue stream directly with consumers has been incredibly encouraging for us,” said Finn Bradshaw, National Digital Sports Editor – News Ltd & FoxSports. “The SuperFooty Live App is reaching masses of fans across the company so it was essential that when we were selecting a platform we needed a proven and stable platform that could expand quickly at peak times but remained cost effective.”

Working closely with Microsoft partner Object Consulting, News Limited considered various cloud platforms in the market. The company chose Windows Azure because of its reliability, scalability and highly automated management features that help to minimise risk and cost. In addition, automatic scaling ensures costs remain low during off-peak times while giving complete flexibility to scale up quickly before and during a match.

The powerful cloud-based infrastructure has enabled SuperFooty Live HQ to cater to more than one million sessions in each league round. During game time, the application scales up to support 80,000 simultaneous users, with comprehensive failover ensuring high stability and a superb experience whether fans are on the couch, at the ground or out and about.

“At News Limited, we’re very audience focused, and we knew that getting real-time data to a large audience quickly was key. Working with Object Consulting we were able to get up and running within eight months in time for the start of the AFL season,” said Bradshaw.

The Microsoft cloud also enables the SuperFooty Live HQ App to support personalisation, user interaction and near real-time data feeds which has boosted fan engagement and increased Herald Sun subscriber numbers. “SuperFooty recognises you’re a subscriber and your preferences and gives you data relevant to that – there’s nothing else in Australia like this,” said Bradshaw.

Attracting paid subscribers at A$2.75 a week, SuperFooty Live HQ has seen strong traffic with 160 million page impressions across the 2012 season, up 400% from the previous year and paving the way for new advertising revenues. “We’ve never shut areas off to non-subscribers before so we’re delighted at how many people are willing to pay for quality content,” said Bradshaw. With Windows Azure providing a cost-effective foundation, News Limited now has a viable model for monetising premium content globally.

“Utilising the power of the Windows Azure platform, Object built a massively scalable, near-real time web application to provide a unique online AFL offering encompassing long-awaited and highly-demanded feature sets, such as live SuperCoach scores. Features now available in the platform, but custom developed by Object at the time, such as automatic scaling and System Centre monitoring, allow us to keep costs to a minimum during off-peak time for HWT and to scale up quickly before and during AFL matches,” said Kevin Francis, National Microsoft Practice Manager at Object Consulting.

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