Bleacher Report (B/R) is a leading sports media brand reaching more than 175 million hyper-connected young sports fans each month through distribution of premium content. It is the #1 sports brand driving engagement and video views across all social platforms and the Bleacher Report app, while fueling offline engagement through unparalleled experiences that blend sports with culture. B/R sits within Warner Bros. Discovery, and is the digital arm of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports (WBD Sports), which fuels sports programming across TNT and TBS.
At Co:Create, we love to partner with community centric brands that are deeply focused on driving engagement and community involvement. Bleacher Report has been an early partner of Co:Create that recently launched a new program called B/R W2E (Watch to Earn), an exciting loyalty program that levels up the viewing experience through real-time gamification and rewards. Underneath the hood, these rewards models are powered by web3 technology and made possible by using smart contracts to create and distribute native tokens that can be earned, traded, and redeemed for various rewards.
🚀 Co:Create sat down with Matt McElroy, Sr. Director of Growth & Innovation and Digital League Streaming at Warner Brother Discovery Sports, to discuss how he’s integrating web3 assets like NFTs and tokens into programming for Bleacher Report and other WBD Sports media properties.
As someone at the helm of one of the first tokenized community activations from a leading sports media brand, Matt shared exclusive insights on how his team is using web3 to serve sports fans and level up audience engagement. Let’s dive in. 👀
🏆 Changing media landscape 🏆
To kick off the conversation, Matt explains the origin of WBD Sports’ interest in web3 technology,
“It’s always about potential new revenue streams. But more so, it’s about figuring out how to continue to engage our fans. How do we future proof our business? How do we make sure that we’re able to meet fans where they are and provide them with a rich experience they can’t find elsewhere? Web3 is a very unique way of giving fans more; more ownership and more skin in the game for something they already cared deeply about.”
In today’s rapidly evolving media landscape, brands are constantly seeking innovative ways to engage their audience and foster a deeper sense of community. Traditional marketing efforts have become stale and one-directional, failing to capture the attention of today’s tech-savvy consumers. Users want more from the brands they associate with.
Consumers are inundated with advertising messages and have plenty of options. How we earn consumer spend is evolving and brands are investing in a more personalized and community-centric approach to build loyalty. Creating symbiotic value between a brand and its consumers helps to establish a more authentic rapport and drives continued engagement beyond the purchase.
“It’s in our DNA to be more innovative, cutting edge. It’s not copy and paste. We try to think differently, think outside the box,” says Matt.
🤝 Community first > Customer first 🤝
“We were one of the first sports programs to put Twitter on air during our TNT programming for the NBA It’s always been very important for us to have a two-way conversation with fans. Sports fans lean in in a way that a lot of other fans don’t. It’s always made the content and programming more interesting by getting fans’ voices into the show. B/R Watch to Earn is an evolution of that,” Matt shares.
B/R Watch to Earn allows brands to reward and engage the most loyal fans. This community-centric approach means giving the audience something to do, which is why gamifiying the viewing experience has become such a fun trend. By watching and competing in trivia surrounding its iconic studio shows, viewers are rewarded for what was previously a passive activity. B/R Watch to Earn is an upgrade to the ways we consume, interact with, and monetize content. When these programs are built on web3, brands give their most loyal fans the opportunity to earn and own their rewards, while offering new value for advertisers and unlocking new onchain insights about audience behavior.
“This is where loyalty and rewards comes into play — rewarding your most loyal consumers with access to things that the casual consumers haven’t unlocked yet,” said Matt.
🏀 Watch to Earn steps into prime time 🏀
Bleacher Report has one of the most innovative sports content engines in the market. It also happens to have an incredibly engaged community. To leverage this community and build bridges toward the more traditional linear viewer of TNT programming, WBD Sports rolled out W2E, which features three tiers of trivia games where fans can earn tokens proportionate to their number of correct answers.
Matt explains the three tiers that compose of their W2E program:
🕹️ Always On: “There’s three tiers of trivia games. First is an Always On game. Kind of like Wordle, it’s like your daily, like single question, low token value, daily check-in game.”
🎮 Scheduled: “There’s a scheduled game at 7:30 that’s for our Discord community, but anybody can join.”
🎯 Integrated: “Then there’s a third tier, which is integrated into our linear studio shows via a QR code where trivia goes live. After you engage in trivia and depending on how many questions you get, right, you earn VR tokens. And then that VR token, it’s kinda like going to an arcade.”
After tokens are redeemed, “they can be used in our marketplace for a mix of both digital and physical prizes. We currently have a mix of digital collectibles as well as physical prizes such as swag and props from the show and the hope is that every Thursday we’re cycling through different things and offering new rewards.
With three tiers of trivia games, B/R W2E is a leading example of the importance of creating rewarding experiences for different types of audiences, and allowing them to game their way to the top. Earned tokens can then be used to unlock premium content, access exclusive events, or be used in the Bleacher Report marketplace.
💰Bringing web3 technology to the masses through Watch to Earn 💰
When building the W2E program, Matt shares important considerations for building a consumer friendly product with web3 technology:
“First and foremost, we knew we’d be marketing this to a linear audience. We’re going after the mainstream consumer who knows nothing about NFTs and wallets, so we made a bunch of very critical design choices in terms of the language we use and the user flow and technologies. It was very important that from a user experience standpoint to make onboarding process easy. 95% of our consumers have never had a wallet, so we made the sign up simple — you put in an email and you hit verify in the email that gets sent to you and you’re done.”
B/R W2E doesn’t cut corners when instilling the importance of web3 fundamentals, “We don’t shy away from the fact that it’s a wallet”. But when explaining the initiative, they intentionally used the term ‘digital collectibles’ instead of ‘NFTs’. “I think one of the big benefits that we’ve had is that we’ve been building in this space since 2019. We’ve moved chains, we’ve tried different wallets, and we’ve started to learn what works and doesn’t.”
🔮 The Future of Content & Community Engagement 🔮
The B/R Watch to Earn model has the potential to reshape the entire content landscape as we know it. By incentivizing engagement, brands are able to create more interactive and immersive experiences for their communities, while also providing content partners and advertisers with the tools they need to succeed in the digital age. Media brands like WBD Sports are at the forefront of this trend, and are using web3 tools to foster a vibrant and involved community through rewards and ownership. The proof is in the pudding.
The proof is in the pudding — and as of June 2023, real stats like what you can read below:
Since the program’s tipoff 😉🏀 back in February, over 2,100,000 on-chain points (B/R tokens) have been claimed, with over 1,000 collectibles redeemed.
4,367 players joined the largest W2E trivia event (Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals), with over 4,000 players joining the second-largest trivia event during April’s NBA Play-In Tournament.
And that’s far from all of the points on the board…
- On average, more than 80% of users are completing gameplay week-over-week (i.e., completing all trivia questions).
- More than 20% of players return week-over-week to play.
- In May 2023, 35% of weekly game players who came directly to the B/R website from watching the live programming created accounts and claimed their tokens. For the Discord community, the account conversion increases to 65%.
- After Co:Create’s case study and social promotion of the watch-to-earn program, individuals who played the trivia game increased by 85% WoW for the Discord audience.
B/R Watch to Earn is one of the many ways Co:Create is fueling community-centric brands. Curious? Check out Co:Create’s API and start experimenting for yourself (the fans will thank you).