The MLU season is set to commence on April 20, and before it does, I decided to take a look at different ways the league has already tried to engage its fans. In marketing itself, the MLU has begun to adopt various aspects of other leagues in hopes of generating interest in its inaugural season. Live streams of play will be available throughout the season and there is even a fantasy app provided by Ultiapps that allows fans to create leagues and follow their chosen players throughout the season. Avid ultimate fans and spectators were excited about both of these products; here’s some of the feedback so far:
Preseason Game Footage
Fans that were unable to attend the Philadelphia Spinners vs. New York Rumble preseason game were able to watch it later on YouTube. There were a few issues about the footage. Unlike football, where a large portion of the action happens near or around the line of scrimmage, ultimate is a game where much of the action occurs down field, away from the disc. Offensive strategy and defense can usually be seen only when the whole field is in view. However, the MLU footage concentrated mostly on the disc and action surrounding the thrower and the mark. When play was initiated off a stopped disc, the camera captured the positions of all the players on the field, but once the play began, focus would quickly return to the disc. This is unavoidable; as the players spread out after play is initiated, the camera has a hard time keeping everyone in view. However, this meant that for most of the footage, the viewer was left with questions about movements down field of the disc. On many down-field throws, viewers questioned how the receiver managed to get open or what had caused the defense to be positioned wrongly, but couldn’t see where the cut was initiated or where the defense was lined up. Only at the times when all the action was near the endzone, and thus when the cutters were much closer to the handlers, did everyone fit into the view. In order to fix this problem, MLU needs a second camera that is able to see the whole field at once. This needs to be used on replays of hucks and other down field catches, replaying the initiation of the cut all the way through the catch. Otherwise, the footage will continue to be incomplete and less enticing for fans who want to see how the play developed.
MLU Fantasy App
A few days after watching the preseason game, an invitation to a friend’s MLU fantasy league on Ultiapps.com came across my email, and I quickly obliged. After first arriving at the site, it was found to be very unpolished – as if it was completed at the last minute. The site is optimized for the mobile experience, but in doing so it looks incomplete from a computer.
After initial sign up, the rules specified that each fantasy team owner must choose 7 players a week, of which three must be on offense and threeon defense. However, after selecting the roster, there was no place on the fantasy site where it listed whether players were O-line or D-line. Rather, it was up to the fantasy owners to visit team rosters to find this information. Providing this directly on the fantasy site should have been an easy task and would have made choosing players easier. Also, providing information about each player would have been a useful feature, since many of the players are not household names and therefore owners couldn’t find much information.
In addition, the selection process was quite cumbersome. For instance, when it was a fantasy owners’ turn to select a player, an email was sent out but the email did not provide a quick link to the roster selection page. While some might find this unnecessarily critical, issues like this made the app seem like it was unfinished. While the MLU-provided fantasy system is appreciated, one is left wishing they had spent more time on the product to increase its production quality.
MLU fans should be truly excited for what this season will bring. Some of the best ultimate players have been assembled on the 8 teams and the competition is poised to be fierce in both divisions. While what happens on the field will certainly be exciting and high quality, the MLU may be trying to provide too many services off the field, causing these services to all be unpolished. The game footage will most certainly improve as the league begins to understand what fans want to see. The announcers will also improve as they become more familiar with the game. However, I felt that the unfinished fantasy app reflected poorly on the league when it was released. Ultimate will always have a fan base that cherishes high level play, but the MLU needs to make sure that any product they endorse will be of the same quality as the action fans expect to see on the field. Otherwise, new fans gaining interest in the sport may quickly be turned off by what appears to be amateur quality production.
Feature Image by Brian Canniff (Ultiphotos.com)