DANIA BEACH, Fla. – Walking through the offices and studios of VISTA Worldlink, the worldwide organization the United Soccer League partnered with last year to create USL Productions, the scope of possibility the multimedia company brings to the league quickly becomes apparent.
Certainly, for USL Chief Revenue Officer Tom Veit – the person overseeing what is set to be a game-changing initiative for the league – VISTA’s depth of experience and technical ingenuity are at the heart of what is now possible for the USL.
“We couldn’t have done this in any way, shape or form five years ago. Nobody could have. The technology wasn’t there,” said Veit. “This is a major undertaking, to bring together 30 teams on a new platform for the first time is a monumental undertaking, and I don’t know if it’s ever even been done before.”
Founded in 1988 by Roy Liemer, who remains the organization’s CEO to this day, VISTA is at the forefront of video production as it enters its 30th year. It is no stranger to soccer, having held partnerships with Major League Soccer for more than 15 years, and CONCACAF for more than a decade, providing the services both organizations have needed to thrive.
With the innovative approach being taken in the full rollout of USL Productions, however, Liemer is eager for what the upcoming year holds for the two organizations.
“It’s really very exciting, and I find it a lot more exciting than Major League Soccer or CONCACAF,” Liemer said. “Those are great organizations, but the USL is doing things in a very creative, very enlightening way that will almost leapfrog current traditional production and transmission techniques. That’s what’s very exciting.”
“What makes it [special] is that both VISTA and the USL have a thirst to be on the cutting edge and to develop new technologies,” added Veit. “We have the content, we have the product, they have the technology and the wherewithal to put it together, so it’s the perfect partnership.”
VISTA’s capability is also in the process of expanding, with a major increase in production and announcing booths being constructed. Completion of the process is set for early March, well ahead of the start of the 2017 USL season, and will allow the capacity for every game to be produced within the facility.
Plans are also in place for a direct link between the production studios and the USL’s offices in Tampa for direct transmission connectivity between the two organizations, something that will be key as the relationship between the two organizations grows throughout the year.
“It’s extremely important on many different levels,” said Liemer of the direct connectivity with USL. “It’s one-to-one direct communication between the facility and the user. VISTA provides a unique service because we provide software as a service. We’re selling to service, so they don’t have to go out and throw in all the capital. VISTA has done it, and we become an extension of them. We are creating situations and connectivity whereby we become an extension of their own organization.”
And what the USL wants is to bring the game to its fans wherever, and however, they want to find it. With plans for expanded programming outside the 495 live regular season and postseason games, the partnership will bring a wider variety of content on the league’s established platforms.
“The soccer fan today is very educated and very knowledgeable in new technology, so we’re delivering what they want in a format that they want,” said Veit. “What’s great about our strategy is it’s not a singular strategy. Obviously digital, the web, social media is the wave of the future, it is growing, so we’re in that space. But last time I checked, they haven’t stopped selling big-screen TVs yet. Even though a young fan will love to be running to the grocery store watching the game on their smartphone, when they’re at home in the easy chair, they’re watching the big box, so we’re going to be there too. Our goal is to provide our content everywhere someone wants to see it.”
As educated as the North American soccer fan is, too, the expectation of quality is at the top of the list when it comes to viewing that content. Given VISTA’s experience with MLS and CONCACAF, and the production staff within the organization, Liemer believes USL fans have a lot to look forward to.
“The people who work here understand soccer very well,” said Liemer. “It’s not new or unique to the people who either play it, or watch it, or live, eat and breathe it. Some of the passion for the sport is coincidence, some of it is not, but this operation could not be who we are or how we are without the really good people that work for VISTA. I’m more proud of them than I am of the facility.”
With the new season now less than two months from kickoff, the goal for USL Productions’ first full year have also been set.
“Our goal is that every broadcast and every game will get better,” said Veit. “We want to come out of the box with a very good product, and we want to be able to expand on that as time goes on. Our goal at the end of the season is that our supporters, our fans, our consumers look back and are satisfied with what they’ve got, and hopefully excited about it.”