The World Cup is perhaps rivaled only by the Olympics in its ability to bring together the global community to celebrate athletic competition. Even Americans are choosing their alternates and are following along from home, local bars and restaurants, as well as from their mobile devices on the go. For broadcasters and cable providers, there was significant concern this wouldn’t be the case. Given that Americans don’t typically share the same enthusiasm for football (soccer) as their global counterparts, Team USA’s exclusion was worrisome for providers who had invested years and capital into building immersive, engaging experiences for the fans at home.
Several years ago, a team’s exclusion would indeed have signaled a lost investment for that country’s broadcaster. However, the technological landscape that providers are now navigating has changed. Today, providers of live sports can create entirely new types of experiences for fans that were simply unavailable during previous world cups. Statistics, rich context, exclusive interviews – Americans are finding a new interest in the World Cup because they’re able to connect to teams and players in a way that mirrors their experience with basketball, hockey, or whatever sport they prefer. For example, Brazilian star forward Neymar made his highly anticipated return to the World Cup pitch this year. With integrated statistics, historical analysis, and all the tools providers offer would-be data scientists, fans – regardless of location – can follow his journey and map his progress. For lovers of sports, it builds a truly compelling narrative.
On the global scale, 2018 has been an important year for broadcasters as they experiment with innovative technologies to create even deeper engagements between teams and fans. Earlier this year I discussed how the Winter Olympics was a prime opportunity to gauge consumer interest in virtual reality as a way to enhance the viewing experience. The World Cup is receiving the same treatment, with VR integrations available through iOS, Android, Oculus and Sony PlayStation VR. Through broadcaster applications, fans can enjoy pitch-side or box views, complete with expert commentary and a full live stats dashboard with real-time updates. We’re watching, in real-time, a new standard develop for how broadcasters provide unique value to fans.
While the tournament continues (go England!), this year’s World Cup is in many ways a perfect snapshot of the change in how fans and broadcasters are approaching live sports. Cross platform integrations, exclusive content and statistics, immersive virtual reality experiences – there is a new expectation that providers need to meet and exceed. Fans are ultimately driven by their passion, and by leveraging technology strategically, broadcasters can nurture that passion in incredible ways.