For decades, TV guides were the bible of cable content. Families would plan their entire schedules around particular programs – a phenomenon which became known as “appointment television.” In today’s digital landscape, streaming services, on-demand content and recording technology have largely rendered appointment television obsolete – with one exception, sports. Fans want to watch games played live, in real-time, because it’s just not the same to watch the winning goal on a time delay. Beyond the real-time nature, there’s also the shared experience of being a sports fan that brings family, friends and sometimes even complete strangers, together for some team bonding.
For broadcasters and programming providers looking to become (or remain) the go-to destination for sports fans, there’s an up-to-the-minute need to be hyper-cognizant of what consumers want from their viewing experience and to closely monitor emerging trends to keep fans engaged.
There are several major trends will shape how fans consume sports in the future. Here’s a look at three of them.
Fans Are Taking Content On The Go
Mass adoption of mobile devices means that fans are no longer confined to the home or local sports bar to watch their favorite teams – or even multiple games at once for that matter. Mobile devices can serve as the primary screen or augment a viewing experience. Case in point, sports leagues and networks have embraced companion mobile apps, and in many ways, sports are tailor made for these tangential experiences. Through a mobile interface, fans have access to an abundance of overlays, stats and scores that make the broadcast even more informative while watching on-the-go.
Just as important is how mobile is replicating the communal experience of sports in a digital setting. Through the rise of social platforms, fans can engage with each other on an entirely new scale while watching live. With channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, those fans can share their reactions and commentary with a much wider audience – just as if they were in a sports bar. The mobile device is increasingly becoming where the touchstones of sports viewing meet: viewing (streaming), community (social media) and supplementary stats and information (on screen data dashboards).
One Size Does Not Fit All
It is right there in the name – fan, which is short for fanatic. Sports fans are fervently loyal to their teams. In fact, their passion for their teams often translates into a ferocious appetite for content tailored specifically to their interests. A New York Giants junkie is much less likely to consider watching a game featuring the New England Patriots. But fans don’t just want to be able to watch their favorite teams – players should receive the same treatment. They want to know who just scored, what their record is for the season, and how the performance compares historically.
So, how can broadcasters deliver these interactive customized experiences? That customization begins with a deep understanding of the viewer (fan) as an individual and putting them in charge of their live sports package. Through the bevvy of devices at the viewers disposal (STB, remote, app), that fan should have the ability to curate their own content – putting them in the seat of the broadcaster.
There’s a reason courtside or box seats are the most coveted of vantage points when in a stadium, well outside of the see and be seen aspect. Fans wants to have the perfect point of view to experience the game. Through OTT (Over-the-Top) offerings, service providers are finding new ways to replicate this from the comfort of home. Virtual reality in particular is bridging the traditional viewing experience (both at the venue and at home) with the digital augmentations we’re seeing in market today.
While it is still being perfected, virtual reality is creating an entirely new form of storytelling. It adds an active element to consumption – rather than sitting and watching a game, fans can interact with the interface in real-time curating the experience as they see fit. The Golden State Warriors basketball franchise were among the first to embrace the viewing vantagepoint opportunity. The franchise put virtual reality cameras in one courtside seat, enabling them to sell a “season ticket” many times over to multiple fans, creating a new source of revenue for the organization while offering a premium experience to diehard fans.
High Optimism for Sports Consumption
It is a truly transformative time for content consumption. Shifting consumer expectations and emerging tools are giving way to a level of storytelling never before experienced. The bar has never been higher, and content providers are proving quickly that they’re willing to step up to the plate. Through the right use of technology, that strategically aligns with shifting viewer expectations, broadcasters can build a new standard of excellence.