The sports media landscape is in the midst of an exciting transformation. One where fans are no longer passive spectators but active participants, demanding a more immersive and personalized experience when it comes to consuming sports content.
This evolution also impacts the nature of fandom itself. Fan-player relationships are now forged beyond the game, and are accentuated via social media, digital collectibles, fashion, and more. Geographic location is no longer a reason to follow a specific team, as technology has made fandom universal.
As a result, industry leaders need to be not just reactive, but proactive, in staying ahead of trends and continually evolving to meet the needs of the modern-day sports fan.
At WSC Sports, we’re able to witness firsthand how top sports executives navigate the evolving terrain of sports media — embracing transformative shifts in content formats, personalization, live viewing, and emerging technologies — decisively molding the future of sports content for the next generation.
Now, let’s pull back the curtain and break down some of these game-changing insights.
Adapting to New Consumption Habits
Once thought that social media would overtake viewership of live events on traditional, linear television, data has shown that the two often work in harmony. Short-form highlights and long-form recaps fulfill the needs and consumption preferences of fans across a variety of demographics, ensuring that rights holders are covering all their bases when it comes to the way that fans want to consume content. In addition, they’re also increasing fans’ awareness of live games.
TikTok and Instagram have quenched a relentless thirst for short-form content, and are now a go-to destination to engage younger fans scrolling for entertainment. The challenge falls to the teams, networks, and rights holders to meet their expectations, and provide quality content to generate interest in their respective brands.
Central to the challenge is the ability to quickly capture, edit, and distribute content (in as close to real time as possible) to maximize interest and engagement. To facilitate this strategy, rights holders need to have the tools in place to feed a myriad of different platforms—namely a centralized repository to quickly find content, and an editing/production system that is able to publish to multiple content platforms.
Redefining Content Personalization
Modern fans don’t want to watch generic random highlights and videos; they’ve become accustomed to personalized content that caters to their specific interests, including videos of their favorite teams and players—or off-court interests like fashion, sneakers, and behind-the-scenes footage.
As the worlds of sports media and entertainment converge, the concept of personalization is expanding beyond game recaps and highlights. In the industry, much has been said about the future of sports broadcasting and the content that’s created from it. Some of the biggest leagues in the world have started exploring augmented reality and the metaverse, and the better technology gets, the more opportunities there are for innovation. Imagine a sports broadcast summary curated by AI-generated avatars. A Monday morning mini-broadcast that summarizes your fantasy team’s performance, or a highlight-filled recap tailored to your betting history. This level of personalization not only enhances the fan experience, but also showcases the potential for advanced technologies to revolutionize how fans consume and engage with their favorite sports organizations.
In one real-world example, YouTube TV implemented a feature that recommends content to users based on their preferences, and then offers a handful of options to users that allows them to customize the way they navigate through the platform. This marks an important shift from passive viewing environments to interactive content experiences, giving audiences the power to actively shape their own user journey.
True personalization goes beyond deciding what content to watch, it’s about handing fans the reins and asking, “How do you want to watch this? Do you want to watch from the beginning, catch the key plays on your phone, or watch live on your iPad?”
Enhancing the Live Viewing Experience
Exceptional video quality is the cornerstone of a premium live-viewing experience. Fans expect high-quality video and buffer-free streams. Latency and lag are the quickest way to lose viewers. To meet fans’ expectations when it comes to quality, YouTube TV has put an emphasis on providing a more visually immersive experience by expanding its 4K resolution content.
Similarly, in the past few years the NHL has made strides to enhance their live viewing experience by installing an array of 8K cameras, equipped with advanced features like iso-cam and crop zoom functionalities to give fans a unique perspective during games.
Every NHL stadium is equipped with 14 to 16 infrared cameras that track player movements and statistics. An invaluable asset that gives fans and coaches deeper insight into the game, while also providing value to referees—-who can now rely on the tech to assist them in making calls that are difficult to decipher by the human eye alone.
Here’s a taste of what Cosm can do, but no 2D screen can relay the wow factor of the full experience pic.twitter.com/KNDIM0WNXX
— Joe Lemire (@LemireJoe) February 17, 2023
As the demand for personalized live content grows, viewers may soon be able to customize their live sports experience by selecting preferred camera angles, audio inputs, and graphical overlays. Moreover, organizations are poised to enhance the in-person sports experience by providing high-quality real-time content directly to fans’ mobile devices within stadiums.
Embracing Innovation and Risk
Innovation and risk go hand in hand, and leaders must embrace both to unlock the full potential of the digital age. The willingness to invest, test and tinker with new technologies—without the impatient need to see quick results—allows companies to adapt to the evolving needs of their fans and stay ahead of the competition. Whether it’s exploring new content mediums, venturing into digital environments, or revolutionizing how a sport is played, calculated risks are essential for success.
The above insights are themes and commentary sourced from the Sports Content Kings Podcast, which features top executives from the sports and entertainment industries. To learn more about how rights holders are embracing technology to provide better coverage and entertainment for fans, tune in to the seventh episode of Sports Content Kings, featuring Jeff Gerttula, Executive Vice President of Digital at CBS Sports.