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The Evolution of the Traditional Sports Fanbase

The Evolution of the Traditional Sports Fanbase

 August 2020

In a recent special feature in CSI, Goran Nastic advises the broadcast industry not to “waste a crisis”, pointing towards the numerous ways in which “media companies have used the last few months as not just a period of reflection, but a chance to accelerate a wave of innovation”. Speaking to Accedo’s Luke Gaydon, Business Development Sports, Nastic outlines the potentially revolutionizing outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic and what these could mean for the sports broadcasting industry in the long-term.

Getting people back into stadiums is important from a financial point of view as it generates significant revenue, but for the time being, sports broadcast needs to find ways to create an engaging atmosphere for virtual events. For those savvy enough to take it, the industry has been bestowed an opportunity to revolutionize the way viewers digest sports broadcasting for good. Whilst some companies are trying to mimic a real-life crowd, others have conceded that this simply isn’t the answer and have headed off in other directions to engage with viewers.

In the article, Luke Gaydon highlights that “there are some ambitious initiatives emerging that enable social watching from virtual sitting rooms, essentially a private video conference across different living rooms”. This allows viewers to share their viewing experience with those they may have previously gone to stadiums (or pubs) with, bringing back the social aspect of matchday we have all been missing over the past six months.

Luke also alludes to augmented reality and how it could be a game-changer for the sport broadcasting industry. He points out how “AR could potentially add a great deal, delivering things that are relevant and additive to the game being played to fill the gap where there are empty seats”. The prospect of such immersive media being deployed in a sports setting is something being looked into by several players at the moment. The article cites Melissa Lawton, who is in charge of Live Sports Production at Facebook. Excitingly, she refers to the Oculus Venue App “which offers a virtual stadium seating experience, where avatars can sit, talk and wave to friends”.

The article also shares insightful views on the changing role of video streaming platforms, the core takeaway being that smaller sports leagues could be particularly wise to focus even more on OTT models in order to enable their fans to access as much content as possible. The door may be open for someone to take the mantle as the new “Netflix of Sport”.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, and the cancelation of many sports events that followed, many content providers have had to rely heavily on their archives in order to quench the public’s thirst for sports. Luke notes that there have been “creative examples of sports figures training at home and doing tricks in their back gardens, essentially tapping into the popularity of individual players”. 

The fact that sports stars and teams have huge global followings is nothing new, but the pressure put on the sport industry during Covid-19 has further amplified their popularity. It has also driven both teams and individual players to come up with more direct ways to make a positive impact on their fans’ everyday lives. This phenomenon is perfectly described by Luke in CSI:

“Something very positive has emerged. Sports clubs and federations are doing things to support local communities and businesses, such as blood drives and cake sales, or creating videos of athletes showing the public how to wash hands. Tottenham Hotspurs’ new stadium was used as a maternity day unit to free local NHS resources. The Chicago Cubs turned Wrigley Field into a food pantry. I would like to think that this activism will continue, with a focus on sports clubs and business becoming a hub for the local community”.

Sports is a significant part of most (if not all) cultures so it is easy to understand why the majority of us are eager to get live leagues and tournaments back on our screens. With this eagerness, however, comes the most-almighty scheduling pile-up for sports broadcasters to deal with in 2021. More than 1,000 sports events have been either canceled, postponed, or rescheduled over the past few months and many of these will now need to be slotted back into the calendar.

What is clear is that digital media plays a critical role in various forms of virtual sports experiences, which has led to a real focus on innovation across the industry. This is likely to continue as we eventually return to stadium seats across the globe and that is, of course, a good thing.

Read the full article in CSI.


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