This piece originally appeared in the SEAT/FC Business magazine at the recent Las Vegas conference
Sport is at the forefront of the ongoing digital revolution. That is one of the reasons the discussions at SEAT resonate across the entire media landscape. The conference is a melting pot for the undiscovered and up-and-coming. Here’s Steering Committee member Richard Clarke on his top trends in digital sports content for SEAT 2016
Live video, especially Facebook Live
This push started with Periscope and Meerkat however, as ever, Facebook has changed the game. The company’s drive towards uploaded video began in earnest in 2015 and, as a result, they doubled their views to eight million during that calendar year. However the introduction of Facebook Live has caused major acceleration.
Initially the concept was one person and phone-based, which made it eminently accessible. But teams are gradually professionalizing their production to take advantage of the potential viewership. Even for the less digitally sophisticated or moneyed organisations, live press conferences or Q&As are broadcastable to a large audience if you have a phone and steady hand. And the innovation will continue.
In June, Facebook announced two-person chats, great for sports teams that want to conduct remote interviews, and waiting rooms to help usher viewers towards scheduled broadcasts.
Disruption to traditional TV broadcasting
Of course, Facebook Live is one of the new digital platforms that is capable of shaking up traditional broadcasting. In June the Caribbean Premier League became the first sports competition to fully embrace the product by announcing that all of its 34 cricket matches would be broadcast on Facebook Live across 40 countries, including the key market – India.
In global terms, cricket is niche. However that move came just two months after Twitter had paid $10 million to stream 10 Thursday night NFL games. It was the company’s first major foray into sports broadcasting and was a welcome fillip given they beat off Verizon, Yahoo and Amazon in the bidding race.
The core TV sport products are entrenched but big players are offering up big money to nibble away at the edges.
The emergence of eSport – “It’s sport Jim but not as we know it”
All predictions suggest the market for online gaming competitions is about to explode. With new leagues, mainstream media coverage, new investment and growing sponsorship, a Newzoo report suggested the overall revenue will leap from $463m in 2016 to $1.1bn in 2019. That is inline with a predicted audience growth of 131m to 180m in the same period.
Amazon is a big component. It already owns Twitch, “gaming’s You Tube”, and has just launched its own league. Meanwhile soccer clubs such as West Ham and Wolfsburg have tried to exploit the youth market by signing eSports players to represent them in tournaments playing the game FIFA16.
VR – Now established but throwing up some problems
If Kevin Kelley says VR is here to stay then you best start devising a strategy. At SXSW in March, the ‘tech Yoda’ pronounced the state of the art was ripe for innovation. The questions are what, where and how… especially in sport.
Gaming is a given while it has obvious benefits in coaching. For example, NFL teams have been allowing their quarterbacks to run plays visually, without taking hits.
Content, however, is still TBD.
NBC has said VR will be a part of their Rio Olympics offering. However after the NBA showed a game with VR late last year, Techcrunch’s headline suggested “no one should sell off their season ticket yet” and a big plus was that the reporter “didn’t puke”.
Snapchat up, Instagram up. Twitter needs to respond
Snapchat is not just for kids. Figures from eMarketer predict that the social network will overtake Twitter’s US user base by the end of 2016. Bloomberg have reported that it has already achieved that milestone in terms of global active users.
Sports teams and athletes have innovated thanks to the proliferation of filters. It is a most vibrant social media platform out there right now and, though now spanning the generations, it has a firm focus from a young crowd. CEO Evan Spiegel has suggested that monetization be the aim follow the company’s upcoming IPO.
Instagram has gone from 300m users in December 2014 to 500m in June 16. Relative to its audience size it has the best engagement of the big platforms and its recent introduction of a Facebook-style algorithm has changed the game. For Real Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid, the three sports clubs with the largest social media footprint, Instagram is second to Facebook and is growing at between two and three times the rate of Twitter.
Speaking of the ailing bird, sport may well be its salvation after losing focus over the past few years. Despite ample threats, it is still seems to first place you thumb for live scores, on-the-spot opinion and in-game chit-chat. The question is what else could it offer if others swipe away that mantle.
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