Bigger, faster, stronger…if there’s one constant in sports it’s that with each year, the production and business of sports gets more lucrative, more intense, more exciting, more more more! As Director of our Sports segment here at Level 3, I’ve outlined five things I think we’ll see more of across sports in 2012.
1) More high tech “in-stadium” gadgets and services
I think this is the year you are going to start to see upgrades, and I mean big ones! Stadiums get that they are now competing not just with other sports but with their own content too. And you need big pipes if you are going to provide the kind of multi-tasking, ADD’ish, multi-platform, all HD, consumer experience from the box seat that customers are now coming to expect. If they can be sitting at home in front of their TV, with an iPad and iPhone, getting three different experiences on the same game…they are going to want to do it at the stadium too, or they won’t bother driving to the game. (Tailgating and getting beat up just aren’t enticing enough to waste the money on gas!)
Just think of the possibilities: Twitter feeds on seat backs; 3D cameras on NFL player helmets so the fan can REALLY feel the hit, the ability to order your favorite beer and brat without leaving your seat… Oh, and did I mention the seat is heated and cooled for that extra layer of comfort? Just a few crazy ideas that have been discussed out there, and that’s just the start!
2) More eyeballs than ever before for the London Olympic Games
Okay, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict this one, but I’m going to take a specific guess of over 1 billion streams, compared with the 680 million or so that happened during Beijing. And since we now know that online does not cannibalize TV broadcast, but in fact enhances it (according to Global TTV and Online Media Report statistics), I’m also going to hazard a guess that the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) will break their previous records of over 5000 hours of HD content to the rights-holding broadcast partners, which will result in well over 80,000 of dedicated Olympic broadcast coverage around the world. So, suffice it to say, we will all be sick of the 5 rings by fall and begging for some real sportsmanlike content… just in time for the US Presidential election coverage
3) Mo’ money, mo’ problems for owners AND viewers
The rising costs of sports programming (ie. NBC bid of $4.4 billion for Olympic TV rights to 2020, Fox spent $500 million for 2018 and 2022 World Cup) will mean that the content owners are going to have to sell more advertising and increase viewership for all their sports programming. Combine that with the pressure of online programming (does it help or hurt traditional broadcast and can your advertisers get both spots?) and you have an environment ripe for increased subscription fees across the board. If you thought 8 commercials between breaks was too long, just wait…
And speaking of money – if you have to pay $250 million for just one player, guess what that means to the price of a ball team? Investors are going to expect some big returns in the upcoming seasons; especially with all of the ‘negotiating’ that almost derailed two Major League seasons in 2011. I see Regional Sports Networks’, online and radio rights becoming big topics of discussion in the coming year for all the major teams, but particularly baseball. And that’s not all – corporate sponsorships are going to be big, I mean REALLY BIG. The Leagues have started to realize that the consumer isn’t going to pay all bills….
4) More women playing, watching and spending on sports
I think we’re going to see some big names making some big strategic plays here. Women love sports (hello, author is a case in point!) and they are a ‘yet untapped’ source of revenue for the big broadcasters. ESPN has started to see the light – ESPNW has been a quiet, but very well received launch, and I anticipate there will be more to follow. Who knows what kind of trends we’ll start seeing out there – maybe we will even see an UFCW (Ultimate Fighting for Women) – I mean if it works in wrestling…or NOT!
But in all seriousness, women are taking a major role (and fan interest) in some of the sports previously thought of as traditionally male – take NASCAR and Danica Patrick for example. I think you are going to see a huge advertising swing in this direction, as the broadcasters try to expand their audience and content owners look for new ways to bump revenues. The question on everyone’s minds will be “Do women watch sports differently than men, or do they watch different sports than men”? Probably a bit of both is true.
5) More personalized fan experiences with the help of big data
This is going to become a CRUCIAL element to success for a lot of sports content producers/ owners. The name of the game in 2012 is going to be how well you know your audience, and how long you can keep their attention, on whatever device, to your content. But how you go about doing that is where the big questions are. Recall the ongoing controversy with the various search engines and content providers and how much of your online experience they track – would you feel differently if it were your favorite sports team doing the tracking? How about the league? If the Denver Broncos could determine, via data mining, that their fans preferred Fat Tire beer to Bud Lite (DUH!), they would be able to focus their advertising dollars and spend less to get more. But would that be any less intrusive than a search engine taking that same fan’s apparent interest in the ‘Tebow Effect’ to mean they would like to get a free one week subscription to ChristianMingle.com? Things that make you go hmmn…:)
So what do you think? Does any of this sound more appealing to you as sports fans? What are some things not listed that you’d like to see more of in sports this year – whether it’s from your couch, your laptop or season ticket?