Engaging A New Generation Of Sports Fans

By Tom Sahara, Vp Operations & Technology, Turner Sports

Tom Sahara, Vp Operations & Technology, Turner SportsSports fans are a highly coveted audience due to their passion, often spending lavishly, flaunting their team affinity. There are many more viewing options for eager sports fans today than just a few years ago. TV broadcast, while still the top of viewing experiences with its premium production, is giving way to over-the-top (OTT) and social video platforms that offer targeted alternate content. Emerging technologies such as virtual reality are extending the viewing experience beyondthe edges ofthe flat screen TV.

Changing viewer habits and expectations

A generation ago, the TV viewing audience was trained in “appointment TV” where viewers factored the date and time of their favorite programs into their daily activities. In 2010, the improved data bandwidth of 4G LTE unleashed the “mobile web” giving way to streaming apps.

Viewers expect apps to know who they are, what they like, and to receive offers of things that may interest them. Data retained by these apps serve as content filters tailoring the delivery of content and advertisements to each individual user. TV, streaming and advertising producers must tailor their offerings to the wants and desires of their target audience.

Data driven experiences

Data of viewing history, favorite teams and players, and other preferences can be used to algorithmically filter content to what aligns with their past browsing behavior and predict what they might want next.

In addition, intelligent platforms must automatically select the proper connection speed and device features, providing the viewer with a seamless experience regardless of the varying signal strength, while switching between Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers as they travel about.

Growing concerns regarding privacy and the roll out of general data protection regulations (GDPR) restricts the collection and retention of personal information which limits the targeting of individual viewers.

This has a direct effect upon the monetization of the viewing audience. Digital subscriber data is increasingly available but the lack of industry standards for measurement and reporting has hindered the monetization growth.

Betting

With the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), several states have opened wagering on sporting events. Sports have always been a favorite subject of betting and as the betting community grows, the demands to monitor their wagers drives further consumption.

As each state crafts its betting regulations, the collection and compliance of wagering data and related content will become increasingly complex. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be necessary to efficiently manage the aggregation, analysis and retention of this data. Latency creates opportunities to cheat and additional security is necessary to prevent intrusion and denial-of-service attacks from delaying or corrupting the data or delivery.

Immersive content

Many avid sports fans have been to games and love the excitement of being there. Improvements in virtual reality (VR), primarily driven by the Oculus Go and Magic Leap headsets, enable fans toenjoy the in-venue experience, wherever they are.

Looking around within the V3R window gives the viewer a feeling of control over the experience that TV lacks. The addition of immersive audio and social integrations like live chat increases their engagement.

Esports

The rise of esports is driven by the popularity of new games such as Fortnite and Apex Legend, and established titles like League of Legends and Counter Strike. The primary viewing outlet is Twitch, a video streaming site catering to esports.

Traditional broadcasters have a significant challenge engaging both dedicated game enthusiasts as well as the casual fan. The game play does not easily fit into the “commercial format” of broadcast television and demands new forms of advertising that fit into the way the games are played.

Another significant hurdle is how to show the player screen in multiplayer games. The screen is cluttered and fastpaced making it impossible for a casual viewer to understand what they are watching. Producers must engage with game publishers to develop “observer views” that make it easier for the viewer to understand what is going on.

Data analytics, betting and enhanced reality (XR) experiences also apply to esports and gamers can be selectively targeted by game, team, country, genre, and other factors, providing advertisers with a customized audience for their products and services.

Summary

Sports fans are a highly prized audience but the trials of keeping them engaged demands close attention to their needs and desires. Seamless video viewing, without buffering and commercial interruptions, are both technical and economic challenges. Data collection and analysis is the key to understanding the viewer and creating a personalized “virtual channels” based upon that individual’s preferences and behaviors.

Social platforms attracts casual fans, but enthusiasts demand deeper, authentic, narrowly focused content, they need to know things that the public doesn’t. Sports fans are the holy grail of viewers, they are dedicated to their team, search out content, and spend significantly more to show their affinity.

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