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Extrapolating the future of sports: Why immersive experience will be the game changer

Extrapolating the future of sports: Why immersive experience will be the game changer
October 14, 2021

The sports media landscape is witnessing a radical transformation. Innovative technology is offering the industry endless opportunities to engage fans with customized and immersive experiences.

The sports technology market is forecast to reach $31.1 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 20.63% between 2018 and 2024. This market growth is fueled by an increase in the number of live sporting events, improvements in fan experience and the need for data-driven decision-making.

The sports technology market is forecast to reach $31.1 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 20.63% between 2018 and 2024.

As the world of sports returns to normal with numerous safety guidelines, sports broadcasters will need to reimagine sporting experiences, covering aspects like fan engagement, broadcasting innovations and personalized merchandising.

Fans: The Heart of Sports

Immersive fan experiences have always been paramount to the success of sporting events. Today, broadcasters have smart network infrastructures and production technologies at their disposal. This has enabled them to catalyze a new age of experience transformation for fans and revolutionize how they virtually engage with sporting events in real time. On the other end of the spectrum, next-gen streaming technology has made seamless high-quality content consumption easier than ever before.

Consider the case of the Bundesliga, the German soccer association that became the first European domestic league to resume games after the Covid-19-induced hiatus. Its primary challenge was providing the same level of immersive experience to the fans as an in-stadium experience. It partnered with AWS to launch "Bundesliga Match Facts," supplying additional game statistics by analyzing live game video feeds leveraging cloud services, machine learning and advanced analytics. This includes features like "average positions," which consist of insights generated from analyzing a player's average on-field location data, current momentum of the team and understanding of strategies and tactics.

Major sports leagues are also conceptualizing and enabling real applications of machine learning, calculating the probability of a player successfully scoring based on position data and metrics such as speed, distance to goal and defenders in line. These leagues are aiming to blur the line between an in-stadium game experience and an at-home experience by providing the engagement that sports fans love via enhanced digital tools.

A Fresh, New Paradigm for Sports Stakeholders: Sports Tech

Developments in technology have allowed organizers and administrators to scope out technological solutions aimed at building a homebound connected experience for the remote fan. Fantasy sports have shown phenomenal growth, in large part due to widespread internet access and smartphone penetration.

Given the emphasis on sports technology, future-facing investments are being made to drive innovation in measurement metrics and data usage. This trend is expected to gain further traction as the experiential economy becomes the mainstay; a World Economic Forum report found that 76% of consumers today prefer to spend on experiences in the form of live sports or music concerts over material possessions. Cognitive analytics, big data, biometrics and future-oriented, all-integrated media platforms are witnessing interest and have high promise for meeting a fan's demand for entertainment experiences.

Cloud-based and broadcasting services have also matured exponentially in the last several years, which has allowed the broadcast industry to transform processes like content delivery and remote production. For instance, broadcasters and video rights holders can leverage cloud-based remote production services to move beyond in-stadium editing and carry out on-spot edits. They can produce highlights and other engaging media content as the game progresses — all while sitting back at home. This broadcasting infrastructure can allow video creators to centralize the production setup of media content.

Imagining The Future for The New-Age Sports Ecosystem

As the world moves toward the new normal, it's safe to say that the worst has passed for sports broadcasting. Going forward, however, broadcasters will have to keep catering to the perennial demand for experience from consumers. Externally, traditional broadcasters can expect to face stiff competition from new-age digital players like esports. Most importantly, broadcasters will now have to continuously meet the digital standards they have now set to engage fans who are now more digitally mature.

To sustain the newfound momentum, sports organizers and broadcasters need to create the right plan to leverage the potential opportunities that the future brings. The following are some of the core areas that they need to focus on in order to stay future-ready:

  • Leverage consumer data to identify user needs before investing in and deploying new technology.
  • Transform fans into avid fans by creating hyper-personalized experiences across channels.
  • Create a digital culture and build on digital capabilities by investing in digital skills and infrastructure.
  • Nurture the passion their fans have for the game by creating hyper-personalized experiences across channels.

The Path Forward for Digital Sports

The sports ecosystem is in a promising state of technology-led transformation. With rapid digitization becoming an expected norm, a future-oriented approach toward developing modern-day infrastructure and business models has become paramount. The industry is rapidly transforming, and it requires decision-makers to chart out a strategic way forward while focusing on deft execution. The key to unlocking a reimagined world of sports and its affiliated industries is by building a strong technological backbone.

This blog was originally published on Forbes.com