6 Ways Tech is Changing the Presentation of Sports

Every year at Austin’s ever-growing South By Southwest festival, a plethora of new technologies. platforms, and concepts are labeled as the next big things to come in culture and industry. While such prognostications tend to be premature, just as often the sights, sounds, and tweets portend what may be on the horizon for new technology, use cases, and business concepts.

South By Southwest’s new(ish)  sports track is no exception and this year’s panels foreshadowed a sports landscape soon to be overtaken, though never completely overwrought, with tech. (See my #SXSports summary deck) From the panels and conversation elsewhere, here are six ways tech is penetrating, and transforming, the sports media presentation and experience:

1) Virtual Reality – Football is finding cool ways to use virtual reality technology to give players non-physical “reps.” While the NBA is looking at ways to give fans around the globe the chance to experience a courtside seat at a game…without leaving their couch at home. The ability to develop VR technology that offers 360-degree, dynamic views, as well as live streaming video, offers a number of compelling use cases for sports. Whether the idea of a virtual seat will scare more teams, weary of promoting a viable stay-at-home option, before it is embraced remains to be seen, but VR is coming. And it’s coming quickly.


2) Drones – Many are familiar with drones, their use by the military, by businesses, by some sports telecasts, and even by consumers and Amazon, now. But they could be overtaking sports broadcasts, in many ways, before long. Drones can get optimal camera shots from optimal angles, can shift on a dime, and give consistency that the human hand cannot. Fox Sports exec Eric Shanks noted, at a recent Leaders Summit, that remote cameras and automated drones are quickly becoming a more integral part of sports broadcasts. A production crew may always be around to provide a human touch. However, increasingly smarter and learned (through data) computer programs may replace some of the production, too, giving viewers an optimized game presentation experience, shifting automated drones to deliver the content.

3) Augmented Reality – While virtual reality takes fans ‘there,’ augmented reality brings ‘there’ to fans, by having seemingly inanimate objects trigger content experiences for fans. There has been initial discussion for sports teams to use AR on the field of play and, as the technology becomes increasingly user-friendly and adopted, is also bringing forth incredible opportunities for teams’ content departments, as well as activations with corporate partners. One of the bigger players in the space is Aurasma, a standalone app that allows users to create and augmented reality through “auras.” Their tech may become more important for sports teams as they can integrate into team mobile apps and some are already starting to experiment with this in their app, with much room to evolve, with augmented reality experiences.

4) Automated Reporting – I don’t think quality journalism is going anywhere, even if the burden will be on the reader to know where to find it, but the professional jobs for journalists may continue to shrink. A major deal between the Associated Press and Automated Insights made big news in recent months. The software allows for reports on sports events to be automatically generated and reported and has already been used by the AP to report some college sports. As such software progresses, it may not be long before a computer can ingest some stats about the game and game flow, some quotes, and some photos and videos and bust out a catalog of AP-style sports stories for immediate consumption.

5) OTT – Over-the-top, or OTT, TV and video consumption is growing, as is mobile viewing. Cable companies, while still viable, especially for Internet, are seeing a generation coming of age without cable subscriptions. More and more networks are available without such subscriptions, while Apple plans a promising product for release this autumn. On a panel at last month’s #Leaders15 Summit, this generation was referred to as “cord never-wasers.” ESPN3 and several networks with sports programming offer streaming options via OTT, digital, and mobile and the marketing dollars are starting to flow there, too. We’re a long ways away from cable subscriptions being a thing of the past, but the trail to that reality is being blazed.

6) Mobile – You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth hearing again: mobile is an integral part of the sports fan experience. One of the head-turning stats that came from SXSports was that 80% of NFL fans have their mobile device in hand while watching games.  Another telling stat came from the recent Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference, where it was said that 65% of game attendees engage in some sort of online activity while at the game. Sports teams and media properties are trying to figure out the best way to present, engage, and activate on these new and increasingly important channels. Mobile is following a similar path to other important emerging mediums in history. Its trajectory and outlook are auspicious.

So what tech are you looking to affect the sports world in 2015?

Posted by Neil Horowitz

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