The future of the sporting broadcast for on and off-site fans

E-Mersion Media's chief commercial officer Chris Styring explores the post-COVID evolution of sports broadcasting.

Like so many industries, sporting events were blind-sided by COVID-19. Event organisers were forced to pivot and find innovative ways to keep fans engaged from a distance. While live sporting events have long been a fixture of traditional TV, radio broadcasting and print media, live streaming platforms and digital media are fast catching up to these well worn paths when it comes to fan engagement.

Sports broadcasting has yet to fully embrace the possibilities available through digital, but it needs to do so in order to maintain engagement with a perpetually logged-in audience as well as offer the smaller, less well funded sports a platform to share their content with fans. This inability to reach the fan has long been a problem for those sports who don’t have the following, participation or audience penetration to negotiate a FTA or even paid broadcast deal.

This void in the ‘experience gap’ can be filled with the adoption of smart technology and innovative digital products now available to rights holders, sponsoring brands and sporting teams.

The enormous potential for technology to be interwoven throughout every aspect of a live event, enhancing the overall experience for spectators seamlessly and effortlessly has never been greater. Fully digitised and interactive content can not only enhance the experience of the ‘at event’ fan but add a hugely engaging level of connectivity and engagement to those fans who may never have the chance to visit the pantheons of sport in person.

These ‘out of venue’ fans who, in the case of Formula 1 are dispersed across the globe, are constantly looking for additional experiences and opportunities to bring them closer to drivers, teams and the circuits. Fully digitised, interactive event programs (well beyond static PDF versions) that provide the fan with up to date sport content and commentary, e-commerce opportunities and multi-sensory advertising from their favourite brands can act as the perfect accompaniment for the armchair sports fan.

Whilst they may not be trackside at the Monaco Grand Prix and unable to purchase a copy of the printed souvenir race program or purchase a cap from their favourite team range, a fully interactive digital race program allows them to experience many of the benefits of being in the stands from in front of their flatscreen TV via their mobile or tablet device.

Not only does this new engagement channel enhance the fans experience, but also provides genuine ROI to advertisers and the sports sponsors who may choose to place multi sensory, fully trackable ads throughout the ‘pages’ of a digital event program.

Digital content is all the more critical right now as venue capacities are reduced to meet social distancing requirements and fans have limited opportunities to immerse themselves in the sport and events they love ‘on site’. While attendance numbers are expected to bounce back once a COVID vaccine is deployed, the way we consume our sport and our ability to attend en masse has been impacted.

This change in sport consumption particularly for those who can’t attend live events, has placed a greater emphasis on the commentary, analysis and the access to athletes from the ‘offsite perspective’. Rich content that takes fans behind the scenes such as on-grid, half-time and change room interviews can be commercialised with advertising that is carefully designed to hook the viewer drawing them in and creating a relationship. Importantly for brands, this advertising can also be carefully targeted to match each user’s behaviour and preferences as they view the event content live or download an interactive match day program.

Whilst we don’t know when sport will return to ‘normal’ or venues to full capacity, we do know that fans (regardless of whey they are) will continue to demand greater connectivity and a deeper relationship with their team and heroes. This ‘fan demand’ offers pretty compelling opportunities for the rights holders, brands and organisations who partner the right tech providers to meet this demand.

Chris Styring is the chief commercial officer of E-Mersion Media.


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