I had the pleasure of chairing a debate about the future of sports content at Cable Congress a couple of weeks ago. As you'd expect from a panel that included executives from broadcasters AMC and Discovery, specialist ad agency Fuse Sport + Entertainment, and sports discovery app Thuuz, we had a wide-ranging conversation. Here are my top three takeaways.
Sports have an in-built resilience other entertainment brands can only envy. A key point of discussion was how sports can evolve as consumer tastes and technology continue to change. Sports have an advantage in that the franchises and broadcasters that control TV rights are not the only brands that matter. Just as important – or perhaps more so – are the teams and players. These parties will play an increasingly key role in extending and evolving a sport's overall appeal, particularly as social and mobile technologies enable them to reach and engage with new and existing audiences directly.
Young sports fans will differ – in more ways than one. We also discussed how sports TV can remain relevant to younger consumers as new distractions compete for their attention. Ovum data suggests that this challenge presents more of an opportunity than a threat, with sports fans more likely to be regular users of chat apps, social networks, and other digital applications than your average consumer. Service providers should not generalize, however. Young adulthood spans a huge period of change, with disposable income, access to technology, and other factors affecting how kids can engage with premium media such as sport dramatically within just a few years.
E-sports have a bright future, but perhaps not on traditional TV. The panel was enthusiastic in its support for competitive video gaming, also known as e-sports. But some participants suggested that its appeal would not translate from the digital world to traditional TV channels. Why? Services such as Amazon's Twitch and Google's YouTube Gaming already offer a superior experience, with interactive features more suited to this networked genre. But more importantly, today's fans are unlikely to look to TV channels to find e-sports coverage, and TV channel-surfers are unlikely to become fans after simply chancing upon the content.
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