How innovation in technology is giving fans new ways to create memorable moments and enhance their experience

When watching sports, we always wanted to be as close to the action as possible. Over the decades we have seen sports organizations slowly, and in some cases nervously, open their doors to fans and allow them a glimpse of what was once guarded and the reserve of an inner sanctum. Rapid advances in technology have been the catalyst for this change, which is progressing at the speed of light.

From black and white televisions to color and flat screens to touch screens, from pause and play to second and third showing to virtual and augmented reality experiences. What was once thought impossible is now possible.

The truth is that we no longer watch sport, we consume and interact with it. Additionally, sports organizations, some of which have more rapidly embraced these changes, are seeing the benefit of finding new ways to engage the public by creating richer and more meaningful experiences.

How we view sport and how we rely on technology to enable those experiences is highlighted in Teneo’s Sport and Sponsorship Index (TSSI), a nationally representative survey of the general public’s attitudes towards sport and sponsorship in Ireland.

The number of participants in sporting events continues to rise to pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, a quarter of all adults in Ireland attended a live sporting event. This is an increase from 18 percent in 2021, but still below the 2019 level of 34 percent.

We are in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis, with average inflation averaging 8.4 percent in 2022 according to the OECD, and sport is not immune. Just under half of all adults plan not to attend as many live entertainment/sports events in 2022 as they did before the pandemic. While there were green shoots in 2022 with increased attendance at sporting events, economic factors could slow that progress in 2023.

Interestingly, watching sports on our TV at home has dropped from 63 percent in 2021 to 59 percent this year. The joy of no restrictions led to 27 per cent of all adults watching live sport in the pub at least once in 2022, up from 17 per cent in 2021 and closer to 2019 figures of 32 per cent.

The Reuters Institute and Digital report, released earlier this year, surveyed 46 markets across six continents for per capita digital media consumption habits earlier this year. It showed that we listen to more podcasts than any other nation surveyed, with 46 percent of people listening to podcasts year-round, and TSSI data shows that 15 percent of adults, 20 percent of men, and 10 percent of women last year listened to a sports podcast.

We’ve seen an explosion of lengthy and episodic sports content, first landing on our screens with the hugely successful Last Dance. This generated 23.8 million views outside the US in the first four weeks and was linked to a 5,156 percent increase in the Chicago Bulls’ average daily sales of merchandise.

Of those who have watched a sports documentary or show in the past 12 months, 79 percent of adults agreed that their interest in sports has increased. Additionally, 18-24 year olds and 25-34 year olds score very high on this question at 89 percent and 96 percent, respectively, as this type of content and its packaging has a major impact on younger audiences.

We can expect more esports governing bodies to take ownership of their content to develop richer content to foster a deeper connection with their current fanbase and get newcomers to consider their sport.

Recently we saw tennis and golf perform with their respective shows Break Point and Full Swing. Rugby is also catching on and for the first time we’ll be taking a look behind the scenes at the Six Nations campaign. Early reports highlight the challenges some of the unions are having with the Netflix camera crews and may set us up for some dramatic viewing.

In recent years we have seen a disruption to the sports broadcasting model as all traditional broadcasters now battle with Amazon Prime and DAZN to secure the rights to major sporting events. A whopping 1.5 million people paid to tune in to DAZN to see Katie Taylor take on Amanda Serrano and set a new viewership record in women’s boxing.

When it comes to sports broadcasting, the rules of the game have changed and so have our habits. 65 percent of the general public do not spend money on a traditional TV sports subscription, and this proportion rises to 73 percent of young people aged 18-24.

Mainstream awareness of “streaming” took hold during the pandemic and is now part of our daily lives. One in five Irish people streamed live sporting events at their home in 2022. Of course, streaming is more popular with younger viewers, with 31 percent of those aged 18-24 streaming sports regularly. The GAA recently decided to expand their streaming service, GAAGO, into the domestic market after eight years of serving their international fan base. Technological advances have driven streaming costs through the roof, giving rightsholders the opportunity to reach wider audiences cheaply and, in some cases, create new revenue streams.

We’re more screen-addicted than ever, spending just over six hours a day on it, according to Forty-one PCs of all adults check social media while watching sports on TV or online, with Facebook and Instagram being the platforms of choice at 55 and 52 percent, respectively. However, Instagram is showing positive growth and Facebook is starting to decline.

When people go to their favorite social platform while watching sports, they do so to connect with others (42 parts), check scores in other games (40 parts), get additional expert analysis (30 parts ) and access additional highlights and replays (21 parts). .

What lies ahead in 2023 is not certain as we become more price and budget conscious. TSSI data suggests that over 43 percent of the public will attend the same number of events in 2023. Sponsors and rights holders have an opportunity to leverage technology and ultimately enhance the fan experience.

Sport has the unique ability to bring people together through real-time shared experiences. While there is nothing quite like attending a sporting event, innovations in technology offer fans new opportunities to create memorable moments and enhance their experiences. 5G technology at the recent World Cup is just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done, and sports governing bodies are using the technology to reach new audiences in more ways than ever before.

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