Technological Factors Changing The Face Of Sport
Sport today is as much a spectacle as it is a form of competition. Right around the world, millions tune in to watch games on television, while many make the pilgrimage to their team’s stadium to see the action in person. Some fans will also use sports betting to test their knowledge of their chosen league by making predictions on the outcome of games. This is why free bet offers are common in the industry, as bookmakers seek to attract fans to use their services over a rivals.
The overall fan experience that is available today would not be possible without technology. In fact, it is not an overstatement to say that professional sports would not exist in its current form at all were it not for the innovations that have made it to market in the last few decades.
The face of sport continues to evolve as the world around it does. This evolution can occur due to commercial factors, labor agreements, and even concerns about climate change. However, technological innovation continues to be the biggest influence. And technology doesn’t stand still.
Television is a big part of the way fans currently enjoy professional sports. Whether they're sprawled across a sofa at home, perched on the edge of their seat in a sports bar, or even sat outside a shop window as they’re walking past, TV is the main way that most people enjoy major sporting events.
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This may come as something of a surprise. Even as services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ radically shift our general viewing habits, the majority of people still watch football, tennis, golf, basketball, rugby, Formula 1 and just about every other major competition via a traditional broadcaster.
There are several reasons for this. Watching sport is an experience, and often a collective one, so fans like to enjoy the game from a big screen with others to allow the moment to be shared.
The biggest factor though, is that television makes up the vast majority of revenue for most major sports leagues. Switching up platforms would be a very risky move. Doing so could, however, potentially offer benefits that outweigh those risks. It would allow leagues and teams to cut out the middlemen to enhance revenue streams while charging customers less.
In markets where lucrative TV deals don’t currently exist, some sport industries are already dabbling with selling access to content directly. For example, Formula 1’s F1 TV Pro service grants petrol heads a way to watch every race live from just about every possible angle. However, the service is not available in countries where traditional broadcasters already have rights - in most of Europe, for example, where the events are shown on Sky Sports.
There are no technological barriers that would prevent sports from adopting a Netflix-style over-the-top streaming service being possible at a larger scale than is currently deployed by these major leagues. Only financial disincentives.
The direction of trends is towards streaming, but it will likely be a slow process. The biggest players in the industry will want as seamless a transition as possible.
Data has become as important a commodity as water, energy, and the internet. Many sites, such as Facebook and Google, offer their services for free in exchange for our data. By building profiles on us, they are able to show us personalized advertisements.
That’s not the only way data is collected. Data is being gathered just about everywhere you turn, including on the roads as you drive, and in supermarkets as you buy your groceries.
Capturing data in this way allows companies and organizations to understand how their products and services are being used. On the roads, it helps to optimize traffic flow by changing the priorities of traffic lights, while driver-less cars rely on data to detect and avoid other objects. Similarly, supermarkets and other stores use data from sales, cameras, and even sensors on the shelves, to place products in the right places at the right times to optimize sales.
In professional sports, this process of collecting data is being used to improve several major areas.
One of the most visible examples of this is football’s Video Assistant Referee (VAR), which allows officials to review multiple camera angles or use sensors to detect whether a ball made it into the goal.
Elsewhere, the NHL recently began using specially-designed pucks that track force, speed, and location, as well as other tracking equipment to record where each player is in real-time.
Coaches can use this data from the sidelines to make tactical changes at a team level or with individual players in an attempt to score more goals.
This sort of tech isn’t just used during games either. Athletes use tracking technology during training to help to get the most from their bodies. For example, baseball players in the US use high speed cameras to record their swings to look for minor improvements that wouldn’t be possible to find with the naked eye.
Tickets have been a part of sport for as long as people have been paying to watch games. However, the little paper stubs we receive will soon become a thing of the past.
At Euro 2020, all tickets were distributed digitally, with fans given a barcode that they could scan from their phones. It was the first time UEFA’s flagship tournament went fully digital this way, but it certainly won’t be the last.
Such systems help prevent ticket touts from buying tickets in bulk and then reselling them. They also help to cut the environmental impact of printing and shipping tickets all around the world.
Other technologies are also being trialed by organizers, such as the ticketing system for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. A “dynamic pricing” mechanism was used that would automatically adjust pricing every 90 seconds in response to demand, driving up the prices over time as fewer tickets were left.
Fans were very critical of this system and the circuit was forced to disable the dynamic pricing function. However, it won’t be the last time such experiments are tried by those that need to profit from the sporting events they put on.