The digital age is disrupting the way fans follow sports teams

digital sports
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Now more than ever, consumers are turning to live sports streaming to catch their favorite games, from any location. Whether you’re stuck at the airport with a delayed flight or at a family party with no access to the TV, you can watch your favorite team score the tie-breaking point from the palm of your hand, wherever you are. 

When it comes to sports streaming, consumer expectations are high –  this is according to a new survey by CSG which polled 2,000 sports fans in the US and UK. Today’s fans want to watch the game on their mobile devices, with apps, across social media, with virtual reality devices and more. The study found that 64% of consumers expect the same premium service, but at an every day price.

So what does this mean for traditional service providers? They have to now keep up with consumers’ on-the-go mentality and provide an interactive service across devices.

Personalization Without the Price Tag

Similar to any “shopping” process and mentality, consumers have preferences regarding how they want to view sports content. Even though the majority of global consumers still rely heavily on cable for their sports viewing (71%), cable companies will increasingly need to focus on catering to the personalized preferences today’s consumers crave to keep fans on the hook.

While consumers want an enhanced, personalized experience from both their cable and streaming providers, 64% of users don’t want to pay a premium price for it. Customers want to view and engage with sports in real time – sometimes even more than one game at a time – on the best screen that is available. On the TV if available, but just as often, on their mobile device to ensure they don’t miss any action. The great news for sports leagues is that, fifty-nine percent of fans are committed to the full game experience, but they also want features such as stats or selectable camera angles included in their sports packages. Sometimes this personalized experience can be hard to deliver in a broadcast model on TV.

Building a Viewing “Community” Without Leaving the Couch

Digital innovation in the ways we watch sports is providing more than just personalized packages for consumers. These improvements are creating a contextual viewing “community” for fans, without having to leave their homes. Whether connecting with the views and opinions of other fans through Facebook, or taking advantage of the host of real-time stats being collected and delivered to fans, new advances in technology and streaming services are bringing people together for the love of the game.

In addition to new technologies, social media has created a community that fans can log on to at any hour to keep up with concurrent games (41%) and find relevant stats (40%). Anyone who tunes in to a sporting event today has witnessed this community aspect, whether at a stadium, in a bar or on their couch – fans everywhere can be found with phones in hand, checking in on other league games, players stats and so on. In an always-connected atmosphere, users are not missing a pass or play when they have access to multiple platforms and can engage with other fans while they watch.

Shaping a Future of Immersive Experiences

Going a step further to create a fully-integrated sports community includes the adoption of new technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). We have already started to see some providers test this out in practice – Verizon is one such example –  last year, Verizon tested a VR stream of the Super Bowl across its 5G network to a small, select group. But we are in the early innings of the VR/AR revolution. While our survey found that the majority of today’s consumers aren’t yet ready for this stadium-like experience from their couch, this could be changing with nearly half (44%) of Gen Z and millennials noting they are interested in exploring what VR/AR have to offer as a way to get the court-side experience at home. As tickets to large sporting events like the Super Bowl and World Series soar every year, content providers will likely look for ways to give fans the “in-stadium” experience as a way to expand – and monetize – their sports viewing offerings. The tipping point will be when the AR/VR experience can add significant value over the traditional lean back experience. When this “upgrade” is in place, VR/AR will likely become more mainstream for sports viewing.

From the innovations we are seeing in how we watch sports and how big data is enhancing that experience, it’s clear that this digital disruption in the industry is only beginning. The digital age has created an online community for fans to engage with sports, through more personalized services, social media and experiments with advanced technology like virtual reality. How we watch sports is forever changing as we know it, as sports tries to keep up with the digital snacking that is happening in so many areas of our livers today. Whether we’re enjoying sports on the couch, on our phones or a pair of VR device, digital technologies have made an impact with both consumers and providers, alike. With no sign of slowing down, the future of sports is full of opportunities for fans to be able to further connect and immerse themselves with the sports and teams they love.


Written by Kent Steffen, President of OTT at CSG International

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