December 3, 2019
By: Your Call Inc.
New Year, New Landscape: Our Predictions For The Sports Industry in 2020 (And Beyond)
The sports industry is ever-evolving and its most recent developments have been driven by both new technologies and new legislation. But what’s next?
As we head into the New Year, we started to think about what’s upcoming in the world of sports and sports technology and predict what’s to come in the new year.
The growth of fantasy sports and the expansion of legalized sports gambling are changing the way we follow sports.
For years we’ve seen younger generations shift focus away from specific teams and over to individual players – usually those who have marketed themselves well. In fact, when they talk about games or players, it’s often in fantasy terms. Furthermore, the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), has resulted in a wave of renewed interest among fans. Fans are more invested than ever because they now have skin in the game. Even sports whose ratings have been suffering (like baseball, for example) will likely see an uptick in viewership because fans are betting on their favorite team and need to tune in for the results.
Gen Z fans will force broadcasts to get more interactive.
As Gen Z fans, who are not only digital natives but also avid video gamers, begin to account for a larger portion of consumer spending, we’re going to see an increased emphasis on interactive broadcasts. It’s no secret that this is a generation that prefers active participation over passive viewing, so traditional sports broadcasts are becoming less appealing for the zero-sum downtime of that generation. In order to stay competitive, sports properties will need to get creative in terms of how they’re delivering content to new generations of fans.
The NFL will see some competition.
No one will come close to creating competition for the NFL in the short term, but the XFL is on track to outlast its last iteration (along with its most recent predecessor) and put pressure on the NFL. As we’ve talked about, younger audiences love individual players and highlights more than traditional rivals and long games, so the XFL is perfectly poised for success that will last at least into a second season. Also, it doesn’t hurt that they have a cross-promotional platform built in with the WWE.
College sports will grab a larger piece of the pie.
College sports will become even more popular as a result of the California endorsement ruling that will allow players to receive endorsement deals. Not only will we see an increase in viewership, but we’ll also see a reboot of popular NCAA video games like NCAA Football and NCAA basketball, which will be a hit, particularly among younger generations of fans.
Leagues will take a hard look at both game and season length.
Due to the massive amount of content that is immediately accessible to fans no matter where they are, as well as decreasing attention spans, we will see sports leagues embrace a “less is more” model. This will mean not just talking about games being too long, or implementing peripheral changes, but reducing the length of broadcasts.
In terms of season length, it’s unlikely we’ll see shorter NFL seasons anytime soon. That said, NFL owners are thinking about adding regular-season games and reducing preseason games. But they can get even more creative in how they infuse their seasons with more interest. Again, if we look at the NBA, it’s something they’re already thinking about. For the 2021-22 season, they’re considering hosting an in-season tournament that would take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas — when interest in the regular season begins to wane. The goal is to liven up the season and resuscitate interest during a period of lacking competition. The proposed changes would also implement a 78-game schedule, shortening the standard 82-game season.
Streaming companies will shake up rights deals.
As we’ve talked about before, most experts agree that during the next wave of media rights deals, one or more of the FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) will be a factor. While linear TV distribution still provides the greatest potential reach, it has become imperative that the purveyors of sports content address changing viewing habits. As the technology advances, more people will be able to concurrently live stream. It will be years before the live stream of a major sporting event will deliver a viewership number that comes close to linear TV, but once it does, we’re going to see a massive shift in the landscape.
Once that shift takes place, it’s not unlikely that we’ll likely see a decrease in the amount of in-game commercial breaks. We’ve talked about the ‘less is more’ model for games, and the same goes for commercials. Fans want all action all the time and they’re becoming increasingly frustrated by frequent stops in gameplay. With streaming services owning media rights they’re better poised to eliminate, or at least drastically decrease, the number of in-game breaks in order to hold fans’ attention and keep them engaged. Streaming companies’ revenue streams aren’t dependent on commercials. In addition to their subscription models, they could charge for live sports packages or create more in-venue advertising opportunities (ads on the field, on player jerseys, etc.) in place of commercials.
The NFL will become equal parts entertainment broadcaster and data platform.
In fact, they’re already headed there. The league is encouraging teams to add Wi-Fi and analytics engines to their stadiums with a goal of improving the in-venue experience and allow fans to use their phones to consume more content and easily share their experiences. In another example, the league announced a partnership with Sportradar that allows its data to be distributed to bookmakers.
With its access to mass amounts of data (player, venue, consumer, etc.) it’s only natural to assume that it’ll use that data to engage fans in other ways. For example, it could feed this data in real time to multiple interactive interfaces. Just imagine: Madden reflects the actual season and allows users to manage their own teams and react to in-season factors all while engaging in a gamified social competition with their friends. That reality isn’t as far off as you might think.