September 23, 2019
By: Your Call Inc.
Who’s got next? Engaging your next fan
It was an exciting day for golf fans a few weeks ago when Rory McIlroy edged out Brooks Koepka at the season-ending TOUR Championship. It was a new format with two of the world’s top players and a $15 million first-place prize (the largest single payout in golf history). The buzz even helped turn McIlroy into a trending topic on Twitter.
While the event posted solid TV ratings – 3.7 million viewers on NBC, which was the event’s second-highest in 10 years – golf’s TV ratings have, in general, been on a slow decline. This is certainly something that requires further inspection as the post-Tiger era comes closer into view, however, this isn’t just about golf. Almost all major sports have experienced declining TV viewership. NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA have all experienced declines or stagnation in recent years.
That isn’t necessarily due to waning interest in the sports. Golf, in fact, has experienced a bit of a renaissance among millennials when it comes to participation. The problem is demographics, and what’s impacting them. The age of sports TV viewers is on the rise. According to a study by Sports Business Journal, 23 of the 24 sports examined saw a noticeable rise in the median age of their TV viewers from 2006 to 2016. Most notable was golf, where the average viewing age increased from 59 to 64.
Fans simply aren’t tuning into sports on TV in the way they have previously. Longer length of games, distraction and options struggle to align with the quest for immediate satisfaction. It’s difficult to sustain interest when the next jolt of excitement is literally in your hands – just a swipe away.
The answer shouldn’t center on transitioning TV to mobile – rather, it requires rebuilding the fan viewing experience from the ground up so that it fits within their approach, rather than defining a new one.
For sports properties to succeed in attracting and engaging fans (and sustaining their interest!) they need to evaluate how people are consuming sports and figure out how they prefer to engage. One of the major changes over the years is that fans want to be part of the action. They’re no longer content simply visiting a stadium, or sitting passively on the couch in front of a large TV. They’re eager to get closer (and closer) to the action on the field, court or course. This slippery slope has been coming, and fantasy, talk-radio, Vegas sports books and eSports are all just waypoints on a path that’s been accelerated by mobile ubiquity and broadband power. You can do just about anything from anywhere at any time – pushing fans to want more.
From virtual reality to augmented reality, in-game wagering to influencing outcomes, technology increasingly is going to put more power and opportunity in the hands of fans, because it’s clear that they want to be active participants, not just passive viewers.
So, the question becomes, “How can sports properties take that information and use it to target the next generation of fans and reignite engagement?”
For example, what if fans could predict the outcome of every golf shot through an app? Which player will birdie this hole? Will McIlroy sink his 17-foot putt – yes or no? And how about adding a gaming element that allows fans to rack up points based on correct predictions and climb a fantasy-style leaderboard while competing against their friends. This is exactly the type of two-screen, interactive, social experience that the next generation of fans are looking for.
To take it one step further, consider letting the fans actually call the next shot. Does the next Phil & Tiger showdown include the capability for fans to determine – in real time – whether Tiger should attempt to drive the green on a 310-yard Par 4? The technology already exists and has been shown to generate interest, sustain engagement and even drive social sharing.
By allowing fans to get in on the action, you’re keeping them fixed on the match, engaged in the action and eager for the result. We call that a win-win.