Multiple sports, Global

Rise of the E-Fan: how technology bred a new kind of sports supporter

The pace of change in content delivery has enabled the sports industry to flourish in recent decades and in the last ten years, the game has changed again.

by Tom Blake
Rise of the E-Fan: how technology bred a new kind of sports supporter

The pace of change in content delivery has enabled the sports industry to flourish in recent decades. 50 years ago, you might have waited weeks to see highlights of your favourite sport or football team in cinema news reels. With the advent of television, we were introduced to a new world of recorded sports and live broadcasts. The incredible variety of content on offer and the promise of high-definition pictures on a widescreen TV was surely the pinnacle and as good as it could get?

In the last decade technology has changed the game again. No longer are we restricted to broadcast schedules and the limitations of live television. Advances in IP delivery and affordable mobile devices mean we can catch up with our favourite sports - anywhere, and at any time.

That’s great news for fans, but traditional broadcast business models are facing significant challenges, trying to maintain audience share as more sports organisations realise that they can deliver content direct to their fanbase through new OTT channels - either live or on demand - with a more engaging experience and options to monetise at every level. What’s more, audiences can increasingly engage directly with their favourite club, league, federation or governing body.

In short, technology is disrupting what was considered to be a stable commercial model - one that was previously dominated by an exclusive set of rights holders and broadcasters. These seismic changes in the way we consume sports video represent a democratisation in the way smaller federations and governing bodies are now able to provide premium services for fans through affordable IP infrastructure and SaaS platforms. New opportunities to monetise content without any great capital expenditure is now a reality - impacting significantly on current distribution deals and the availability of broadcast rights.

With technology as the enabler, consumption is set to increase significantly, and our attention is not just turning to new esports - like drone racing - or the exciting trial events we see at the Olympics. We are also afforded a glimpse of past glories and legends; rewatching classic games, experiencing moments that changed a sport forever and which help explain the landscape today.

The depth of content available for commercialisation is tremendous but there are challenges ahead for content owners. Much of this legacy content is still stored on obsolete tape formats suffering steady deterioration with declining availability of playback heads. It’s a race against time to ensure our sporting heritage is preserved and given a digital future. Similarly, even born digital content from more recent times is in danger of being overlooked if it’s hidden away on hard-drives, uncatalogued and unseen.

It’s clear that the world of sport media has a challenge ahead of it, but as this report indicates, the opportunity to monetise legacy content and to engage with a new generation of sports fans provides a driver to tackle these challenges. A satisfied fan base delivers greater commercial returns, which in turn fuels investment at grass roots level, increased levels of participation and the development of the sporting heroes of tomorrow.

Tom Blake is the commercial director of Imagen, a provider of secure media asset management and content distribution solutions for leading brands in enterprise, sports and media.

You can click here to download the full Imagen whitepaper, Rise of the E-Fan.