Edited by Tanner Simkins
In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick sits down with golf icon Gary Player and shares his top sports technology & media issues of the past decade.
1. High Definition (HD). The most essential element for the sports consumer? Watching the game. High definition pushed the envelope this decade so much that now anything non-HD seems archaic – just think about what those old “Wide World of Sports” clips look like. The first major sporting event broadcast nationwide in the U.S. in HD was Super Bowl XXXIV, broadcast by ABC on January 30, 2000. By the 2014–2015 television season, every network show producing new episodes had transitioned to high definition. And virtually all HD technology was developed by global sports league partners, with broadcasting live sporting events that delivered almost the same immediacy as being there a top-line goal for developers. Over 90% of U.S. homes have an HD television, and nearly 30% have a 4K TV. 4K (UltraHD) is here and 8k coming, virtual reality is next, the envelope is still being pushed.
2. Connectivity. WiFi, Bluetooth, mobile data plans, cloud services, the Internet of Things (IoT) and getting devices communicating with other devices have created opportunities limited only by creativity. When devices can interact and share information, the smarter decisions media and tech companies can make. From minor league ballparks to arenas, soccer-specific stadiums, and the almost completed $4.93 billion SoFi Stadium and entertainment complex in Los Angeles, the “Connected Facility” over the last decade has become the absolute standard in sports stadia, empowering teams and vendors every bit as much as fans. At SoFi (named by a tech company, of course), according to CNBC, “Technology that will make the stadium experience unique includes a 70,000-sq-ft Oculus display board that will have 4K double-sided video; 5G communications network; Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of wireless to deliver faster speeds, and digital ticketing provided by Ticketmaster.
3. Media rights. This past decade was defined by mega deals in sports media rights. Whether it’s new networks, broadcast rights, digital rights, streaming rights, on-demand, or over the top, the media rights deals now are now not uncommon to be in the billions. U.S. sports rights are estimated to be worth a total of $22.42 billion in 2019, about 44% of the total worldwide sports media market, according to SportBusiness Media. And a rising number of major sporting events available via streaming services is set to drive the revenue for global broadcast rights beyond $85 billion by the end of 2024, according to a recent Rethink TV report. The Sports Rights Forecast to 2025 paper shows the global value of sports rights currently at around $48.6 billion, though the report predicts an increase of 75% over the next five years due to a growth in audiences choosing direct-to-consumer (DTC) content.
4. Ticketing. Going to a sporting event is still core to the sports experience. In this past decade, the ticketing business saw tech-related advances like dynamic pricing, paperless tickets, and digital second market sellers, all of which backed by data and CRM. As with so many things in our lives now, your mobile phone is now your sports ticket. At that Next Big Thing sports tech lab otherwise known as SoFi Stadium, CNBC notes the SafeTix digital ticketing provided by Ticketmaster “uses a rotating entry token that refreshes an encrypted barcode every 15 seconds to prevent counterfeiting and improve security. The digital ticket will also send customized messages to the ticketholder on a host of things — from VIP events to updates on parking information and merchandising offers.” And just last week, Swiss ticketing firm Viagogo agreed to buy StubHub for $4.05 billion, looking to leverage the brand globally.