By Yannick Colaco
The way we consume sports today has come a long way. There was a time when consuming sports meant being glued to the television for that all-important cricket match, remote control in hand, and god-help the one who tries to flip the channel to watch something else! It was all about getting the match timing right, proper cable reception/connection, subscription to the right TV channel, and ensuring no one else got to hog the TV while your match was on.
The picture today is very different. With technology, the way we consume sports has also changed. From being glued to our TV sets, we have become streaming addicts. Now, no match can be missed as we have access to every game at our fingertips! Yes, patchy internet speeds do play spoilsport sometimes, but mostly, the freedom to be able to access the game from anywhere at any given time is exhilarating. With improving internet speed and cheaper data, the mobile phone has brought a revolution in the world of sports. For the first time ever, fans are now consuming what they want, when they want and where they want.
Looking beyond cricket
Sports has always been one of the purest forms of entertainment. Unscripted, exciting and full of drama, it connects with consumers at an emotional level that most forms of entertainment can’t. And as consumer demand has evolved, so has the sport.
Cricket was transformed when the T20 format was born and fans lapped it up. Not only because it was fast and exciting, but because it addressed the needs of an evolving consumer; someone whose changing lifestyle put a much higher premium on “time”. Along with that, IPL also brought a whole new approach towards sports leagues and fan engagement. The success of the IPL has led to the development of other sports leagues including football, kabaddi and many others.
The growing exposure to these sports has also accelerated fandom for global sports clubs and events which has been facilitated by access provided by the digital ecosystem — access to live content, to news and views, to the world of athletes and clubs themselves. There’s an active demand for all kinds of sports. Fans are making a point to educate themselves and are engaging with these sports in large numbers. It helps that brands are recognising these changing requirements of the Indian fans and are working towards providing solutions in the form of broadcast of live games for fans to view and connect with.
From viewers to participants
Sports fandom is, by nature, very active. They love the opportunity to express their views and engage with like-minded fans of the teams they support. Technology has once again facilitated the fan, expanding the match experience to well before, during and after the match is played. Every aspect of the game is dissected right down to the bones, and then some more.
This has led to consumers going from being mere viewers to craving a deeper engagement with the game itself. Fans enjoy being ‘experts’ in their own rights. Putting in hours of research to understand the game, the strategy behind it and the players and their strengths and weaknesses.
There’s much debate and deliberation amongst fans over the tiniest things. It’s no longer just about being ‘entertained’. It’s about being a part of the ever-growing community of sports enthusiasts who live and breathe sports. From being a fun way to pass time, sports has today become the point of convergence for all those who want to take their love for the game to a much larger arena.
The rise of fantasy sports
The sports fans’ passion runs high, as if they’ve skin in the game. And, with the advent of fantasy sports, this has just turned out to be true. The avid fans, who have deep knowledge and are comfortable with technology, have taken no time to adapt and propagate fantasy sports. On fantasy sports platforms, users draft their own virtual teams consisting of real players from both sides, garnering points based on the actual statistical performance of players during the course of the real-life match.
Unlike simulation games, outcomes of fantasy sports are based on the actual statistical performance of players in real matches. Interestingly, a recent study shows that 37% of fantasy sports players consume more than 6-8 hours of reallife sports content per week, turning passive sports viewers into active participants (Source: Fantasy Sports — Measuring its impact on actual sports consumption, IFSG and Nielsen).
These factors are working in tandem to increase fan engagement over the last couple of years. In fact, 62% of the respondents who participated in the study watch different types of leagues, even when their team/country is not playing. As the number of sports fans has continued to grow, so has their need for a better experience that is comprehensive, that is not fragmented and one that puts the user first. Technology, today, provides the tools to make this a reality and it’s critical for companies in the space to deliver.
The writer is co-founder of FanCode, a multi-sport aggregator platform.
Source: Economic Times