The way we watch sport is changing fast, thanks to advances in connected technology.

Modern technology tends to evolve in response to what consumers want. One of the things we want is the option to be entertained anywhere at any time.

We also demand that our connected devices tell us where to go and what it will be like when we get there. We even now have certain expectations when it comes to how easy it is to pay the bills.

The sporting industry is not immune to this shift in consumer preferences. Despite Australians collectively consuming 60 million hours of sport on average per week, the resounding call is “we want more.”

Fans are not only watching more content than ever, they are seeking new ways to view and interact with their favourite teams and sporting codes.

This has led to an incredible evolution in technology. According to Sports Business Futurist, Stuart Taggart, “Fans want to consume sport in different ways.

"They want to curate their own experience by viewing different camera angles and listening to their choice of commentators. The sporting industry is reacting to this demand by constantly seeking new and interesting ways to deliver content.”

This includes offering live match vision from above and in 360 degrees. It means creating more than one audio feed per broadcast and coming up with pre and post match content that fans can consume between the big games.

Transforming a living room into a sports stadium

The evolution of sports viewing is affecting both broadcasters and sporting organisations, says Craig Roberts, who is Head of Strategy for Asia Pacific at Sports and Entertainment consulting firm The Gemba Group.

Gemba Group recently conducted research on nbn’s behalf, releasing a comprehensive report into the Future of Sport.  As Craig explains, one of the things the report found is that “greater connectivity means many sports fans now ‘multi-screen’.”

“You can be in your living room watching football on the TV and have your tablet next to you to keep up with the live stats,” says Craig.

While wirelessly connected surround-sound speakers deliver audio that makes it feel like you’re right there at the stadium, fans may simultaneously be streaming a different match or checking in on another sporting code on their laptop.

At the other end of the house, another family member might be connected to the internet and live streaming a completely different event. Wireless headphones make it possible to focus on your viewing choice without the distraction of what’s going on in other rooms.

While the big screen remains the focus of our viewing experience, viewers are no longer necessarily constrained by TV broadcasting deals. “Sporting codes are developing digital and media capabilities in their own right,” explains Craig. “Cricket Australia’s Big Bash League is an example – the organisation responded to changing consumer behaviour by creating a whole new format.” During this tournament, fans have the opportunity to watch matches on TV or stream live via www.cricket.com.au

More experiences than ever

The digital revolution in sports viewing is also bringing once-niche sports into the mainstream. An example noted by Craig Roberts is eSports, which now has an incredible 1.5 million avid followers in Australia.

“eSports evolved completely out of the digital world”, explains Craig. “From a niche community of online gamers streaming their gameplay live to the internet, an entire sport has arisen. There has been mass audience growth and this sport is now competing for sponsorship and broadcast dollars. You are even seeing professional clubs investing in eSports under their original brand.”

This, according to Craig, is the ultimate modern example of digital technology has opened up a whole new realm of sport and a fresh fanbase. Gaming was once an activity based on participation only – thanks to the internet it has become a global spectator sport.

The future of viewing sport

It’s not yet the norm, but in many Australian houses you will find a big screen, a tablet of some sort and even a headset used for watching and gaming in augmented or virtual reality from a supplier such as Sony, Oculus Rift or Samsung.

In America, the NBA is catering to the rising prevalence of VR headsets by giving fans access to a 360 degree virtual reality stream. Pop on a headset, get connected and you’re instantly sitting courtside to experience all the action.

“Technology is evolving very quickly, explains Craig Roberts, “It is hard to say where it will end but what’s really exciting is that the direction it travels in will be dictated by what consumers want.”

Stuart Taggart adds that we can expect to see amazing new technology at upcoming major sporting events like the FIFA World Cup Finals and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“Improved camera technology will provide better viewing definition and there is potential for entirely new storytelling experiences,” he says, explaining that we can expect to see a lot more ‘up front and centre’ footage in real time.

At the backbone of these experiences is connectivity. “From a technical perspective we need bandwidth and connectivity to produce the best experiences for sports fans,” says Stuart.

With the help of factors such as the continued rollout of the nbn™ network, everyone from broadcasters to sporting organisations, from the fans to the players themselves, will one day play their part in shaping a new era of viewing sport. 

Video streaming is increasing in popularity at a rapid pace. Check out how much data video streaming uses so that you can keep across your data as your viewing habits change.

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