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The connected sports fan: Then and now

Australia is a sporting nation and as the internet has improved, so have the ways fans can engage with their favourite teams and players right from their lounge room.

Australia is sports mad. We play it; we watch it; we love it. 11.1 million Australians over the age of 15 play sport, which equates to roughly 70% of those of us between 15 and 65

We’re diverse with our disciplines, too. Swimming, soccer, netball, golf, AFL, cycling, tennis, surfing, basketball and cricket have some of the highest participation rates in the country, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Sport dominates the back page, and frequently the front. And in 2016, 12 of the top 20 most watched TV shows of the year were sporting events, including the entire top six! In total, we watch 60 million hours of sport a week.

A huge percentage of the population are sports fans, all of whom stand to benefit from fast and more accessible internet. Why? Because it puts us in control of the what, when and how of our sport consumption.

Which is great when you consider, not that long ago, if you wanted to see your favourite sport, you certainly couldn’t keep your own schedule.

Back before fast internet

Still to this day, nothing beats being there—at the stadium breathing in the atmosphere. But for quite a while that may have been your only means of seeing a sport.

Radio was the main means of a moment-to-moment live feed. Some sports were lucky enough to be broadcast live on free-to-air TV, but not all, and not even all games in the one competition.

Many Australians would watch variety shows like Wide World of Sports or simply the news to get an overview of what might be going across many fringe competitions.

There were papers, of course, which would cover some of the results for the major sports. A few sports even had their own magazines, with weekly or monthly released photos, analysis, interviews and more. But these were far from up-to-the-minute.

Cable TV launched in Australia in 1995 and brought with it more sport content than we had seen on free-to-air, but it would be the better part of a decade before it achieved significant penetration in the Australian market, and two decades before we would start seeing the “every game live” channels, talk shows, and vast range of televised sports from all over the globe.

Even in the early days of the internet and into the start of the century, live streaming of sports wasn’t achievable. It was easier to access news and results from across the world, but image size and video content was capped by slow speeds.

Social channels and hashtags also weren’t available for providing breaking developments and conversation. If only the sport fans of yesterday knew what was coming!

Fast broadband is changing how we consume sport

As internet speed improves and its accessibility goes nationwide, anything is possible. There is barely a sport we cannot watch live and in high-definition, from any device, anywhere.

However, it’s not all about live streaming—here are 10 ways that sports fans have had their lives changed by increased access to fast broadband.

1) Live Streaming

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way: fast internet has revolutionised live sport, allowing us to stream it, in HD, to TVs, computers, portable devices and more.

Here's a list of some of the ways you can stream sport in Australia.

2) On-Demand Replays

Thanks to the cloud, you don’t have to miss anything. Many online sport broadcast services, and even YouTube, offer on-demand replays of recently played games.

3) Diversity of Options

Cheaper and more-mobile filming technology, combined with fast internet, is allowing all kinds of sports—no matter how remote the location—to be broadcast.

Regardless of your interest or where you live, chances are you can watch a sport unfold live from anywhere in the world. If not, you’ll definitely be able follow commentary and learn the results at the press of a button.

4) Chatting with Fans

No longer do armchair fans need to let their opinions on a sport’s contest go unheard. Forums, chat rooms, social channels and hashtags funnel fans into flash communities that exist for just as long as the game. Here you can talk about what’s happening, and see footage and pictures being shot by fans live at the venue.

5) All the Stats

Previously, you were limited in what you could know about any sport by what TV broadcasters showed, or what could fit in a paper column. Not anymore.

Major sport sites offer real-time data on the team, game, stadium, refs, players and more. Playing the numbers game is a key part of immersing yourself in sport.

6) App Notifications

Unsure of when your team’s next match is on? In our always-connected world, calendars or sport-specific apps notify you when a game is about to start, so you can tune in and never miss a thing.

7) Talk to the Stars

Other than luckily bumping into your favourite player in the street, if you wanted a chance to say “hi” to your hero, you had to be at the game. And have a loud voice! Nowadays, almost all players have presences online where they can be reached or followed, helping fans feel closer to their heroes.

8) Going Global

As well as being able to view previously-impossible-to-watch sports from all over the world, the internet has helped Australian sports go global. Our content can be broadcast out of the country faster than ever before. Not only has this helped our local competitions grow, but ensures ex-pats don’t miss out on the fun.

9) Know Your Stuff

For some, being a sport fan is about knowing the game better than anyone else and 87% of us use a second screen—like a phone—while we watch TV. You can stream live sport on one device, while using another to look up information on the history of the teams and players you are watching on another.

10) Tragic Spoilers

Not all changes are for the good, and if there is one negative the internet has brought sport fans, it’s the spoiler. Access to sport news is so easy, that even glancing at a connected device can be enough to see a real-time update of the score or a recent play of a game you planned to watch later. Sometimes, you just have to “go dark” knowing that, when your time opens up, the internet can allow you to watch what you missed on demand. 

If you'd like to know how to get started, check out these online destinations for streaming sport in Australia.

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