The next time you attend a sporting event, your experience might not be quite the one you’re used to. And, it’s not because the games themselves have changed.
New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality (VR) are spurring major changes to how fans consume events, both at home and in the stadium. Fans’ expectations for sports content – available live, globally, across different channels and devices, and supplemented by a range of data, insights, images and video feeds – are creating new opportunities for the industry to innovate.
The benefits of creating an environment – in real or virtual worlds – to connect the individual and the team or the sport and the loyal fan base, should not be taken for granted. Events are now being watched live on multiple devices, from TVs to tablets and smartphones, at home and on the go. In order to truly embrace a favourite sport, fans must feel like they’re actually part of what’s unfolding. And, being digitally connected to the stadium is one major step in becoming fully immersed in their sport of choice.
Creating these experiences, at homes and in stadiums, requires an increased focus on connectivity and AI platforms that have the ability to store and process vast quantities of data. These systems provide real-time analytics, offering fans insights and access to more information than ever before. New cloud deployments support these applications and services enabling these types of large scale and real-time connections to work.
Broadcasters and media companies are also tapping into new platforms to provide the most connected experiences. New innovations in enhancing the fan experience are taking a few by surprise, in particular, because the concept of VR that was dreamed up decades ago is now coming to the fore.
Formula One Management can control some of the robotic trackside cameras remotely from its technical headquarters and share the feeds with TV broadcasters globally. Also, powered by superfast, reliable global networks, F1 broadcaster Sky will televise all races in Ultra High Definition (UHD) this season. And, as fans consume events on multiple platforms at once, the technical capability even exists to allow broadcasters to deliver live OTT content globally, in complete sync across smartphones, tablets and TVs, so that live Grand Prix can be made a truly real-time, social TV experience.
Efforts to create a phenomenal fan experience aren’t exclusively targeted to those at home, but are being extended to those already in the stadium. For example, the new Wembley Stadium in the UK, which opened its doors in 2007, underwent a major renovation to deploy technologies inside the arena that build on the overall experience for the viewer. During the FA Cup final in May, select groups in the boxes within the stadium were able to access and review multi-angle plays on tablets immediately after watching them take place on the field. Added extras such as access to contactless payments and snack ordering from mobiles give fans control over a completely tailored and self-crafted entertainment experience.
Sports organisations are also bringing their audiences closer to the action by engaging and empowering fans to innovate on their own. For example, the winning entry in the 2016 season of the Formula 1 Connectivity Innovation Prize was a 360-degree virtual trackside experience that transports fans to the exhilarating world of a Grand Prix. The VR application captures the excitement of the trackside to make fans thousands of miles away feel like they are part of the action. It also harnesses AR, encouraging fans to collect ‘hidden stars’ at the trackside, and enabling them to seamlessly glean additional insights about their favourite driver, team car, or anything else they see around them in the virtual Grand Prix environment.
Highly personalised fan experiences are becoming the norm at sporting venues and fans homes around the world. Technologies such as VR, AI and the IoT are empowering fans to select the action they want to engage with as well as the method in which they do so. And, with new technologies on the horizon, more and more sports organisations and broadcasters will be turning to superfast fibre and the cloud to create more immersive and adrenaline-filled fan experiences than ever before.
Want to read more about how new connectivity will shape the future of sports entertainment? Read John Hayduk’s take on it here.
Tata Communications was the Official Connectivity Provider of Formula 1® between 2012 and 2019. Tata Communications was also the Official Managed Connectivity Supplier to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and Official Digital Transformation Partner to ROKiT Williams Racing until the end of the 2019 season.