I recently got the chance to attend the Hero Indian Open as a guest of Tata Communications. It was an opportunity to learn about the company’s pioneering work with the European Tour, and how it is helping the global golf series to innovate.
As the Official Global Connectivity Supplier of the European Tour, Tata Communications brings video feeds from 48 European Tour tournaments in 31 countries worldwide to 43 broadcasters across 5 continents. Some 900 hours of live content is delivered to nearly half a billion golf fans around the world throughout the year. While providing the core infrastructure needed to broadcast live golfing action around the globe, Tata Communications’ technological expertise also helps the European Tour experiment with new technologies that could enhance the golf experience for existing fans and help attract new fans.
For example, in partnership with the European Tour, the company did the world’s first test of live 360° video in 8K Ultra High Definition at the last British Masters. This ground-breaking technology demo showed how fans at home and at the course could enjoy a more immersive experience using a VR headset. As well as virtual tours of iconic golf courses, the technology could enable fans to enjoy the action up close. In the future, it could even be used to assist referees, allowing them to assess shots in real time.
Digital and commercial transformation of sports
The complexity and challenges involved in the digital transformation in sports are actually much larger than what we generally see in the enterprise world. In most cases in the enterprise world, the office location or workspace is fixed. In a sports series like the European Tour, the location of the tournament changes every week, and you hardly get three or four days to set up a robust and reliable network, put in all security measures and make it accessible, available and bring the action live to fans worldwide. You don’t have the luxury of time and there is absolutely no scope for downtime. Every minute of downtime will translate into millions of dollars in lost revenues and a tarnished reputation. So, sports is actually a good test bed for cutting edge technologies like AI, virtual reality, big data analytics and IoT, which the enterprise world can benefit from.
As well as helping the European Tour to achieve its digital ambition to become truly connected golf event, Tata Communications is also playing a central role in the digital transformation of Formula 1 and MotoGP. The company uses its networking, cloud, mobility and security expertise to lower the barriers for rights holders and broadcasters to expand to new markets, and to enable fans to engage with their heroes in new ways – ultimately paving the way for new commercial growth opportunities.
While Tata Communications has developed customised solutions for each sport it is involved in, the objectives – cost efficiencies and delivering reliable service at scale – are very similar across all sports. Furthermore, new digital technologies, such as VR and IoT, open up new monetisation opportunities in sports, but they also require a solid technological foundation to give fans the immersive, high-quality user experience that they expect.
And, any new innovative services also need to form part of a holistic fan engagement strategy – only then can their commercial potential be maximised.
From the golf course to the cricket ground…
After hearing from the European Tour’s CTO Michael Cole about his digital ambitions, it got me thinking about cricket and how the fan experience could be enhanced further for those watching the action live at the ground.
Imagine going to a cricket match where an app guides you to your seat. Before the first ball, you could use AR to get the latest stats about both teams and each player. During the match, you could access replays on the app from your chosen angle, whether that’s focusing on the action at the crease or following the fielders. IoT technology could let you know when the queues at the food and merchandise stands are at their shortest, and help you to make swift, seamless payments using your mobile.
This is just a taster – but my point is that as the digital fan experience on social media and OTT platforms gets better, fans are bound to expect a similar digitally-enabled experience at sports venues too.
Lessons from sports for other sectors
The sports world has been leading the charge in the exploration of digital technologies that could not only keep their existing fan base hungry for more but also attract new fans to bring in new revenue streams. Yet, just like the European Tour is leveraging its global stars on social media to build emotional connections with fans around the world, for example, businesses in other sectors could entice new customers and build loyalty using new platforms as part of an omnichannel digital strategy.
Creating seamless experiences across multiple channels for more powerful and seamless customer experiences is key to the success – and survival – of any business in today’s digital age. But the key to unlocking the full potential of digital technologies is a solid network and cloud infrastructure that underpins new innovative services.
What could organisations in other sectors learn from sports about digital transformation? Read about these learnings by Tata Communications’ Chief Digital Officer.
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.