Sport, especially cricket, unites a nation like India. Cricket has over one billion fans globally and more than 90% of them are from the Indian sub-continent alone. With the ongoing IPL 2019 and the World Cup 2019 now, ‘Cricket’ is the language India is speaking right now. Cricket fans, no matter where they are, are demanding a first-hand, up close and immersive experience of the intense field action.
To cater to this, sports companies, association bodies, broadcasters, brands and marketers have all come together to provide a best-in-class and more recently, tailor-made entertainment experience to a growing fan base, globally – and technology is at the heart of this evolving fan experience and the high ROI brands witness.
Robust tech infrastructure and delivery chain have enabled video streaming platforms to bring live sports to viewers, wherever they are. Broadcasters have also realised that cricket is a game of sentiments for Indians, and if the action is narrated in the viewers’ own language, it brings them closer to the game.
“Last year, IPL commentary expanded to eight regional languages with more added this season. The result? IPL 2018 on a video-streaming platform alone attracted over 202 million viewers which was an increase of 55.3% from 2017 and this year, it has already achieved a record 267 million viewers within the first three weeks.”
Technology has played a pivotal role here. That same year, IPL was enabled remote production technology which offered this multi-language experience and centralised much of the core operations, managing them remotely from a single production hub. Remote production technology ensures smooth transmission of a combination of signals and multiple HD feeds straight from the cameras at the cricket stadium to the hub and then the viewer.
For broadcasters, remote production is a big win in terms of costs, resource management, and handling complex logistics. They have effectively managed to leverage the best that technology has to offer when it comes to network connectivity, cloud infrastructure, content delivery, security, etc. managing a seamless experience starting from the multiple on-field HD cameras and straight to the high-resolution screens viewed by fans, letting tech companies manage the entire chain in between.
Technology has enabled an upsurge in fantasy sports platforms, as well.
“A fan experience starts way before the game has begun and this is where immersive technology comes into play.”
The popularity of fantasy sports apps is a testament to how digitisation can be used to optimise fan behaviour and skills to literally get them into the game. Ardent fans have opinions and predictions from the time of selection to the final whistle on the field. Fantasy sports platforms are brilliantly leveraging this behaviour. Fans can now create their own teams, predict games by betting on them and winning prizes and money that can even be directly transferred to their bank accounts. Fan adoption of such platforms has been so good that we recently witnessed a first Indian gaming company enter the ‘unicorn club.’
“Marketers are also realising that these digital platforms are where fans are consuming content. They’re finding ways to feature their products without interfering in the viewer’s experience.”
Clearly, there is a lot happening when it comes to leveraging technology for fan engagement. Yet, India has barely scratched the surface of digitisation in the sports arena; a sector which is projected to hit USD $31.1 billion by 2024. Globally, the fan experience is being augmented in several ways with continuous innovation. From streaming games in virtual reality (VR) to building smart stadiums that offer intelligent automation technology reducing operational costs, there is no stopping a world-class immersive fan experience. For instance, the 2017 F1 Grand Prix had a 360-degree live video concept trial which put viewers at the heart of the action, empowering them to choose how they want to watch and engage with F1. The 2018 FIFA World Cup which a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) assessing every goal or a potential penalty, without impacting the live drama.
The next leap for India is the adoption of these new immersive technologies such as AR, VR and IoT, which will revamp and remodel the way fans interact, creating that special ‘all-access pass’ experience which is priceless to any fan – not just with the game, but with the teams, players and brand sponsors, too.
From the ability to watch game replays, to travel partners offering convenient transportation and parking, to food partners taking orders while watching the game and serving them hot at your seat, and even winning prizes through activations; fan engagement has seen a new innings with a lot more to come, as we embrace newer disruptive technologies.
“After all, sports is no longer just a game, it is an entire entertainment package.”
Is there more to technology in sports entertainment? Read our previous blog on what tech brings to the Cricket World Cup.