Silicon Valley Changed the Way Sports Fans Think

Opinion: As viewing behavior begins to evolve, sports content production is following suit

Twitter partnered with the National Football League in 2013, adding live in-game highlights to tweets. This was a seminal moment for sports fans, changing the way we all watch, cheer and engage with our favorite teams.

As the partnership evolved, The NFL agreed to broadcast Thursday Night Football on Twitter (and a $50 million deal bought by Amazon now allows the tech giant to show NFL games in 2018).

These types of deals are popping up more frequently with leagues, teams, athletes and governing bodies all looking to leverage emerging technology to reach new audiences and drive ancillary revenue. Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Netflix and Twitter all have sizable monthly user totals that represent a new battleground over sports fans who make up one of the most valuable remaining live digital audiences.

As viewing behavior begins to evolve, sports content production is following suit.

Virtual reality company NextVR brings content to life for the National Basketball Association, NASCAR, the National Hockey League and Fox Sports.

Intel True VR gives consumers the opportunity to take a 360-degree look at Tom Brady’s historic Super Bowl comeback.

And Strivr brings virtual reality into the huddle, allowing consumers to put on an NFL helmet and step into the action.

Leagues and teams are starting to invest in e-sports, and we’re just scratching the surface with augmented reality, which will most likely be rolled out over the course of the next year.

This insatiable appetite for video across digital platforms is putting sports on the forefront of a content evolution. While these adaptations are starting to transform the game as we know it, the outcome is a long way from certain.

The NHL, Major League Baseball and other leagues and teams strategically livestream certain games on Facebook. The objective of any sport is to grow its footprint. With over 35 percent of all mobile activity taking place within social media applications, there is no better place to start.

Facebook Live is poised to become the digital-video recorder for the next generation of fans. Consumers can tune in live and watch the action unfold at their leisure, or check back when the game is archived if they so choose. This allows viewers to skip to peak watching moments tracked within the video.

Another advantage of using Facebook Live is the automatic notifications sent to a Facebook page’s entire audience once the stream begins, serving as live tune-in messaging to a sports organization’s largest digital fan base.

As soon as Facebook works out the kinks with its video advertising revenue model, Facebook Live could very well take center stage as a core broadcast medium for an entirely new generation of sports fans.

While Facebook Live may help drive reach and awareness, increasing the length of time that a user is engaged is another challenge altogether. When was the last time you spent a full session on any social network watching just one video?

While the thought of supplementing network television with a more active and vibrant social media audience seems ideal, the two user bases don’t behave in the same way. The fast-paced Instagrammer is less likely to spend two hours watching a video than the avid television watcher.

MLB understands the importance of grasping and holding consumer’s attention, and it expertly uses Snapchat Stories to keep them coming back for more. By recording pregame rituals, batting practice and key game moments, MLB brings the sport to life in a way that really connects with social media users.

This generation of fans enjoys experiencing an entire game through two minutes of video, where only one-half of the content is directly tied to the action on the field. These tactics keep younger audiences engaged while luring a new group of potential followers who can help reshape the definition of an MLB fan.