Digital & Media, Future Trends, Sport Business | Jan 20, 2017
Lessons in VR, AR, analytics, and optimal fanbase management.

BAFTA in London played host to the latest edition of the Leaders Meet: Innovation event on 12th January this year. Event partners the NBA, Cisco and SAP joined forces with leading futurologists, business leaders, entrepreneurs and strategists from business, entertainment and the wider technology sector to do a little collective gazing into the crystal ball.

Here, in no particular order, are six things for the future, today.

  1. 4K is great, but VR is the future of immersive sports broadcasting. If former NBA Rookie of the Year Emeka Okafor’s comments are anything to go on, even the players are coming round to the idea of enhancing the fan experience by wearing cameras in-game. BT’s recent VR broadcast of a Premier League game into EE stores is just the start of what promises to be large-scale adoption. While the technology already exists to bring fans closer to a game-day experience, the mobile video quality is currently too low for it to qualify as a genuine premium experience. According to the NBA’s EVP of Media Operations and Technology, Steve Hellmuth, we are five to six years away from ‘volumetric’ VR – that is, a VR experience that makes use of enough cameras to enable users to ‘sit’ where they want to inside the arena.

  2. All industries now use ‘digital’ to enhance their product or their customers’ experience. Even the ones you might not necessarily expect to need to. SAP VP and Global Innovation Evangelist Timo Elliott highlighted the work 42tea, a company that claims to ‘take the guesswork out of brewing the perfect cup of tea’ through an innovative use of sensors. But in the continued march to digital innovation, a focus on analytics has to be the number one technological priority. With that focus in place, Elliott explained, 80% of all businesses processes from a decade ago will have been eliminated by 2020.

  3. Pokemon Go was always going to be a craze. It came on quick, and it left, by and large, just as quickly. But, as Blippar’s COO Danny Lopez explained, it proved that global consumers in the hundreds of millions are comfortable with AR. The next iteration of AR products will reap the benefits of that tried, tested and eager global audience.

  4. The so-called Internet of Things is now the not-so-called Internet of Everywhere. Farmers use chips to monitor the welfare and whereabouts of their cows; breweries use trackers to keep their kegs – worth £200 even when empty – safe; robots wash and launder clothes, among many other examples. But the sports industry, it seems, is lagging behind. According to Cisco’s Head of Software Solutions Chintan Patel, sports fans, undeniably underserved in terms of onsite connectivity, don’t feel like they’re being provided with a good technology experience at games. In fact, research indicates that fans would be willing to pay 10% more for a better experience.

  5. A picture paints a thousand words, but a simulator saves a thousand hours. Or at least somewhere near that. According to McLaren Applied Technologies’ Chief Innovation Officer Geoff McGrath, the McLaren Formula One team’s virtual testing facility in a day – and at a far lower cost – what gets done in a week on the track. Predictive intelligence continues to advance, leading to huge gains in the ultra-competitive redesign cycle.

  6. Two lessons from the TV and film industry: One: As it seems is happening in politics, consumers are changing their viewing habits away from the centre ground: upscaling to ‘binge-watching’ boxsets, and at the same time downscaling to ultra-short form sub-minute snippets of content. Engagement with the traditional 30 and 90-minute formats continues to drop off. Two: Film franchises have cracked the nurturing and exploitation of their fanbases in a way that few sports teams have yet to manage. Franchises like Harry Potter and Hunger Games are able to drip feed material to stimulate far bigger social connection. Rather than one large group of people meeting relatively infrequently (sports fans gathering to watch games), there are huge numbers of smaller, linked communities meeting frequently to interact together.

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