By Nicole Junkermann
The rise of technology has transformed the way we are consuming all forms of media, and the sports industry is no exception. A report from Drake Star Partners forecast that the global sports technology sector will reach $31.1billion by 2024.
However, in these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 crisis, the restrictive lockdown measures in place across the world have shattered the sports industry. In September, sports fans were told “to prepare for no spectators throughout the winter”. Although lockdown restrictions continue, some still remain hopeful. For example, Manchester United announced in October that Old Trafford stadium has been modified to accommodate 23,5000 socially distanced spectators as soon as football clubs are given the go-ahead to begin allowing fans back in. The financial impact of the pandemic, however, continues to severely affect many sports and teams, with FIFA having estimated a loss of nearly £11 billion to the football industry and Manchester United themselves having suffered a £70m drop in expected revenue in the period to 30 June 2020.
It is clear that this crisis has accelerated the need for all major sports to embrace change to survive, for example by utilising streaming services in a growing technological landscape, although this particular initiative has not been without controversy. Streaming for some appears to be one of the few lifelines, outside of direct financial support from the government.
But what does the broader future of broadcasting look like? A survey conducted by Deloitte found the average fan satisfaction across broadcast and streaming services at 39%, 15% lower than fan satisfaction in the stadium. It showed that the single most important factor for fans was picture quality. Although we are not there yet, my personal vision is an immersive virtual reality in sports where ground-breaking and exciting technology could offer a new way of viewing, enabling fans to ‘take to the field’ alongside their teams.
I have been involved in and followed the sports broadcasting industry from the outset of my career and it has been a fascinating journey to see how the market has evolved into the huge mainstream global industry it is today. I am a proud investor in Grabyo, a browser-based live video production suite that is used by major sports federations and media companies to produce professional-quality live streams and video clips for digital audiences.
Grabyo allows broadcasters and content rights holders to instantly create, edit, share and monetise video clips in real time. This enables them to capitalise on the significant commercial opportunities provided by sharing live video across web, social and mobile – thereby helping brands to engage with fans. In my opinion, Grabyo could well be the future of broadcasting.
Founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur Will Neale and led by experienced CEO Gareth Capon, Grabyo’s ever-growing list of big-name customers includes Sky, La Liga, The Premier League, Wimbledon, Fox Sports, and Reuters. Grabyo has enjoyed its rapid international expansion with partnerships now with over 60 premium rights holders, brands, and publishers in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.
Alongside NJF Capital, investors include Tony Parker, the former French-American professional basketball player, as well as ex-Arsenal Football Club stars Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, and Robin van Persie.
In recent years, the way that sports fans have been able to consume and experience live sporting events has changed at a rapid pace. Now, the pandemic has altered the sports broadcasting landscape, possibly forever. While the future is hazy as to when stadiums, grounds, and sporting arenas will re-open to the public, one thing we certainly know is the future of sports broadcasting will have technology at the forefront.