What Does Immersive Mean?
Sports is a proving ground for immersive media, but what does it even mean for media to be immersive? And why does the concept of immersion matter?
Unsurprisingly, the definition of "immersion" is an endless rabbit hole, depending on what perspective you take. For virtual reality developers, immersion and its connection to presence have a different meaning than for OTT platform developers. For game developers, immersion is a particularly loaded term, as players can become as immersed in a game of Candy Crush on a smartphone as they can with a match in Fortnite.
There are, however, threads that connect these varying perspectives together. These connections are important for unpacking how and why immersive media is important to the evolution of sports content.
Here are the three defining characteristics for what makes sports media truly immersive:
Even great content will die on the vine if it cannot be accessed by fans. New content technologies are tested with sports media because it can provide a continuous stream of live content to large receptive audiences. This allows content providers to pressure test media technologies at scale.
Sports are social experiences, and therefore, sports media consumption is fundamentally a social activity. Watching sports together, debating, competing, betting—an essential driver of sports fan identification is the desire for inclusion in a group, and media that affords social behaviors are more likely to retain audiences.
We've heard it a million different ways—lean in moments, second screens, engagement tools—but no matter what you call it, one essential principle remains the same: audiences want to interact with their media. In the absence of something to do while watching sports, audiences create their own interaction, therefore platforms that build-in interactive components will be more engaging and interesting to viewers.
These are the three criteria that define Immersive Media in the sports landscape. Not all companies excel at all three. Some companies, like Facebook, and Twitter, focus on social features even as they add OTT services, while others like GenVid and StageTEN lean heavily on expanding levels of interactivity. Accessibility remains a challenge for B2C companies that seek to develop immersive experiences. Companies like Niantic, the developer behind hit mobile AR game Pokemon Go, remain a shining example of how to do this right.
Accessible, Social, and Interactive—these qualities define Immersive Media. We cover these criteria, the companies in the market, and the future of Immersive Media in much more detail in our Immersive Media Trend Report.
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