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Monitoring the Future of Sports Media

Immersive media has changed sports fans' expectations. The old ways of doing things are no longer sustaining audiences (see figure 1).

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We’ve defined the future of immersive media as accessible, social and interactive (download our reports here). Broadcasters, rights holders, and content producers are paying attention and actively experimenting with increasingly immersive sports entertainment experiences. So far, most have stumbled.

Live sports OTT has proven to be particularly troublesome.

Over the past year, we’ve seen Amazon fall short twice, with poor distribution of the US Open and Thursday Night Football (link to evidence). There have been several other high-profile failures as well, such as the beleaguered McGregor-Mayweather fight, and the recent debacle with “The Match” between Tiger Woods and Phil Nickelson. Outside of distribution problems, criticism has also been thrown at ESPN’s Monday Night Football coverage, which was slammed for its “innovative” camera work. More ambitious attempts at immersive media, such as the PyeongChang Olympic VR experience, have also been similarly panned by critics. We expect these growing pains to continue as the sports entertainment industry produces more accessible, social, and interactive content.

Not All Sports Media is Created Equal

In reviewing sports media's evolution, we often see that the same sporting event can be experienced very differently depending on where and how it's viewed. For example, some media companies are already embracing video chat, influencer commentary, and allowing fans to create highlights of live-sports and share them online. In fact there are so many different variations of live sports experiences that the Sports Innovation Lab created a mock-up of a feature rich OTT platform to demonstrate what we expect to see in the future.

sportsball Note: This is not a real OTT platform. There is no such thing as sportsball.

Introducing the Immersive Media Diamond

To help rights holders, broadcasters, and content creators stay on top of the technology shaping fans experiences, they need to know what's possible. To consistently deliver the immersive experiences that fans crave, the industry needs to benchmark its progress.

To help, the Sports Innovation Lab has developed a diagnostic that compares sports media experiences side-by-side. We call it the Immersive Media Diamond. It provides a platform agnostic baseline that measures a media experience’s features and quality. The Diamond allows decision makers to understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of two media experiences “at-a-glance,” regardless of their channel or medium. Even users without deep technical understanding of how the experiences were created benefit from seeing how the sports media stacks up to fans expectations.

Here’s a quick example of the Diamond in action:

IM Diamond Sample

Next week the Sports Innovation Lab will post a Diamond on Thursday Night Football as an example of our new framework in action. Stay tuned!

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