What to look for in sports business for 2017

While the sports business industry made strides in 2016, new innovation and engagement opportunities may provide an even great leap in 2017. If you’re a fan or executive, you should keep an eye on the following topics as they may impact your experience and/or business model.

The continued integration of VR and AR

Sports businesses and the general sports consuming public dipped their toes in the water as VR became more commonplace in 2015 due to the launch and integration of systems such as Playstation VR, Samsung Gear VR, and the Oculus Rift. The appetite for Augmented Reality (AR) was increased as a result of the ever-popular Pokemon Go as well.

ESPN’s partnership with Jaunt, which recently featured a virtual reality look at the Ohio State v. Michigan football game, ┬ápromises to provide more immersive VR experiences for fans in 2017. Microsoft’s further commercial development of the Hololens, whose NFL-centric announcement made a splash in 2016, and Magic Leap’s continued mixed and augmented reality technology promise that true major shift in how we consume sports.

Wearables and the internet of things aren’t going away

The discussion has already started in the NBA’s latest CBA, but the issue of wearables and how they can and will be used will continue to be a hot button for sports business. As new startups create fascinating ways to track every movement an athlete makes and what’s going on inside their body, the sheer mass of data will create even greater opportunities to fine tune and monitor performance. With the addition of smart devices such as soccer balls and tennis rackets that measure sports specific data, the tech revolution is just beginning.

Credit: Facebook
Credit: Facebook

Social media targets sports

Although Twitter’s foray into NFL streaming hasn’t created the splash the social media company may have wanted, it was big step for offering live big league sports content through a social media channel. Snapchat has followed suit with the use of its Spectacles product to provide behind the scenes looks at the Premier League’s Manchester City and the Minnesota Wild of MLS. With Facebook Live and Instagram Video offering consumers and organizations new ways to create non-traditional sports content, fans and leagues will continue to be able to expand the sports experience to one that fits the modern consumer. How this all impacts the future of sports media rights and ownership of content, however, remains to be seen.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Evolution of the at-venue experience

It’s no surprise that leagues, franchises, and venue owners/operators have struggled to keep up with the at-home experience. The addition of VR, AR, and new social media channels will only serve to increase the stress on those relying on people showing up in person to watch sporting events. Therefore the onus will continue to be on them to distinguish the at-venue experience enough to entice people to keep coming out to games. Whether that’s through creating a more seamless and hassle free experience at the stadium through being able to order food from your phone, finding shorter bathroom lines, and/or developing gamification at the stadiums that create virtual scavenger hunts and puzzles, 2017 will see continued experimenting to see what resonates with fans.