“It’s the end of the world as we know it”, so goes the chorus of R.E.M’s famous pop song. Written in 1987 to picture a doomsday scenario, it might be equally applicable to the world of sports events – as we know it – in 2020. As a matter of fact, COVID19 is still keeping the sports industry in a firm headlock.
Despite many of the top European football leagues partially finishing their seasons, a return of sports with packed venues in autumn of this year is becoming more and more unrealistic. Too unpredictable are the COVID19 case numbers around the world, too little do we know about the effects of mass gatherings.
What does that mean for organisers of sports events? Put simply – it likely means that the quick fix solutions many have adopted will not suffice. With an ongoing shutdown of leagues and events – or at least with the exclusion of spectators – it is clear that a drastic decline of all three traditional revenue streams is to be expected: broadcasting, commercial and match day revenue. The traditional model of sports consumption is too dependent on broadcasting and live audiences.
Some long-term transformations will be asked for soon, here are three tips on how to adapt:
Distribute your event content D2C
“Direct-to-consumer” (D2C) services are more appealing to the consumer since they don’t have to be in line with the prime-time windows of traditional television broadcasting. With a more flexible schedule and large content libraries, D2C allows rights-holders to capture audiences more intensely and over a longer period of time. In turn, this reduces broadcasters’ purchase power for rights, with rights-holders being more able to look into selling content in-house and/or partnering up with other digital players.
Explore new income streams
COVID19 has bluntly pointed out how fragile a sport event’s revenue structure is. Counteract the fragility by diversifying your revenue streams. These might include live monetisation models, such as gamified viewership (e.g. live payments for digital items, new camera angles, fan commentary and statistical analysis) as well as gambling elements.
The longer fans are excluded from the stadium, the more important it is to imitate the live experience without the need to be physically present. Immersive technologies help. Some features have already been tested during earlier lockdown phases. But the potential is far from exploited.
Just imagine being in an arena and in your living room at the same time, while choosing the option to follow the perspective of your favourite athlete, simultaneously placing a bet on the outcome of the event and also catching up on some of the previous day’s highlights.
Utilising these techniques can help provide fabs with a new experience, a new world – and for sure the end of the sport event world as we know it. But it could be a very positive movement – both for event organisers and spectators. In order for this to happen, rights-holders must be looking to jump on the (right) train now.