Children playing games on mobile phones.(PTI Photo)
Children playing games on mobile phones.(PTI Photo)

Technology and innovation improving viewer experience in sports

In India traditionally, only a handful of channels had access to a variety of sports. Cable television had restrictions. But the use of technology has proved to be a big boon for sports in India.
By YASH BHATI
UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2021 11:38 PM IST

With the Covid-19 pandemic putting a halt on all sporting action around the world in early 2020, fans wondered how long they will have to wait before seeing their favourite stars in action. Crickets, football, rugby, basketball, athletics, badminton, golf – all sports (except UFC) were put on hold as Covid-19 wreaked havoc all around the world. The administrators chalked out plans for the return of sports in mid-2020.

Eventually, it was decided that sporting action will resume with some alterations. The biggest one being the non-participation of fans inside the arena. With Covid-19 still a big worry around the world, athletes played in empty arenas with the use of technology enhancing the viewing experience.

Different leagues, different sports used different methods to increase engagement with fans. More live updates, social media updates, food delivery picking up, additional camera angles, VR headsets led to enhanced viewing experience and engagement.

Testing times led to innovation. And innovation led to a boost in viewership. It is said in a Capgemini Research Institute report that 69% of fans report that the use of emerging technologies has enhanced their viewing experience – both inside and outside the stadium with India leading the way.

In India traditionally, only a handful of channels had access to produce sports events. Cable television had restrictions. But the use of technology has proved to be a big boon for sports in India. There is a wide variety of sporting action available for the fans on their mobile phones as well as television. It is just not cricket that has seen a rise in viewership but football, MMA, wrestling, badminton, or basketball have also seen enhanced engagement.

The Indian Premier League also saw a boost in the use of technology to increase the viewing experience for the fans. Stadium sounds were used, screens were put inside the stadium with fans cheering for their favourite teams while more content was available. It proved to be a hit as IPL 2020 became the most viewed tournament in its history.

With the focus now shifting to all things digital, sports tech-based companies like FanCode benefited from the evolving fan preferences. For a company that was launched in March 2019, FanCode has already amassed over 1.5 crore+ app installs and is expected to continue its growth.

“2020 has been a rollercoaster for sports federations and fans. The suspension of events across the world as necessary safety precautions has required federations and leagues to adapt like never before,’ Yannick Colaco, co-founder of FanCode, said.

“The outcome could be seen in the successful comeback of some of the biggest sporting events like IPL, Bundesliga, CPL, MLB, NBA who transformed the holistic experience offered to sports fans, which went beyond just the live broadcast on television. Simple yet impactful personalisations like interactive live streaming and live scores, digital fan walls in stadiums, the launch of dedicated fan clubs and activations, online fantasy sports contests, and a lot of social media activity kept the fervour and brand recall consistent. These initiatives had some leagues and teams even claiming to have received the highest fan engagement levels experienced in their history. We expect this trend to continue even in a post-pandemic world, where sports fans and match-experience will go hand-in-hand, thereby remaining critical to the growth and success of sports,” he continued.

With organisations going all-in on providing personalised content along with match scores, interactive streaming combined with data and statistics, fans are in for a treat in 2021.

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things,” famous German American economist Theodore Levitt had said.

The pandemic brought about an opportunity to innovate as traditional experiences were given a jolt. Everyone latched onto the technological innovations and it has proved to be a smashing success for all parties involved.

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