The digital native, typically in the 16-35 year age group, thinks and acts differently compared to others.
Sports organisations need to find new ways to win them over; which means changing, adapting, and planning for a future in which most fans are digitally savvy.
Through digital, fans have the ability to both consume sports competitions of any size and interact with them. Anyone, anywhere with an internet connection can be immersed in communities beyond their location. Additionally, fans can connect the sports-viewing experience to other activities in their digital community, meaning sports compete directly with other forms of online entertainment.
The “ always on” culture also means that being a superfan is also evolving, as fans enjoy many points of entry to their favourite sport; be that via games on mobile devices, apps, online communities, or esport or streaming online. Fans express their love for their favourite sports across all these channels and many may never attend a match inside a stadium or view a linear TV broadcast.
These are the key learnings to consider:
After immense growth in the last two years, almost half of fans interviewed in the Nielsen Report prefer streaming content. This significant move from broadcast to internet-delivered content is both a challenge and an opportunity for content providers.
With content being available to anyone with an internet-enabled device there is both potential to grow audiences; as well as a rise in competition.
Sport is now competing against all other content for attention, and there are real concerns about monitoring and monetising materials without losses caused by piracy and other illegal access methods.
Not only are audiences discovering and consuming a wider range of sports than previous generations; but these audiences also happen to be scattered all over the world.
This can be capitalised on by organisations in order to engage with an international community.
With so many fans preferring to interact with content only online; new rules and norms are being defined.
If we look at breakout streaming content of other genres, we see crossovers between different platforms (comics to TV to games to films, for example), with active fan involvement through discussion forums, message boards, chats, behind-the-scenes coverage, and what is likely to happen next. This is no longer passive “consumption” but more active engagement. The challenge for the sports industry is how to use this in a sporting context.
The concept of multi-screening is quite normal. In the past, fans planned their lives around the match schedule of their teams. In this digital age, there are no 'normal' times and with VOD, even appointment viewing does not enjoy exclusive attention.
Beyond the matches, fans are consuming sports in a broader and more profound way than ever before. They play games online, act as their own “manager” for fantasy football, interact with people they will never meet around the world, and also look for ways to make a more active contribution. Many place bets and respond to in-game prompts.
Digital natives are actively engaging with the content they consume.
They have multiple points to entry and engagement. The new type of digital fan is likely to want a more interactive relationship with sporting content, to reflect the hands-on fan experience that now exists in other content areas, such as comics and sci-fi.
Looking at a digital-focused approach, with streaming at its heart, opens up a lot of new possibilities for all content owners.