Future of Sports Media Lies in the Hands (And Minds) of the Millennial Consumer

In discussions of the future of sports-broadcast technology, there tends to be accentuated focus on 4K, Ultra HD, and beyond: higher resolution, lower frame rate. However, emerging tools in the tech world are potential options for offering the next generation of sports-content consumption.

Take Oculus Rift, for example. Facebook purchased the head-mounted, immersive, virtual-reality system over the summer for a whopping $2 billion. The technology may still be in very early experimental stages, but Facebook is bullish on its future applications, including sports.

“The reason why we bought Oculus Rift is because we’re making a bet that virtual reality will be the next major media-consumer platform in the evolution from radio to HD TV to mobile,” Dan Reed, head, sports partnerships,  Facebook, said during a panel discussion at this week’s NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference presented by Sports Business Journal/Sports Business Daily. “The promise of millions of fans’ being able to sit courtside during an NBA game through Oculus and having it be completely immersive is tremendously powerful. We think it can be incredibly transformative in the way that people consume sports content and how rightsholders create content.”

Next-gen OTT technologies and the like have also shifted the focus of sports television away from being a simply passive medium. Interactive digital options are giving viewers more choice and customizability in their content. Trei Brundrett, chief product officer, Vox Media (whose sports vertical is the highly trafficked Website SBNation), believes the industry needs to prepare itself for a new era when the consumer doesn’t just consume anymore.

“The Minecraft generation is going to grow up, and there’s going to be new expectations about how they interact with media,” he said. “This idea that computers and games is something that you just consume is one that’s breaking down. This generation is going to want transparency into how we’re personalizing these things for them, and they are going to want a lot more control around that.”

On that similar note, not only do younger content consumers demand personalization of content, they want the ease of access to all content on any device anywhere. It’s a challenge technologically to make that happen. However, to succeed with the next generation, it’s a necessity.

“This Millennial generation does not accept restraints on their ability to consume anything,” said Rob Simmelkjaer, SVP, NBC Sports Ventures, which has found tremendous success with OTT distribution of the Barclays Premier League among Millennials. “That’s what this all comes down to.”