The Big Game is Evolving

April 11, 2022

Once upon a time, being a sports spectator meant just that—you sat and watched the game. These days, engaging with your favorite pro sports means taking part in the action. Being an armchair analyst is now a multimedia experience, complete with up-to-the-second social media posts, fan forums, online betting, and fantasy sports that put the fans in charge.

In a recent SportsPro Insiders panel, experts explore how the way we watch sports is evolving, how social media brings the experience to life, and how streaming providers can use data to perfect the relationship between content and fan engagement. Read ahead for the highlights.

Live isn’t dead

When was the last time you recorded the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals so you could watch it later? Probably never. We simply don’t consume sports the way we would consume a scripted TV series. The excitement is live and in the moment, and by watching the big game at a later date, you miss out on one of the best parts: being part of the conversation. Your friends and coworkers aren’t going to wait two weeks for you to catch up on the World Series. If you miss the live game, you’re gonna miss out on the discussion.

“Live sports are very important to us. It’s the one thing across all of our communities that unites us. I don’t think the value of live sports is going away anytime soon.” – Joel Thorman, Editorial Director of Football, SB Nation

While streaming services offer endless options for at-your-leisure viewing, if a live game is happening now, fans will likely watch it in the moment so they don’t miss out on the live chatter. And live-streaming platforms are capitalizing on this urgency. Services like Prime Video and Peacock are leaning into the demand for live sports among a streaming audience.

“I think live sports are going to be a cornerstone for any streaming service going forward. I think you already see those services prioritizing live sports.” – Joel Thorman, Editorial Director of Football, SB Nation

Socials foster next-level engagement

In the age of social media, nothing happens in a vacuum. That’s especially true for live sports.

“Twitter has turned into my Sports Center. I immediately go there. I’m paying attention to it during the game, and definitely afterwards, for people to tell me what’s important. What did you see? Did we experience the same thing together? Did you see it the way I did?” –  Nick Cicero, VP of Strategy, Conviva

Of course, comradery among fans is nothing new. For generations, sports fans have bonded over their shared love of the game. But the streaming boom presents an opportunity to widen these long-existing communities. Savvy sports marketers now see a chance to facilitate connection among fans, help them discover new content, and feed them highlight reels and behind-the-game content through social media.

“The NFL has done not only a brilliant job with their broadcast partners, but also with partners like us. It’s not exclusive to Twitter. They have robust partnerships on their side with TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, you name it.” – David Herman, Senior Partner Manager of Sports, Twitter

Finding the right mix

Back when live sports played on one of three television networks, broadcasters pulled in viewers with a wide net. But the social media landscape is far more diverse and niche-driven. That means streaming providers have to be intentional in their execution if they want to attract the right audiences for the right content.

“You’ve got to reach your customers where they are. The NFL finds where everyone is, whether that’s a RedZone type of customer, someone who wants to watch all of the games at once, traditional broadcasts, social, digital, whatever it may be.” – David Herman, Senior Partner Manager of Sports, Twitter

This is no small challenge, especially considering the NFL has 32 clubs, each with individual fan bases and markets. Still, the league finds its fans by developing content at the local and regional level, with each club managing its own top-tier app services, YouTube channels, and other supporting media.

“This is an important part of the operation for developing fans and fostering community, which, as we all know, leads to more conversation and consumption.” – David Herman, Senior Partner Manager of Sports, Twitter

Connecting the dots with data

The truth is, live-streaming and social media are both parts of the same equation. In fact, a recent Content Discovery study by Conviva revealed that those who consume the most social media content also consume the most streaming content. The finding underscore how important it is for sports broadcasters to integrate both into their marketing strategies.

So how can you get the best balance of streaming content and social media engagement? Conviva’s Viewer Insights and Social Insights applications provide the data analytics your business needs to make the most informed strategic decisions.

“We’re the only analytics platform in the world that brings all of your streaming video and all of your social data together to actually be able to see these correlations and connect all the dots.” – Nick Cicero, VP of Strategy, Conviva.

Learn more: Watch the SportsPro Insiders panel and read the Content Discovery study.