SBD/Issue 76/Sports Media

What Lies Ahead For Sports Media Throughout The Next Decade?

Some Questioning If Game Experience
Will Have Same Importance In '20
The key story in sports media looking at the next decade "will be how we watch and perhaps how much," according to Harvey Araton of the N.Y. TIMES. Digitalization is the "watch word for sports industry power brokers and planners, seducing and scaring them as they stampede into the great electronic unknown." Some industry execs "worry that a fast-changing home viewing experience -- 3D television, in particular -- could make pro sports more of a studio event than a public spectacle." Others wonder if sports "could be the new decade’s print news media, reconditioning consumers with online alternatives that diminish traditional revenue streams." SCP Worldwide Chair Dave Checketts said, "The way young people are growing up with their blogs, texts and Facebooks, the game experience is just not going to be as important. In 2020, a generation of kids who don’t have much expectation of long-term employment with the same company won’t have the same live-and-die loyalty to the Yankees.” But ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer said, "All of these other apps are the hors d’oeuvres, and the game is still the meal." Araton noted the consensus at a recent Microsoft forum was that football "would be best equipped to deal with 2020 challenges, because of its weekly format and its old-school social networking system, the tailgate." Almost everyone in the industry "agrees that globalization is the companion to digitalization." NBA Commissioner David Stern: "Because there are huge populations that have not played it or viewed it, we still see globalization as a huge growth potential." Meanwhile, Northeastern Univ. AD Peter Roby believes that college sports is "in for a government-induced smackdown." Roby: "I’ve been speculating that Congress is going to get involved, taking a hard look at the fund-raising, the multimillion-dollar salaries for football and basketball coaches and asking, how is this connected to the mission of higher education and tax exemptions? We already have the precedent with baseball" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/3).

TRIPLE-THREAT POSITION: In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich noted the "advent of streaming games online, an explosion in the number of digital sports channels and the popularity of digital video recorders all revolutionized the business" during the past 10 years "in ways few expected in the 1990s." The consensus in the industry is "things will continue to evolve at breakneck speed in the next decade." But while those changes will "basically build on what's happened in the previous 10 years, there is one potential newcomer that could rewrite all the rules." 3D television "already is being tested for sports," but the "jury is out on its commercial viability, with many believing that wallets depleted by investments in HD won't be able to handle yet another upgrade." TSN President Phil King said, "It's a great development, but it may have come a decade too soon" (TORONTO STAR, 12/31).

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