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In studying more about the sports TV viewing experience, we discovered that for the biggest sports fans, watching sports on TV is much more like going out on the town than watching a TV show. It is a social-gathering experience.
Even when it is as simple as getting coffee, there is something special about “going out.” It is never a bad-news situation; it is always the fun part of life, something we look forward to doing. When someone says, “Let’s go out,” you expect to go to a movie or concert, go out to dinner, go to a festival or fair, go to a party, or get together for coffee or drinks. There is a set of things that would be of the type called “out-on-the-town.” Washing the car would not be one of those things. Nobody has to define or explain the term to you; there is a range of expectations. Only two things are required to set up going out: You have to plan, and you have to do it with others.
How big is it? More than 50 percent of all sports fans would rather watch on TV than attend in person (Source: Luker on Trends —
LG’s March Madness ads show why home is the only place to watch the game.
If you have been watching college basketball the last few weeks, you have probably seen the LG commercials for kitchen appliances. Very subtle, very powerful. They open with people in the kitchen preparing and climax with letting every conceivable kind of sports fan in to watch the game as if your home is the only place you want to be to watch the game, because increasingly it is.
This is both a threat and an opportunity for the industry. The threats include the lost revenue and lost “birth of the fan” experience of attending. The biggest fans of a sport or team are those who attended a game before they were age 10, and the odds of ever going to a game if you don’t go before age 20 are very slim. The earlier you go, the more you do to support the team and sport … for life. If sports is mostly about “watching TV,” the competition becomes “American Idol” as well. It also is changing the way we think about marketing overall (see Forward Thinking).
On the up side, there is a blank canvas that companies like LG and Buffalo Wild Wings are now pencil-sketching, awaiting the masterpiece of the sports experience. We used to have Friday night fights and poker games, in-on-the-town experiences, if you will. In the extreme, we already have the Super Bowl party that is bigger than some national holidays.
The future for sports will center on remote experience through media. The live experience at event will be an afterthought or reward. Consuming sports is still watching TV, when, in reality, sports on TV is anything but TV. It’s live. It’s a party waiting to happen. It’s a bigger event than the Saturday morning farmers markets in America that now draw millions every week. It is the future of sports.
Rich Luker (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Luker on Trends and the ESPN Sports Poll.