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By Paul Pastor

 Knowing what the other guy is thinking often puts the most successful over the top in sports. Talent and teamwork matter, of course, but it’s the ability to get into someone else’s head – Fastball, curve or slider? Run, sideline pass or bomb? High past the glove hand or low to the short side? – that gives teams that extra edge. 

Like coaches or players in games of mental moves, sports teams, leagues and broadcasters are wielding ever more sophisticated insights into fan and viewer behavior to win the battles for audience attention. At a time when more and more interactions are digital, knowing how fans watch the game, what they buy, and how they follow teams in off-hours and off-seasons all can result in technology and content decisions that increase engagement and monetization.

Picture this: In-game live coverage and post-game highlights tailored to individual viewers’ preferences. The ability to surface new behavioral trends that can enrich viewing experiences. In short, a digital-first approach that teams with technology advances to reach every corner of the sports media landscape.

That’s the objective outlined by Alfredo Tan, Rogers Sports & Media’s SVP of Strategy, Data and Products at Stream TV Sports recently. On a panel with the Vegas Golden Knights’ Kris Knief, Turner Sports/Bleacher Report’s Katie O’Mealia, nScreen Media’s Colin Dixon and our own Andre Christensen, Alfredo highlighted how Rogers Sports & Media is rethinking its approach to sports coverage to leverage the torrents of data that are available today. Here are some targets: 

  • Personalized Coverage and Content – Rather than a traditional model in which the same broadcast is distributed to many viewers, Rogers’ goal is telecasts that can be tailored to individual preferences. “Depending on who you are, the experience changes – whether it’s the camera angle, it’s the type of highlights, it’s about the content that’s served.”
  • Better Data Begets Better Decisions – Alfredo envisions a flywheel effect in which data exists not just to create better experiences for viewers at a given moment, but to inform decisions that build viewing and loyalty over time. “Better products, more engagement, more data fuel better strategic decision-making and then the more time people spend on our digital products, our access to first party data increases and then the ability to sell merchandise, ticket sales or the future of sports betting becomes more compelling.”
  • Content That ‘Knows’ You – Instead of having choices led by explicitly stated fan desires, Alfredo sees a world in which personalization responds to implicit viewer behavior. “Rather than being forced one module which is a 30-minute or 20-minute or 10-minute highlight reel, it will understand that your perspective may be that in six minutes or less you want to capture the entire essence of the game. From my perspective, even the elements that get packaged up in that six minutes varies over time.”

Ultimately, says Alfredo, sports teams and rightsholders can uncover data points that today are untapped to increase engagement in the future. “Making the invisible visible,” he calls it, and cites how Amazon’s Go store in Seattle tracks patrons’ shopping time. “It became a game: how long you can shop, or get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. So what part of the fan experience could you do that to so that suddenly the game becomes more interesting for fans?”

As sports media moves farther into the digital environment, understanding viewer wants and needs can spark better sports media experiences. With visionary companies like Rogers Sports & Media pointing the way, sports media is accelerating toward a future in which content decisions powered by data analytics can create new levels of fan loyalty and viewer engagement. 

All of us with skin in the game should be thinking about that.

Paul Pastor