The “Day After” CORONA
After emerging from the 9.11 crisis, we found ourselves in a world of different realities regarding international flights, and traffic at airports and train stations. Tomorrow, too, when we open the borders and renew our flights, we will find ourselves in a new reality. Not only weapons and explosives will be searched on our bodies. We will probably be required to get physically tested to rule out a condition in which an innocent traveller is also a carrier of a dangerous virus which can cause immense damage.
How would life look like in the “DAY AFTER”?
Well the truth is nobody really knows, and this is all pending various factors such as how long it will go on, how soon will a vaccine be found and will it take the light estimations of a few months or the more dark and fatal ones. But in this uncertainty I would like to offer some suggestions of how the Sports universe will evolve and react: Feel free to hang me in the center of town if this will be proven to be total bullshit.
First I would divide this period into two: from now and until the day a vaccine against Corona is found, and after that day
The sports world will be walking on eggshells:
Next weekend WWE is moving forward with Wrestlemania. Many of the matches have already been taped. If anyone can put on a show it’s the WWE, and they will write the blueprint for broadcasting an event without fans. Expect them to pump in crowd noise, various music and adjust the camera angles and create an illusion that the fans are there. This could even be an opportunity for some avatar fans in the stands. During this time, we expect the sports world to walk on eggshells, while there is a massive pent up demand for live sports and the first events will probably break viewership ratings records, they will most likely be played without fans. With less viewers watching the matches and enhancing the digital viewing experience instead (with layers of information, entertainment and more). As a result – this change will introduce new audiences to the worlds of sports – such as more women, younger audiences and more.
In the short term, the return will be gradual, with intermediate steps such as: tournaments without crowds where all involved will be checked regularly, then the return of crowds to the stadiums – in areas where the corona is not common, keeping distance between spectators. Like the WWE example, The Big3, 3-on-3 basketball league, partnered with media production company Endemol, which has produced the highly-rated reality show “Big Brother,” to create a quarantined reality show and a three-week preseason tournament starting the first week of May. Big3 also plans to open its fourth season of its 12-team league on June 20 in Memphis.
“We can’t control what happens with the virus. Nobody can control it,” Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz told USA TODAY Sports. “If that has to be pushed back a week or two, that’s possible. But we feel pretty good about being able to be up and running in May.” Lebron James initially said he wouldn’t even play if there weren’t fans. In our view that is too aspirational as we don’t see any leagues starting In May. June or July is our prediction, although no one really knows; we just feel May is too optimistic. Having no fans in the stands isn’t a new concept in Europe as many football matches have been played behind closed doors as a result of penalties for racism etc, but to the US market this is unheard of. Everyone by now knows that Lebron initially said he wouldn’t even play if there weren’t fans; which he recanted a few days later after he realised the grim situation. Those European games however didn’t produce any earth shattering innovations. Expect this to come from the NBA, as they are often willing to push the boundaries and try something new; see 2020 All Star game with a new point total format which was very successful.
The Broadcast becomes that much more important but expects innovation around the broadcast itself. The recent XFL didn’t introduce the concept of mic’d up players, but it mic’d up everyone and allowed for discussions between coaches and players, which was well received. If there are no fans we will certainly be able to hear the players talking more. How great will it be to hear the actual conversations and trash talking going on in an NBA game. This could be spun as a new opportunity and once the fans can hear the players it will be hard to go back to silence.
Watching together remotely, as we are all in quarantine:
Watching together remotely, as we are all in quarantine many groups have been joining group video chats. There has been some recent innovation around watching the same games together remotely, one such company Watch Together allows you and your friends to be watching the same game with your faces on the screen as if you and your friend are both on the same couch. This company was designed for quarantine, they just didn’t have this in mind when they rolled it out a few years ago.
Mark Cuban: “this is an opportunity to tear it down and rebuild it.”
Expect multiple and more personalised broadcasts. As Mark Cuban mentioned at a recent sports conference “this is an opportunity to tear it down and rebuild it.” We can have dedicated broadcasts to sports betting, with more graphic overlays and social interactions. Each broadcast can have its own announcers and commentary to provide that personalised solution that today’s fan expects. Spalk has technology that allows for multi broadcasts and was already making some headway. So we can expect this to become more popular. Edisn.ai uses facial recognition to put an overlay about the athletes which can include live states and betting odds to drive directly to place a bet. Expect Sports betting, 5G and multiple new camera angles to play a key role in this new frontier of broadcasting. Once sports comes back it will be an accelerated start and those companies and clubs with continuity should stand out. Expect an increase in injuries as athletes are high performing machines which are not designed for an interruption in training and build up. The NBA was already considering some big changes to their schedule such as an in-season tournament, perhaps a play in game for 8th seed and even some proposals pre corona to adjust the timing of the season to run from Xmas to August to avoid NFL. Corona may escalate all of these ideas and force them into reality this year in the ultimate proof of concept.
The field of Esports will receive a serious boost –
It seems like this is time for ESPORTS to shine – for example in the field of car racing in which famous racing drivers participate, Esports will probably bring higher power of streaming and have already boosted and increased the number of viewers. This trend will continue full steam after the crisis.
Amir Raveh – President and Founder of HYPE Sports Innovation
Ryan McCumber is founder and CEO of SportsTech.ai an innovation consultancy for clubs leagues and start-ups. With 18 years of experience with big 4 consulting firms he was living in New York City at the time of 9.11 and has first-hand knowledge of how the city changed post the crisis as well as the impact it had on the telco, media and entertainment sector. He was a consultant during the financial crisis in 2007 so he has seen these major shifts in society…