The sports that we enjoy the most haven’t changed much over the last few generations. The biggest leagues in the United States and Europe remain the same as they were in the 20th century.
Over the last century, the sports themselves haven’t changed much either. While there have been many minor tweaks to the rules, a player from the 1940s or 1950s would still be able to understand and compete today.
The way that we enjoy these sports has changed drastically though. In 2020, sports fans can get closer to the action than was ever possible before. Not only that, but it’s easier for newcomers to understand the rules and intricacies than even just a few years ago.
Here are some of the ways that technology has changed the way that we consume and enjoy our favourite sports.
Before the mid-20th century, watching sport was only possible at the stadium. This meant that you had to make a special trip to go and stand with other fans, regardless of the weather.
While this meant there was always a great atmosphere, it left little flexibility for people who couldn’t make it to the game. They’d have to try and catch the score on the radio or in the newspaper.
This all changed with TV though. Although its introduction was gradual over several years, sports that embraced it suddenly had many more spectators. Today, many Premier League matches in England attract 2 million domestic viewers per game and many more from abroad. That’s around 20 to 40 times more people that can fit into most large stadiums.
Bigger events, like the NFL’s Super Bowl can attract around 100 million viewers, the equivalent of almost one-third of the US population.
This increased viewership has resulted in money flowing into the sport. Part from the broadcasters who pay billions for the rights to air the games on their networks and part from the sponsors who allocate millions of their marketing budgets to have their logos shown on shirts and around stadiums.
And as HD and 4K resolutions have become available, fans can now also enjoy their favourite sports in incredible picture quality.
Online and Mobile Betting
Mobile technology hasn’t just allowed us to watch sport on the go, it’s also made it more convenient to place bets on most major sports with apps offering betting content directly from sports analysts. Fans enjoy betting on games as it adds an additional element of excitement, giving them another reason to root for their team.
Before mobile and online betting though, fans would have to head to a physical sportsbook. In the US, these are typically inside casinos and at racetracks, which are often out of town and take some time to travel to. Even in countries where betting shops are located in town and city centres, making wagers from your smartphone in front of the TV, while you watch the game is much more convenient.
The internet has allowed fans to get closer to their favourite sports and athletes in other ways too. For example, many follow their team or club and key players on sites like Twitter and Instagram.
This helps them hear directly from the team or player without the filter of a sports broadcaster. Many of the athletes that use social media the most do so by letting their fans get a behind the scenes look at what they get up to when not competing.
For example, Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton posts images of his testing, training, and home life. This can make him seem more human to fans and helps them connect with them on a more personal level.
Just like TV changed the way we watch sport in the 20th century, video streaming over the internet is likely to do the same in the 21st. Many major sports, including the NFL, EFL and Formula 1 already have digital streaming platforms and it is rumoured that the English Premier League is working on its own.
This will let leagues cut out the middlemen and create a direct relationship with fans. It could also mean more and better content, better on-demand features and even lower costs for subscribers, while simultaneously making more money for the leagues.