Technological advancements over the years have impacted every single aspect of our lives. It has changed our accessibility, the way we make certain products, the manner in which we communicate, how we spend our free time and so much more.

Chief among the aspects of life affected by technology is media consumption. Whether it’s live sports, our favorite TV and radio shows or articles we want to read, the increasing shift to mobile devices and bite-sized content has left a huge imprint.

With sports specifically, it used to be that you sat down and watched your favorite team’s latest game in its entirety. Maybe you recorded it, but you were more likely than not going to watch the entire thing. Now, though, there are so many other different ways to watch sports—and things that you can be doing while you do. Maybe you’re on social media talking about the game. Or maybe you’re punching in the latest BetUS promo code to place some live wagers. Heck, perhaps you’re not even watching the game live but instead looking at condensed highlights after the fact. Sportsbooks continue to grow in popularity, with people looking to find the best sites for sports betting arizona, or wherever they are, in the hope that they may make some money from their love of sports. Heck, perhaps you’re not even watching the game live but instead looking at condensed highlights after the game, or checking the sportsbooks to see if your wager was successful.

If this all sounds confusing, it’s supposed to be. Professional leagues are grappling with the way their fans want to consume their sport. And a huge step to understanding that is taking a look at how the tech landscape changed sports and media consumption in the first place.

Cord-Cutting

Cable and satellite used to be our only options when it came to watching TV. But no more.

Television is now compartmentalized. Every network has its own bundle or app. You can have a subscription to ESPN or CBS specifically without paying for all the other extras that cable attaches to it.

On the flip side, this also means that non-sports fans have the capacity to opt out of paying for these sports media networks. They can subscribe to the networks and apps that carry their entertainment content outside the sports bubble, which in turn costs sports properties the huge subset of customers who paid for their offerings through cable without ever actually using it.

That’s left these networks—and, by extension, leagues—to get more creative as it pertains to finding and appealing to fans. Reaching the widest audience possible is the name of the game, and that’s led to some broadcast deals with streaming companies like Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc., in order to ensure the product (i.e. live sporting events) can be accessible even to those who don’t want to pay for it specifically.

Bite-Sized Consumption

Still, even with these tactics, the live-watch ratings for many leagues are down. It isn’t so much a problem for college football or the NFL, because their overall product is scarce; they’re playing fewer than two dozen games per season. But for leagues like the NBA, NHL and MLB, cord-cutting has absolutely had a challenging impact on how they draw in live audiences. 

This issue coalesces with another one: waning attention spans. Both millennials and Gen Zers are so used to having so many devices and social media platforms at their disposal, they’re less likely to sit through entire games for sports other than football. (Again: The scarcity of football games matters a ton.)

It has become more and more popular to follow sporting leagues via highlights that get posted on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. Sure, some of these clips get millions and millions of views, but they don’t count towards a league’s overall ratings. They can’t. Not when the target consumer is taking in only a fraction of the product.

Leagues have responded to this by attempting to monetize the condensed highlights. Selling ads, however, is not enough. They’ve forged partnerships with social media influencers and run sponsored events in hopes of creating new streams of revenue.

The Future Of Live Sports

We’d be remiss if we claimed to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what the future holds for live sports. 

In many ways, the industry is protected against complete implosion. People will always want to watch live sports.

At the same time, the way they’re getting their live-sports fix has clearly changed. If the leagues wish to continue growing their fan bases and revenue, they need to focus on two major areas of improvement moving forward: making themselves accessible to new fans through creative marketing and product placement, and above all, figuring out how to effectively monetize all the various ways in which established fans consume their content.