Data Overlays, Player Stats, AR and VR: Tech is Personalizing the Fan Experience
By Chris Traeger, Executive Director, Boomtown Accelerators
Viewing sports content is becoming more tailored for the individual fan.
“We believe the optimal viewing experience for a major league fan is a completely personalized experience,” said Chris Marinak, Chief Operations and Strategy Officer for Major League Baseball, speaking at Sports Business Journal’s Tech Week event March 9 in New York City.
Every fan “should be able to make the screen look the way they want, whether you want a whole host of detailed and customized stats or the classic broadcast video,” said Marinak, a member of a panel discussion on the latest in digital content innovation.
“You should be able to make those decisions. That’s what the next generation of digital technology is going to bring,” whether via streaming, broadcast, or mobile delivery.
Fellow panelist Mike D’Auria, chief commercial officer of Second Spectrum, agreed.
“Everyone wants something different,” he said. “It comes down to what is the right thing for you.”
For example, when he’s watching an NFL game on TV, he wants the members of his fantasy team “lit up and personalized for me,” D’Auria said. “That’s the future, and we have to roll out the tech to support that.”
Second Spectrum is the official tracking provider for the NBA, Premier League, and MLS, he said. It provides real-time datasets of machine-learned video indexing designed to help coaches, analysts, players, producers, storytellers, and fans understand more about what’s happening in a game or match.
Joining Marinak and D’Auria on the panel was Andrew Hawkins, co-founder and president of StatusPro, a sports tech company that combines data with AR and VR to provide a suite of training and gaming products – and delivering that customized experience that fans want.
StatusPro is the creator of NFL PRO ERA, the first fully-licensed NFL VR simulation game that lets users experience what it’s like to compete as the QB of their favorite NFL team.
Hawkins said his company targets the Gen Z audience that “wants access, but is not playing sports at as high a rate as we were growing up.” The game “gives them a deeper perspective of the game, a perspective they’ve never seen before.”
In VR and esports, “You’re playing QB, receiver, running back, and you go into a virtual environment experiencing playing football without all the limitations of not being born 6-foot-5, running a 4.3, 225 pounds,” he said.
At Boomtown, we’re seeing several new technologies that enhance both the live viewing experience at a major event and the home viewing experience.
Nowadays fans are always connected to their mobile devices, whether they are in-venue, in a sports bar, or at home. Fans don’t want to miss any action from their favorite games or athletes, so it’s important to give them the ability to stay connected to other events and allow them to become more immersed in the action no matter where they are.
Immersive video, stats, data overlays, slice of life, and training content are all important applications that sports teams and leagues must focus on – especially to grow the audience of young fans with short attention spans.
Increasingly these innovations, and other investments that sports organizations are making, will serve to enhance “first-party, direct relationships with fans,” Marinak said.
To accomplish that, the league has added 7,000 minor league games to the 2,330 major league games viewable on its MLB mobile app. It now provides a whole host of “shoulder” content, including pre- and post-game material, he said. And it has a new AR-enhanced GameDay mode that comes with overlays of pitch tracking, spin velocity, and other data.
In the future, Marinak said, the next development in digital content innovation will be “a merging of the media side with data, which will make it more interesting from a fan perspective.”