2005 brought us YouTube, Xbox 360 and the first iPod with video. In the decade since, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, iPhone, tablets, Google Glass, fitness trackers, 4G cellular networks, WatchESPN and the MLB Network (plus dozens of other league/conference owned networks) were created or launched. Each of these has carved out a significant niche in the sports business and it’s difficult to imagine how we did things beforehand.
Do you remember going to a game without being able to check stats and scores and Twitter on your smartphone in between plays? Or having to wait until SportCenter to see that ridiculous dunk your friend told you about that happened earlier that night? Or exercising without a Fitbit or tracking your progress on an app? I don’t.
In the next decade, there will be dozens of inventions or new ideas that will reshape the sports landscape. What will they be? No one would mistake me for an inventor or a scientist, but I have enough of an imagination to take a shot. Here are a few ideas (some we’re already seeing in action) that will change the way sport is consumed.
The NHL is already experimenting with these on their refs and it makes for some great footage. Racing has offered this for years and if the technology exists to put HD cameras in watches and phones, why not a headband or a helmet?
Director’s chair viewing
MLB.tv allows users to pick different video feeds, audio feeds (home or away TV broadcast, home or away radio broadcast, Spanish language broadcast or field sound only). Various networks have offered fans the chance to customize their second screen with various stats, player-focused cameras and different angles. Soon, this may be available directly on your TV screen. DirecTV could be the first to allow you to produce your own football game. They currently dabble in this area with their Masters coverage.
The rise of eSports
The first permanent eSports arena opened in Columbus, Ohio this fall and there’s an NBA-sized venue (15,000 seats) being built in China. There are a lot of companies spending a lot of money in this area and that often leads to change. Can’t you see ESPN producing a pre-game show from the 2023 Call of Duty Championship?
Legalized sports gambling
Not an invention, but a move that would have massive implications in the sports, travel and hospitality industries. It exists in Europe and is a big enough part of the business that some betting sites sponsor clubs. The NBA’s Adam Silver made news as the first commissioner to endorse legalization of sports betting earlier this year.
NFL goal-line technology
The Barclays Premier League started using goal-line technology this year after FIFA debuted it in the 2014 World Cup. MLS started rolling it out in 2013. It can be expensive, sure, but the NFL is lousy with revenue, so why not find a way to bring this to the sport – at least at the goal line, if not at the first down marker. I think this will happen in the NFL within the next two or three seasons.
In-seat ordering for everyone
There’s an independent app that offers this service and the 49ers have their own app that does it. Picture club or suite service for everyone: no more waiting in concession lines, no more missing the action. It’s rolling out now and will be the way we consume food and drinks at the ballgames of tomorrow sooner than you think.
The first athlete-owned billion-dollar company
This is a bit of a copout, because this isn’t an idea or an invention, but it will happen. LeBron owned a piece of Beats by Dre and made $30 million when it sold to Apple. In the words of Jay-Z, Magic Johnson is a business, man. Carmelo Anthony owns a venture cap firm. Jonathan Bender invented a knee device and is growing his business at a remarkable pace. Someday soon, a current or very recently retired athlete is going to found or own a billion-dollar company.