There aren't many things as traditional as sports. Yeah they're progressive and boundaries are constantly being pushed, but the essence of athletic competition has remained the same for yonks. It's an interesting ol' time to be alive as we experience what our parents, grandparents and generations before that experienced with new technologies such as the radio, TV, phones, mobile phones etc etc ... except our experience is generally focused on the internet.
The internet gives society so much, I won't bore you with how awesome and shit it is. But I will explore the concept of the internet and sports colliding. Some people/sporting organisations whether they be an athlete, governing body or a franchise/club have embraced the joys of new technologies and enhanced the general experience of following a sport. Others are just being kinda dumb about it all.
What am I specifically talking about? Well let's look at the NBA. First we have to make the point of their 'League Pass' which gives subscribers access to games and a whole host of NBA content online for a price. Nothing crazy and definitely worthwhile. But besides their 'League Pass', the NBA give fans so much content for free on Youtube in what I reckon is the best example of a sporting organisation using the Youtube platform. With so many games ... pretty much games every day during the regular season, the NBA gives you highlights of every one of them, top 10 plays from that day and the cool behind the scenes stuff. Basically everything you want is there, as long as you're not the greedy 'I want more' type of joker, you can have a good ol' time for an hour or so on the NBA channel.
The Twitter and Facebook activity falls below the Youtube stuff. Twitter serves as a great place for the NBA to give out quick little facts or information to users and media watching the games. For the fan, Youtube is where they get their visual pleasure and the NBA do a awesome job of ensuring that the NBA brand is shown in a fantastic light around the world.
That's what it's about. The NBA is loved by people in nearly every country. Unlike football where fans follow a variety of competitions, the NBA is a single competition with fans in obscure parts of the globe. No matter where you are, who you're with and what you're doing, you will be able to stay up to date with the NBA.
The opposite end of that spectrum is hockey. I have a vested interest in hockey which makes it's plight an interesting journey for me. Hockey is a worldwide sport, not on the scale of basketball and football, but with nations from Europe, Asia, Oceania and South America all competing at a high level, it has global appeal. But at the end of the day, it's a bit of a minor sport. The FIH (International Hockey Federation) has embraced the internet and they are doing what they can to grow the game with these new avenues available.
For me as a hockey fan, I want to watch top level international hockey. And now I can thanks to Youtube and more importantly the FIH's strategy. Whether it's live streaming games (legally) through their Youtube channel, their highlights packages and the behind the scenes stuff, the FIH do a great job of giving hockey fans what they want. They obviously do the Twitter thing pretty good as well with everything you need there too. When you throw in to the mix that the two biggest hockey competitions in the world - the Indian Hockey League and the European Hockey League are both online sharing their great action, you have a pretty well rounded package.
For me it's that simple. If you give the fans and users what they want, you're doing well. And it's really not that hard to give them that, all it takes is a bit of creativity and imagination and you're there ... because the internet makes it simple. You get the feeling that many of these types of decisions are being made by the people in power who are of an older generation. People who don't quite grasp the concept, let alone the importance of it. They don't understand how bloody easy it is to get their content for free (illegally) and they don't quite understand the psyche of our generation. We grew up with Napstar, Limewire and Youtube so it's in our blood whether we or they like it or not.
Would you rather share your awesome highlight package for free, with all the branding you can fit in it or would you rather people go find it somewhere else where the only branding is for a miracle fat loss cure?
I'm not sure on specifics, but you'd imagine that a hurdle for governing bodies and sporting organisations is the rights to content. Is it the TV company who paid millions of dollars or is it the governing body who own the content? Both sides have merits. On the one hand you have the media companies who are basically funding the sport with the millions if not billions of dollars they pay for the right to broadcast content. That money goes a long, long, long way.
On the other hand, we are moving in to a time where the question must be asked - is there any need for the big TV deal? There are various broadcasting channels available that can, if executed in a smooth and creative manner, give equal if not more exposure.
We haven't quite made it there yet. Look at the Premier League Pass situation. For some weird reason, we still have shitty internet. I thought we were meant to be living in space by now? Let alone have quick, smooth, high quality internet. It's a slow moving beast, we can't expect everything to be online next week because the infrastructure simply isn't there. But the evidence definitely is there.
In our part of the world, we have a few on-demand types of services that, let's be honest, suck. They do a half hearted job of what could be done. But they don't need to be better because there simply isn't that competition which drives innovation. Innovation would be opening up the possibility of watching an All Blacks game from England online for free via the broadcaster. It's not like they're gonna lose money ... ah but they always wanna make money. Oh well, I guess everyone will just go back to their various streaming methods.
There are some fantastic examples of how to best use the internet to enhance the user/fan experience of watching and support sports. The way the NBA have done things, I've become more of a basketball fan simply because the exposure is there. Instead of waiting for a few games each week to be shown on TV, I can do that AND get highlights from every single game, the best plays, the best dunks, the best passes ... I can get flippin everything!
To try and replicate would possibly be the dumbest thing to do though. Each sport is different, each audience is different and just the general nature of sports means somethings lend their selves to the online space better than others. But it's definitely possible to take the best bits from various places of the internet and adapt or mould them to the sport. Technology has evened out the playing field, we all have access to whatever sport we want and those who are embracing and adapting are reaping the rewards. Those who aren't? Well, have fun in the stone age.