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Chris Jackson

rio and the new market for sports metadata — context

In a series of posts, I’m going to make the case that now is the time to invest in better, metaadata-driven experiences for sport. Today, the context:

no new ideas

Back in the 1990s I worked for a very talented radio producer called Peter Robinson. He had a passion for statistics, and had commissioned an impressive database of football information. It could instantly link across players, teams, scorers and the most obscure connections. For years he provided these statistics to commentators. It’s because of him that you’ll often hear stuff like:

this is the third time Fred Gnerk has scored the equaliser against Chelsea

Peter was ahead of his time. Whilst the statistics provided colour to millions, they were always incidental to the main experience of the audience, which was simply to turn on the TV or radio and enjoy an exciting football match.

In the 25+ years since Peter started compiling his database, countless millions have been spent on sports data, with the associated systems and products. The assumption has been that somehow, detailed data must enhance the experience of watching sport. This assumption turned out to be wildly optimistic. Beyond basic scores and league tables, this data has largely been the preserve of super fans who are also statisticians, and the occasional complex betting offer.

tv does what tv does

As many expected, the Rio Olympics was a joyous occasion. Rich stories emerging from 306 events over 19 days of competition, across 42 Olympic sports. In more that 250 countries, national broadcasters put together TV programming that focused wherever possible on their own athletes.

TV does the Olympics pretty well by mass market tastes. If your country is winning medals, or has even a chance of winning medals, you can expect to hear about that. You can also expect to be brought the big moments, from the opening ceremony, then across countless courts, pools, tracks, gyms, pitches and courses. But the number of stories available to you on TV is limited. One or two linear channels can only scratch the surface.

on demand gets real

I only had one thing on my mind when the London opening ceremony was happening. But meanwhile a friend of mind was tweeting about his first trip with Uber. This was a company that had already made it big with tech workers in San Francisco, who talked almost obsessively about the company. I was not surprised, having previously had the rather frustrating experience of living in San Francisco without a car. Surely easy taxi hailing was not a new option in London?

During summer 2012 I noticed the same groundswell of interest in Uber that had surrounded the Netflix streaming service earlier that year. The year after, Deliveroo (a takeaway food delivery company) garnered similar attention. And so on, with numerous new entrants, across old and new categories. These are not services that just appeal to a narrow group of tech workers. Netflix has more than 5m subscribers in the UK, making them easily the second biggest pay TV platform. Uber is ubiquitous amongst those using taxies, and has unquestionably expanded the market for taxies. More than 40% of food delivery orders are now placed using online services.

A term has been coined: the on demand economy. If it’s significant in New York and London, it’s revolutionary in Beijing, where many more categories have been touched.

rio rings the changes

For a large number of younger consumers, expectations in 2016 are fundamentally different from 2012. So, if the audience has changed, has the offer kept up? I’ll look into that in the next post.

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