By Bill McCaughey
For The Fort Bend Star
What would you program if you were in charge of ESPN?
You may get your chance to create your own sports channel in the very near future as personalized sports content is the newest hot topic in sports broadcasting.
In a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show held this month, technology and sports leaders gave their opinions on what will happen as technology and sports converge.
Would you like to watch the Rockets play the Lakers from a courtside seat without leaving your home? A virtual reality viewer will let you watch the game while sitting next to Jack Nicholson.
“We have the technology to do that right now,” Brian Krzanich, Intel Chief Executive Officer said. “We can show the fan any view that we have available on an interactive personal channel.”
In this case, channel is broadly defined as your television, your smart phone, your tablet or even your watch.
If you are a James Hardin fan, you could subscribe to the James Hardin channel. You will be able to watch the game from his perspective, through a tiny camera embedded in his uniform.
You will see what he sees as he looks for a teammate to pass to, or drives to the basket and suddenly Lebron James is in his face, and yours, as he blocks the shot. In addition, subscribers will get Hardin’s comments at the end of each quarter and even during time-outs.
Maybe you want the JJ Watt channel. See what JJ sees as a blocker attempts to stop him from sacking the quarterback. JJ’s helmet camera provides all the action.
“We will be able to provide the fan with much more data on a real-time basis,” Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers said. “You may have two screens, one with the game and a second that superimposes data over the action. We could show that where Lebron is currently standing, his field goal percentage is 44 percent. As he moves to another spot on the court, his percentage changes.”
This type of data is already being used on some broadcasts. In the World Series, the data showed how fast the pitch was and how fast the batter hit it out of the park.
We were told the angle of the ball as it came off the bat, and the speed of the outfielder as he chased it down.
“There will be some major changes in collective bargaining agreements in the future,” DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, said. “Players will need to take charge of their personal brand. Just as personalized sports content will be the future, personal branding will be just as important for the players.”
Imagine sports talk shows without players as guests. A player may have his own daily podcast, or even charge to appear on a talk show.
ESPN is already providing some personalization. For the college football national championship several weeks ago, ESPN offered a traditional broadcast on its main channel.
However, other channels offered the game broadcast by the Alabama broadcasters, a broadcast by the Clemson announcers, an aerial view of the game with only the stadium announcer, a broadcast with much data, and a broadcast with football experts commenting on each play.
Others are not as optimistic about the personalization of content.
“ESPN gets $5 to $7 dollars per month from each cable TV subscriber, whether they watch the channel or not. That’s what pays for our billion-dollar television contracts. There is no way these new media outlets can even approach type of money,” James Dolan, Chief Executive Office of Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks, said. “This will be the beginning of less revenue for all of us.”
Conference USA is already feeling the pain of disturbances in the status quo. The conference’s media contracts expired last summer. Previously, the contracts allowed the conference to distribute about $2 million to each conference member annually. Under the new contracts, each school will get about $200,000.
“All of the technology capabilities discussed here are currently available,” Intel’s Krzanich said. “We are also very close to being able to project a hologram into your living room and you can watch the football game being played in the hologram.”
Imagine watching from your sofa in your shorts as the Green Bay Packers play on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in a 3-dimensional hologram in your living room. That would be personal.