The Promise of Real-Time Content
User behavior continues to shift towards streaming services, particularly when it comes to sports content. In fact, according to Grabyo, 79% of fans globally are willing to watch sports exclusively on streaming services, compared with 64% in the United States.
To capitalize on this changing dynamic, streaming providers will continue seeking ways to differentiate themselves in the market to capture and retain their share of consumers through content, data and providing a low latency experience.
Latency refers to the speed data is transferred from a source to the user experience, and applies to video, sports data and player metrics. What has been difficult in the past for streaming providers is syncing video with data that requires a lower bandwidth like scores and play-by-play descriptions. This gap will shrink in 2023 as streaming services continue to invest in their sports over-the-top (OTT) products, a market set to be worth $85 billion by 2024.
What Will Push the Promise in 2023?
Though advancements are taking place across the spectrum, there are a few key underlying technologies that will enable real-time content delivery to take a leap forward in 2023:
- WebSockets enable interaction between a web browser (or other client application) and a web server with lower overhead and less friction than technology like HTTP polling. This facilitates real-time transfer to and from the server. WebSockets have been available in modern browsers since 2011 with a number of vendors supporting them at scale (Ably is an example).
- Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and real-time processing tools continue to improve predictions on what may happen next, given the prevalence of historical data, powering betting functionality.
- Classical real-time data processing tools include AWS Kinesis, Apache Kafka, Apache Storm, with startups in this space like Vectorized, Rockset, and Materialize
- Great examples of companies taking advantage of these technological advancements are SimpleBet and nVenue, both of whom are building micro-betting products that will allow fans to place wagers on an almost infinite number of sports situations like predicting outcomes on pitches, shots, and saves
- Ultra-low latency (also known as real-time) video streaming adoption continues to improve the experience for end users who are not at the venue. As an example, see Phenix Real-Time Solutions, a provider for real-time video streaming solutions that will be critical for sportsbooks.
- 5G mobile networks will continue to improve last-mile delivery for mobile users and fiber for home users
When it comes to digital experiences in sports, developers rely on a variety of technologies to pass, retrieve and store data. Data providers like Sportradar and Genius Sports leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision to automate data capture and analysis at scale, increasing the speed and accuracy of the data developers pull for digital experiences.
Applications of the Technology
The expected advancements in real-time data will introduce a significant shift to how fans watch live games. Today, most fan-facing experiences focus on providing users with a replay of the previous action, including play-by-play feeds, video highlights with descriptions, and social media reactions to big plays. With near-zero latency video and data streaming, fan-facing digital experiences will display predictions on what will happen in the next play.
Fans will see real-time analysis and visualizations on their devices, matched up with the video livestream, that give them a reasonable expectation of what may happen next. This is a fundamental shift in a fan’s mindset and the lens through which they view the game, from focusing on the replay to focusing on the next play. Tony Romo has built a reputation for his predictions and play calling on the CBS broadcast for NFL games. Advancements in real-time data will give this power to avid fans.
Beyond viewing live games with virtually zero latency, real-time data streaming will help enhance other areas in the sports ecosystem. As noted in our Sports Betting overview, this will be the primary challenge facing the growth of micro-betting. On the performance side, athletes and coaches will leverage real-time data streaming and analytics to improve decision making in-game. Products like Stats Perform’s new Opta Vision, which provides soccer teams with enhanced metrics such as pass predictions, formation analysis of a team’s shape and pressure intensity, will have a greater impact on the game with these real-time data feeds.
The team at Next League, who has been delivering technology solutions for global sports organizations for over 20 years, pulled together this content as part of its comprehensive 2023 Industry Outlook report. The report looks at Real-Time Content Delivery as well as eight other sports technology topics we think will be most important for the industry this year (and beyond).
As part of what we deliver on behalf of our clients, we are constantly monitoring the sports technology landscape; we are excited to share a snapshot of what we offer through this report. We welcome the opportunity to help you on your digital evolution. If we can be of assistance, please reach out.
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